In an era where indie games have inundated the PC market, gamers get flooded with indie games with retro graphics, each proclaiming themself next Minecraft. Samurai Gunn is an indie game with retro graphics, but it distinguishes itself from the pack by being not only very well made, but also incredibly fun.
Samurai Gunn is an action-platformer that is currently available on PC, and will eventually be on PS4. You navigate numerous maps by jumping, clinging to walls, and occasionally running on the ceiling, all while being locked in deadly combat with other samurai. You have two attack options available throughout the game–your sword and your gun. Your sword is your main mode of attack. It is fast, responsive, and can even deflect bullets, which feels amazing when you pull it off, especially when it results in an opponent's death. If you and your opponents sword hit each other, you clash and go flying in opposite directions, giving the combat even more depth. The gun is useful for long ranged combat, but you have very limited bullets, only three per life, and the fact that the bullets can get deflected (which the AI is VERY good at) balances the ranged factor significantly.
This fast paced, tight controlled sword fighting results in a game that plays out like a samurai or ninja anime. Characters are constantly jumping around the screen, landing on walls with swords flailing, only to clash multiple times and have to come at each other again. Some of the most epic fight scenes feel straight out of Samurai Champloo.
The game has two modes, Versus and Survival. Versus is just what you would expect. You compete with up to four players, dueling and slicing your way to ten kills. If two players end up with nine kills, you go to a showdown where it is one on one, no guns, on a flat field. Let the best samurai win. You can introduce a team aspect to the game by players picking different models in the same color, e.g. two green characters vs. two red characters. This can be done asymmetrically as well, so you can group up against the really good players. Watch out though, friendly fire is always on so you have to be careful lest you end up slicing friend and foe alike.
Survival mode pits the players against black-clothed AI bad guys, presumably ninjas. The goal of each level is to deplete the enemy’s lives before everyone on your team runs out of lives. Since only a single human player has to have a life for the round to continue on, the games often devolve into “protect the VIP” where characters that have already lost their lives try to keep the one player alive. Survival mode is great for practicing your Samurai skills and revitalizing friendships that may have been strained in Versus mode. The AI players are very good and provide plenty of challenge. They have the definite advantage of instantly knowing where they are when they respawn and being able to block bullets like champs, but they are not infallible. In fact, the AI is quite easy to manipulate. On levels where there are environmental hazards, like spikes and crushers, with some practice you can trick them into committing suicide over and over again.
In both modes there is a minor problem of spawn camping. Most levels only have four or five spawn points, so when you are playing with four people, occasionally you will spawn right into someone's blade. This can get annoying if your luck is bad enough that it happens multiple times in a row, but usually it isn't a problem.
Samurai Gunn’s visual style is rather charming for a bloody action game. The characters are very pixelated like Atari 2600 characters, but I didn’t mind that at all. The game is so fun to play that the graphics hardly even enter my mind during the game, except for the moments to appreciate how cool it is that blood splatters and the bodies of slain foes stick around.
For an indie game with not even 16 bit graphics, there is a ton of content. There are 15 characters and 32 levels to choose from for both modes. Sure, the characters don’t act any differently from one another, but the variety is still fun. The levels vary greatly, with each world providing a different trick, like sticky ceilings in the Caves or falling icicles in the Mountain.
The game can be played with multiple players cramming themselves around a keyboard, using gamepads, or a combination of the two. After trying both options out, playing with a gamepad is my much preferred option. It allows you to press the jump and attack buttons far more accurately and provides a much more satisfying experience overall.
Samurai Gunn is meant for multiple players. Playing Survival by yourself to hone your skills is fine, but the true fun comes when you play it with friends, or soon to be enemies as the case may be. If you are looking for a fun, lightweight multiplayer game to play over the holiday break or anytime in the future, Samurai Gunn is a definite buy.