“Leave the gun, take the cannoli… actually, on second thought, take the gun and eat the cannoli, you’re gonna need it.”
Zombies in video games seem to be have done to death, yet the team at Crazy Monkey Games and Claeysbrothers have managed to keep Guns, Gore & Cannoli away from the tired clichés. It’s a side-scrolling shooter similar to games like Metal Slug, but there are a few differences that make this feel fresh and unique. You play as a stereotypical mobster named Vinnie, who is tasked with finding a man named Frankie for his boss. He is taken to Thugtown, a gangster-run town infested with the undead, and that’s where the story begins.
Firstly, the gameplay is a standard, fast-paced, side-scrolling shooter, featuring nine different weapons that all handle differently. You start with an infinite ammo pistol and then gain more weapons as the game progresses, from a tommy gun to an arc rifle; there are plenty of guns to use for different situations. There are also grenades and molotovs which come in handy in the event that you’re pinned down or need to clear a large horde. I found ammo was very important in that it was fairly scarce and I often found myself switching a lot as I ran dry, but this serves to make the game more challenging and fun.
You will need to use different weapons for the different enemy types, and there is a large range of them. You’ll be fighting zombies, gangsters, mutant rats and other various adversaries, all with different enemy types as well. My personal favourite is the leprechaun zombie with a balloon tied to its leg that hurls vials of poison at you. This game plays very well and does not take itself seriously. The levels are all well designed and there is a good amount of jumping and dodging you will need to do in order to survive.
Although the game is rather silly, it does require a bit of skill to learn to play well. You will find yourself dying a few times to stray bullets or getting caught in a poison cloud, but the learning curve is very gradual and getting the hang of it is not hard if you’re used to these kinds of games. There is also 4-player local co-op which is a blast; I only managed to play it with one other person, both of us using a keyboard, but it was great nonetheless. A game like this would do well to perhaps implement online co-op as I can see myself enjoying myself a lot more with friends online, and I’m sure I’m not alone in this thought.
The art style is wonderful – it’s a nice, crisp 2D comical design that feels suited to the game entirely. The animations are smooth and look great in 60 frames per second; you can see a lot of detail went into how everything looks and feels in this game. The backgrounds are well crafted and the amount of zombie and other enemy varieties are impressive although you will find they do repeat themselves on several occasions. Even your character mentions something along the lines of “All you guys look the same,” in his classic gangster accent, which was a nice nod from the developers. You can tell from the entire look of the game that Crazy Monkey Games and Claeysbrothers have put a lot of time and effort into making the game look amazing and run well.
The story is probably the weakest part of Guns, Gore & Cannoli, as there’s only just enough to keep you actually interested in what’s going on. The cut-scenes in between levels were slightly lengthy at times, as I was eager to get back into the fast-paced action, yet they were animated very well and the dialogue between characters was quite amusing. However, I think as a game that relies mainly on humour for its story, it doesn’t need to be complex or engaging and I think they did well in keeping me entertained throughout my play-through, rather than try to make me care about the story. The entire mobster stereotype was well done and there were a lot of great references to classic gangster cinema that made me heartily chuckle the whole way through. Just the fact that the only health pick-ups you get are boxes of cannoli is enough to make me smile.
All the sound in Guns, Gore & Cannoli was very clear and high quality, and the game shines with the voice acting. All the characters had the familiar mobster accents and the dialogue was well written to help reinforce the comical nature of the game itself. The music was also superb and it fits in perfectly with the setting and mood of the game entirely. It doesn’t become repetitive or stuck in your head after you’ve attempted the same part 30 times, which was pleasant as I hate nothing more than hearing the same loop over and over again as I re-enter the doomed city.
The controls for this game were very solid and I only had a few gripes with the way it controlled. You use the standard WASD keys to move and space to jump, J for shoot, K for kick, and L for swapping weapons with U and I for grenades and molotovs. This is standard for the Metal Slug type side-scrollers and it flowed well, except for times where I would keep shooting after I’d stopped pressing the fire key which would end up me double-firing. This was particularly annoying for the two-shot shotgun, where it acted more as a single shot and I’d have to reload after shooting nothing with the second shot.
Another thing that bothered me was you can only fire horizontally, there is no shooting upwards or diagonally as can be found in countless other side-scrollers. So if an enemy is on a small platform above you, you will either have to jump and hope to hit it mid-air or jump onto it and hope you don’t get eaten alive or shot to pieces. Apart from those two small, perhaps overemphasised, problems, the controls are very suitable for keyboard, and I feel it would work very well on a controller also.
All in all, Guns, Gore & Cannoli is a very well-presented and fun game that I would definitely recommend for anyone wanting to kill a few hours on a fast paced shoot ’em up, either by yourself or with friends. It’s currently available now on the Steam store for £6.99 on PC and Mac. It will also be releasing on PS4, Xbox One and Wii U this summer.