Tio Atum’s Greedy Guns is a 2D shooter that wears its influences on its sleeve. It combines elements from popular metroidvanias as well as 2D shooters from the past. The world is colorful and populated with creative creatures and it is all held together with tight controls and familiar mechanics. I’m not the only person who has discovered this gem either. With six days still to go the team is 85% funded on their Kickstarter campaign. However, everything is not perfect with Greedy Guns.
As I stated, Greedy Guns has no problem showing off its influence. It has the tight corridors of Metroid, combat arenas from Guacamelee, enemy movement patterns from Galaga, and the gunplay from Metal Slug. As if to say, “How cool would it be to have all of this in the same game?”, these mechanics are mashed together without alteration. I view it as a negative due to a lack of personality but the familiarity of the systems is sure to draw in many players. The scream mechanic allows the player to repel enemies as well as destroy any bullets surrounding them. This is a fantastic example of taking an overused action and personalizing it. Many bullet hell games feature the ability to dissolve enemy bullets and they also overwhelm and frustrate players to the point of screaming or throwing controllers. They took a physical action associated with the genre and used it as narrative fuel for an in-game mechanic and it is simply genius. I wish this same creativity was applied to more areas of the game that were borrowed from other titles.
I’m not too sure I can easily place this game in the metroidvania genre. This is more of a linear game with a world hub. You finish one world and you get access to the next except that instead of being given a key you gain an ability to unlock the next area. This is reminiscent of many modern “metroidvanias” that give the illusion of exploration. There aren’t any opportunities for the player to feel crafty as they discover a path to a future level though mechanics mastery. There isn’t any sequence breaking or choices to be made and all secret areas are dead ends that house a powerup.
The combat scenarios in Greedy Guns do little to build on one another. While navigating the world the player is presented with swarms of enemies who only deal melee damage. Meanwhile the bosses primarily use high density bullet patterns. This forces me to adopt two mindsets that utilize different skills. I found that I rarely used the scream against the common enemies and I rarely used the jump during the boss battles. This duality in combat tested my reflexes and timing individual, but rarely combined. This also created a poor difficulty curve as the first boss battle tested me on skills and muscle memory that I hadn’t developed yet.
A smaller gripe I have is about the lack of configurable controls. Being a twin stick shooter means that all commonly used buttons should be located on the top of the device for your free fingers but the scream is bound to the X button. This action is used way too often to be executed with the same thumb that fires the weapon. Speaking of firing, this action requires two inputs to actually activate: the thumbstick to aim and the right trigger to fire. However there is rarely a reason to not be firing so I’m constantly holding down the right trigger. Not only does this use up one of the only 4 buttons accessible while aiming but it also puts a lot of strain on the flexor tendon. Additionally, players who suffer from carpal tunnel may not be able to hold the trigger for prolonged times at all. Configurable controls would solve this as well but having an option to enable a fire toggle would help Greedy Guns be more physically accessible.
The art style is spot on for capturing the nostalgia of 90’s shooters. It is full of color with bouncy and elastic animations that emphasize movement and it all looks great in motion. These elements combined create a clarity in every action, something that is important when making a difficult shooter. Every attack needs to be telegraphed and easily read by the player and this game does that in spades. The music also embodies the same principles of games from the era. Despite the modern electronic influences, most of the songs are created with the same ideas: simple beats and bass lines with a single, catchy melody layered on top. These are the very principles that created the themes for Mega Man and Mario, songs that get stuck in our heads for months. However, the visual and sound effects are in need of work. The guns in the demo all lacked that “oomph” to make them feel powerful. The lack of screen shake, high treble in the firing sound effects, and no hit indicators means there isn’t any sort of visual or auditory synesthesia to augment the basic actions. This is the main reason that the core feedback loop feel vapid and leaves the game feeling mediocre despite having solid mechanics. Fortunately the scream and explosive weapons got a lot of this right so it’s just about tweaking the bullet based weapons to provide more feedback to the player.
Finally, I’m not too keen on the story. The idea of playing a mercenary with a loose moral compass isn’t anything new. However, Greedy Guns deals with the more horrific jobs that a mercenary might have to do. In this case you, the player, are hired to preemptively attack an alien world and pilfer any useful technology or artifacts for a heartless company that cares only for profits. You are tasked with committing the unprovoked mass genocide of an alien planet because of money. If the narrative ended up being social commentary on genocide and colonization of less fortunate people than I will definitely excuse the disgusting premise but I highly doubt this game will reflect on these topics at all.
I know it sounds like I’m being overtly critical of a demo for that game that isn’t even funded yet, much less finished, but I want to see this game in its best form. It really has something going for it and, despite being a conglomeration of ideas from other games, has the opportunity to be greater than the sum of its parts. Currently Greedy Guns is a mediocre game that will be enjoyable but ultimately forgotten to time. It does, however, have the capacity to sit next to the greats of the genre with just a little bit of polish and care.