Wildcat Gun Machine is a side-scrolling shooter featuring 8-bit graphics, fast paced gameplay and retro soundtrack. It is the first in an ongoing series of games with similar aesthetics by indie developer Rumpus Games.
There’s something to be said about 1960s and 1970s B flicks. You might easily dismiss the whole period as “experimental cinema with no taste” based on the schlock on screen, the overacting, and the shoddy special effects. Rubber monsters, brutally violent bloodshed, and gloomy heroes who take their own foolishness extremely seriously are what make them so lovable. The value of escapism and the pleasure it provides cannot be overstated. Some could even put Escape From New York in this category, but if you don’t think the movie is a historical gem, you don’t have eyes.
So it’s not an issue that the main drive of Daedalic Entertainment’s newest release, Wildcat Gun Machine, is unrepentant action with no apparent explanation. Even the title seems to suggest something along the lines of Tank Girl or Shoujo Commando Izumi. I’m not sure what the protagonist’s name is in this game, and it’s never mentioned, but let’s call her Wildcat since that’s what she could be called. Wildcat must battle his way through a series of semi-isometric dungeons, each of which is divided into parts and guarded by colored keys. Consider a DOOM-style game with a more simplistic design.
My sins will be forgiven when all those barrels burst! Or it may be yours. Whomever.
Waves of foes attack you while you search for the keys, with the odd mid-level boss thrown in for good measure, and a huge, filthy monster at the end to help tie everything up nicely. Wildcat must destroy everything, gather bones in order to unlock new weapons and skills (an weird choice for a currency, but whatever), and battle for survival and escape. Why? Who? Where? It doesn’t matter if you don’t say anything! Let’s do this! I have a pistol and extra lives from the ghost cat.
The upgradable, dual-weapon life is the focus of Wildcat Gun Machine. You have a main weapon that deals some damage but has an infinite supply of rounds. You have a secondary weapon that causes a lot of damage but has a limited number of ammunition. You can see where this is going: health meter, shield meter, dodge dash ability, rechargeable grenade…
Wildcat will find new weapons as she progresses through the stages, with the assumption being that the most recent one she grabs is the greatest. If you discover one you prefer (such as the ammunition-eating infinity laser), you may switch back to a prior weapon at the checkpoint, which is located in the dungeon’s center. Because you’ll unlock a lot of different weaponry towards the end, this variety is crucial for your own development. Even your main weapon will come in a variety of varieties, so you’ll need to decide if you want homing bullets, piercing bullets, or simply huge, chunky rounds. It’s your murder mystery, so personalize it!
Remember to collect your additional ghost cat lives! Simply because!
From the start, it’s clear that Wildcat Gun Machine is greatly inspired by Enter the Gungeon, another dungeon shooter. While there isn’t anything bullet themed or a large number of characters and synergies to unlock, the shooting technique and basic survival tactics are comparable. The dodge dash is similar to Gungeon’s all-powerful dodge roll, with the same emphasis on rolling over waves of bullets and surviving.
The main distinction is that you don’t really required to master the dodge dash until later in the game. Bullets and opponents are appropriately distributed throughout the first dungeon, preventing players from being overwhelmed. That is to say, the first dungeon is quite simple. In a way, it’s almost ludicrous. I get that we want to make sure players aren’t overburdened at first, but it seemed more like it was on “practice” than “light.”
I’m weaving my way between the bullet waves like a Dairy Queen queue.
Things pick up after that, but Wildcat Gun Machine never quite gets the stride of nail-biting action that I believe it aspires to. For example, assuming that comparison makes sense, this is less Neon Chrome and more Jydge. Because nothing is procedurally produced, learning the layout and opponent waves is an important aspect of your job.
You may simply switch between weapons, so if you come into a wave that prefers explosive rounds over rapid-firing shots, feel free to die and restart from the checkpoint. You have a number of “corpse lives” that allow you to revive where you died, but if you don’t mind the legwork, they’re generally useless. Players may simply complete a room, return to the checkpoint (which takes no more than two minutes), make a new save point, and then go to their next destination. The ghost cats that indicate your faster respawns are only required if you’re in a rush, which I was never.
We parked in the Itchy lot, remember?
The adversaries are never an issue. When you enter a room in Wildcat Gun Machine, the room itself is the toughest challenge. I killed more from room traps and dangers than from adversaries, or because I was trapped in a situation where I had to absorb bullets till I died. As a consequence, this doesn’t seem like the most intuitive arrangement to me.
I don’t feel “oh, I must become better at this game!” if I can cope with enormous queen-bee creatures, slime heaps that explode into five micro mounds, armored bastards with dual weapons, and more, yet I keep being slaughtered by furious steam vents. Instead, I’m confronted with something along the lines of “goddamn dumb vents surely cost this firm thousands in complaints per year, WHERE IS MAINTANENCE, THIS IS BULLSHIT,” or something like.
There’s no denying that boss battles were entertaining.
There’s also the Gun Machine mode, which is why I believe Wildcat is the protagonist’s name. The Gun Machine is a never-ending rampage ability that fills up as you kill foes. Once it’s completely loaded, you may patiently wait for the button to be pressed, jump into a big ol’ mech suit, and shoot the heck out of foes for around thirty seconds. You’re unstoppable, your bullets are rapid-fire, and the second generation even includes homing missiles, so you don’t care where you aim.
It’s the ideal way to store up for bigger areas (which are clearly shown on the map) or a boss battle (which you can clearly see on the map). It’s insanely strong, but it’s also quite important because you can dip in and out of it in a split second. When your timer runs out, you’re abruptly stripped naked, with no time to prepare, so you have to instantly shift your mindset from “I am a God” to “I am Swiss cheese” in the blink of an eye. A little more wiggle room would have made this a million times better.
I’m a death emissary, yaaaay!
Don’t get me wrong: I like Wildcat Gun Machine, but I spent much too much time looking at it and comparing it to other games. Its somewhat wacky aesthetics made it entertaining to look at but not so much to interact with. The music, which included a powerful combination of dark synth and industrial-inspired electronics, was intriguing at first, but quickly became monotonous. If that makes sense. I never felt in danger until I was in danger. I’d simply lightly strafe foes with little regard for the consequences, then sprint desperately to a safe location and continue my almost careless firing.
My triumph was secured by investing bones in dash and dash cooldown, as well as purchasing quicker walking speed. That, I believe, is the issue: I’ve never been enthused about anything. Sure, it was entertaining, and there were times when a monster or new weapon piqued my attention, but there was never a “wow” moment. There were a lot of “oh, alright” moments.
Huh. Belcher, you’re doomed. Bob’s Burgers is in full swing this season.
Wildcat Gun Machine’s name suggests something exhilarating and explosive, similar to the films and games that definitely inspired this twin-stick shooter. Instead, you merely nod and play, hardly agitated beyond mild disappointment at your early demise. But there’s no such thing as immortality, no possibility of losing everything, and no Woah moment. Rather, you press on, shooting, upgrading, and shooting some more. For some, it may be sufficient. However, I just acquired a tabby while waiting for Wildcat.
The world’s grit and darkness are oddly balanced by ghost cats.
The twin-stick concept is enjoyable, and the enhancements are worthwhile. I wish there were less dangers.
We get it, we’re in a gloomy sci-fi future or whatever. One note and rather heavily handed.
I like blowing stuff up, but that was all I did. Again. And once more.
Final Score: 6.0
The PC, PS4, PS5, and Nintendo Switch versions of Wildcat Gun Machine are now available.
On the Nintendo Switch a review was conducted.
The publisher supplied me with a copy of Wildcat Gun Machine.
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