Gun Runner is the debut app of the fantastically-named developer, Man Up Time. To describe it in one sentence, it’s basically Contra as a modern endless runner. The style and presentation are great, with retro art and a very cool chip tune background song, but unfortunately it lacks in substance.
Gun Runner doesn’t offer much variation, is pretty buggy, and seems a tad unbalanced. It’s still a fun release that shows great promise which could really use some fine tuning.
Once again, as with our last review of Gunman Clive, old school and new school are brought together, this time in a cool homage to Contra. You play as a lone Rambo kind of dude who is sent in to take out all the enemy soldiers/mutants/monsters. The feel of the game is just right as you take down drop ship after drop ship, with forests and mountains sprawling out in the background. The level before you seems to be randomly generated, although several parts are very clearly pre-set, such as the broken train tracks showing up after 400 meters. As you play, you’ll also collect coins, which you save up to buy better guns. The game starts out very slow, as you always die around the same area due to your weaker gun being unable to handle all the purple mutant looking dudes thrown your way, but once you get that triple burst rifle, things get much easier.
Your actions are intuitively controlled through region-based taps. Tap the right side of the screen to jump and double jump, hold the upper left to aim upwards, and the lower left to aim downwards. There are usually multiple tracks at different elevations to run across, which makes for a better sense of choice, but can also mess you up. You often can’t see the lower tracks at all while on the upper tracks, and sometimes the upper tracks end abruptly. Thanks to the floaty nature of your jumps, it pretty much comes down to a prayer as to whether you’ll find ground or not.
Another issue I have is with the pricing curve of the stronger guns. Coins don’t usually show up with great frequency, and they can and often will appear in areas that are impossible to reach without dying. It took forever to get the first gun upgrade, and it’s taking forever to get to the second, but on the other hand it doesn’t even matter since I have yet to run into more advanced enemies. I always just die from the platforming itself. Despite the seeming irrelevance of it all, the prices are set up to force you to grind money beyond the point of fun, or to buy the available in-app purchase coin packs, which is never fun.
Gun Runner can also be fairly buggy. Usually the bugs hurt you, although on one occasion they helped. A ship spawned in the lower right corner of the screen, completely out of view, and the same exact platform repeated itself over and over again, allowing me to get past 3,000 meters and break into the top 100 scores of all time in the leaderboards, at the time of this review anyway. Oh yeah, Game Center achievements and leaderboards are supported. This is a game that I really loved when I first booted up, but the more I played, the more glaring issues I found. It could really make use of some kind of mission or scoring system, or power-ups, or differently themed levels, or anything to give the game more variety really. If a game is going to be this repetitive, the gameplay has to be a lot tighter than it is. Despite my complaints, the game is iOS Universal and available completely for free. Since it’s free, I’ll cut it some slack and recommend people give it a try. It definitely has loads of potential, and the retro aesthetics alone are well done enough to warrant a few play sessions from old school gamers. Gun Runner definitely packs a big nostalgia punch.
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