No jokes, it’s just perfect
Despite 2020 being an absolute dumpster fire, it’s been pretty good in the games department. Lots of great games have come out to help me cope with current events, which is nice. That’s all pretense though, because as likely as stuff like the Final Fantasy VII Remake will be on my GOTY list, it won’t have gotten as much playtime out of me as today’s topic of discussion. That game is Gun Rounds, and it is without a doubt the best game I’ve played this year.
There’s room for all kinds of games, but the ones that always reel me in for months, that I’ll go back to years later, are the kind that are mechanically perfect. They have a core loop that is simple on the surface, but deep and satisfying on closer inspection. Tetris, Puyo Puyo, Downwell: the kind of games that you can play for 5 minutes or two hours and still walk away from feeling like you haven’t wasted your time. Gun Rounds is that kind of game. It’s a turn-based roguelike shooter. Your avatar is on the bottom of the screen, and your enemies hover above you. Each turn you can do one of two things: shoot, or reload. Shooting takes bullets, with the amount used dependent on what you’re firing. Your initial pea-shooter takes away 2HP and uses one bullet, but you can unlock more from treasure chests in the middle of combat, and can carry up to four at any time. Eventually you’ll have access to piercing lasers, lightning bolts, cranking machine guns, and even a few swords.
Reloading gives you bullets back, but takes up a turn, and is connected to the other main gameplay conceit: defense. When it’s the enemy’s turn, each monster on the other side of the screen will fire back at you with some form of attack. You have a shield that can absorb the attacks with a well-timed button-press, which will negate damage and give you back ammo. However, if you’ve reloaded, that shield will be smaller, meaning your timing has to be closer to perfect as a result.
That’s basically it, other than the shop keeper at the end of each stage, who you can buy upgrades from to alter your gameplay (or, in traditional roguelike fashion, fight, if you’re feeling spicy). Every aspect of the game is so well conceived that you will immediately begin forming strategies in your head when fighting enemies. Will you use up all your bullets with this next attack, knowing you can get ammo back with the proper timing, or will you take a chance and reload to guarantee access to your most powerful attack on the next turn? Will you carry a bunch of high-powered, bullet-heavy weapons, or smaller ones that allow you to reload less? You also have to take into account the movement patterns of the enemies and adjust your firing accordingly. And on top of all that, choosing to equip a new weapon can heal your hearts, or even increase their total value during a run, encouraging you to constantly swap out the weapons in your deck for stat boosts.
I say “that’s basically it,” but Gun Rounds has taken over my life. I have played it pretty much every single day since it released — the fact that it’s available on phones has done nothing to help with my productivity. I mentioned Downwell earlier, and that comparison comes from the highest level of praise I can give: that game is another one of the all-time greats as far as I’m concerned, and Gun Rounds has that same level of polish, and even the same fun, sproingy two-tone pixel aesthetic. You can even unlock palettes to change the look of the game by doing runs, which I’m a fan of. I haven’t beaten Normal mode, because the game is hard and I am bad, but that hasn’t stopped me from trying. Each run I feel myself getting a little better, figuring out the best weapons and item load-outs that work for me (shield reflect is OP).
I don’t really have anything else to say! This post is light on critique and analysis, I know, but you’re just going to have to trust me. This game is a mechanical delight, and I frankly can’t find a single qualm with it. It’s really just that good and you should buy it right now. It’s a steal for the price, and I’ve already bought it two times over. Just play Gun Rounds!! Do it!!!
Are you a smart and cool person that is already playing Gun Rounds? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter @mintplaysthings! And if you like my writing, please consider donating to my Patreon or Ko-Fi. Thank you!