RunGunJumpGun is not for the faint of heart. If you thought Super Meat Boy was too tough or didn’t find yourself drawn to Mr Jump on iOS, this probably isn’t the game for you. If, however, playing a brutally hard auto-running platformer sets your pulse racing then you really should be paying attention to thirtythreegames’ title. Out now for PC and Mac, it’s a game that really ought to blast its way onto other platforms as well.
Given the previous allusion to Super Meat Boy, the auto-running part of the game should be made clear from the off; move your brain from Rayman to Rayman Jungle Run. While you do have some control over your character, referred to as the Scavenger, there’s nothing you can do to stop their endless move towards the end of each level.
Instead, you interact with the world by firing your mini-gun either straight ahead or downwards. Firing it ahead of you is mostly useful for clearing obstacles that are in your way. Wall blocking your way? Pepper it with bullets till it’s no longer an issue. Spinning blade trying to turn you into mulch? Shoot at it so it falls of its axle. You can even use it to take out any enemies that attempt a confrontation.
Alternatively, pointing your gun at the floor allows you to propel yourself upwards, avoiding spikes on the floor or those pesky spinning blades. You’ve got to be careful here, as the ceiling is just as likely to present you with dangers to your general well being. Instead of firing your gun endlessly at the floor, you have to find just the right balance, allowing gravity to have its wicked way with you instead.
Water levels late in the game, however, flip all of this on its head, with your gun propelling you downwards into the murky mists, while releasing it leaves you floating towards the surface. This change in orientation itself is more than enough to throw you initially, but it’s when you have to shift between being above and below the water’s surface in rapid progression that things really tax your mental reflexes.
These two modes of firing your gun are literally the only control you have over the game, allowing the default control scheme to be boiled down to pressing left or right shift on your keyboard. Of course, you can’t fire downwards and forwards at the same time, but rapidly alternating between the two quickly becoming second nature. While you can, at times, continuously fire forwards until you need to use your gun as an ad hoc jetpack, this ploy can really bite you later in the game, mostly due to the fact that dislodged spinning blades will float along with you in water, remaining just as deadly.
All of these various elements are combined into levels that, while short and can often be completed in under thirty seconds, will punish you for the slightest mistake. Once things really get going the margin for error gets reduced to, effectively, zero.
However, given how frequently you’re likely to fail, short levels are generally a positive, as is the very fast restart time. While you don’t restart instantaneously, this is only to give you a very brief transition where you move back through the level as a luminescent beam of energy. It’s a cool effect, and one that fits well with the game’s overall aesthetic.
Despite the fact that RunGunJumpGun is set in a ludicrously bleak, dystopian world – you’re scavenging for scraps while in a solar system whose star is about to die – the game’s look is surprisingly vibrant. thirtythreegames have done a brilliant job at mixing this look with the depressing future, leaving things simultaneously colourful and depressing. The game’s soundtrack is equally well crafted, managing to mix chiptunes with an orchestral sound that meshes will with the game’s sci-fi setting.
As you might expect, the game’s narrative is pretty lightweight, only really serving to give you some of the shape of the world and its reaction to you. Told entirely through text alongside animated portraits of characters at the start of each level, you’re introduced to everyone from warlords to television hosts and those seemingly at the bottom of this world. Your relationship with this final group is probably the most interesting, twisting what you’d expect of a protagonist’s relationship with the populous of a post-apocalyptic world.
There’s plenty of content to work through and while each level may be short, you’re given 120 of them. These are split across three worlds, each of which is further divided into four chapters. Fortunately, you don’t have to beat every level to unlock the next chapter, instead only being required to beat eight of each ten levels. You can also play them in any order you want, allowing you to skip past particularly tough levels, instead of becoming eternally frustrated by them.
Unlocking the next world isn’t quite so simple. Every level contains “atomiks” to collect, and you’ll need to pick up a fair number if you want to unlock the next world, although it remains an achievable quantity.
Each world also has a marathon mode, unlocked by beating every level within it. This sees you playing through each of the world’s levels back to back, with no respite and level select disabled. If you collect every atomik from a world to unlock a 41st bonus level, which seems somewhat larger than the game’s average level, so large that the first world’s has proven unbeatable for me thus far.
For little more than a fancy new plastic fiver, RunGunJumpGun is really worth picking up if it’s a genre you get on well with. Levels may be short, but there’s a lot of them and the challenge more than makes up for their length. You do have to be a glutton for punishment to get the most out of the game, and even then the constant cycle of failing and retrying a level can get a little dull after a while.
Beyond that, the game has a good look, is buttery smooth to play, and has a killer soundtrack to go alongside it. Constant death aside, what’s not to like?