When I signed on to review Gunhound EX, I didn’t entirely know what I was getting in to. I watched about ten seconds of a trailer-style video, saw it was a side-scrolling shooter game, and thought, hey, what could go wrong? Well, friends, let me just say — there’s some merit to doing more research before jumping in headlong sometimes. I’m not entirely disappointed with what I found, but I could have spared myself some frustration if I’d dug a little deeper before taking the plunge here.
To say that Gunhound EX is a difficult game is, by all rights, a besmirching of the very idea of difficulty. It doesn’t do justice to the brutal, unforgiving nature of the game’s play style — or, maybe more importantly, to some general quirks with the systems behind it. Firstly, I fought for about ten minutes trying to sort out how to actually interact with the game’s menus and set up the controller; there’s no real indication that I found as to how it wants this done, and mapping the buttons, including directional controls, is required before you can use a gamepad even for menu navigation. Finally, though, I did get past that hurdle and into the game itself.
Playing the game is a test of skill and patience, especially against the huge bosses that cap off each mission. Obviously, some are tougher than others, but most of them took several attempts for me. I got into the habit of simply using my first few tries as “trial runs”, looking for weak spots and attack patterns to use in the “real” fights later. Even with strategies developed, several of them were truly trying affairs that tested my resolve. I kept at them, though, and eventually could overcome most obstacles. The levels themselves present some challenge, but the Hounds are pretty potent little fighting machines with some serious firepower that can cut through lesser foes with minimal effort.
The graphics, controls, and sound in Gunhound EX are all pretty solid in the realm of the 16-bit era side-scrolling action game that it seems to emulate, and it pulls it off pretty smoothly. That said, I think it’d benefit greatly from some control improvements. The movement and “360-degree aiming” are controlled by a single stick, and sometimes trying to turn your Hound around to fire at enemies in one direction or the other is a chore. Other times, it works just fine to let off the trigger and voila, but there’s no real rhyme or reason to when that will or won’t work. This, especially combined with the savage difficulty of some of the fights, becomes infuriating, coming across as in need of much more polishing, as a result.
All told, for those who look back with nostalgia at SNES titles such as Cybernator or Metal Warrior, Gunhound EX probably has a lot to offer. Unfortunately for me, the difficulties with setting up (and using) controls really put me off of the whole experience. I’d not go so far as to say it’s a bad game outright, but there are some deep flaws that I had difficulty looking beyond when judging the experience overall. For $14.99 via Steam, I’d have a hard time putting a real recommendation behind it, but there’s certainly enough here to justify waiting for a typical Steam Sale price for fans of the genre.
[+Variety of mission styles keeps play interesting] [+Graphics and sound reminiscent of classic action games] [+Customization gives players some options with their mech] [-Arduous setup process] [-Frustrating controls] [-Escape closes the game without a prompt]