Mothergunship is a combination of bullet hell, rogue-lite, and classic first person shooter, with the kind of customisation that lets you make a rocket-launching flamethrower that also shoots circular saws mixed in for good measure. Combat is fast-paced and hectic, death has some permanent effects, and your guns are insane.
Or, more accurately, your guns can be insane. Mothergunship has you assemble pretty much all your guns by fitting together various modules with connectors, after which they attach to your giant mech armour. Pick a barrel, stick it on a connector, add more barrels or utility components, and you’ve got yourself a gun. You can add components that create mines on impact, decrease gravity’s effect on your projectiles, increase accuracy, damage and fire rate. With some tinkering and a little luck you can build the perfect gun, or you can use connectors to attach twelve rocket launchers to one arm so every pull of the trigger shoots, well, twelve rockets.
Each arm has its own ammunition though, so whilst your twelve rockets will likely decimate anything in front of you, it’ll probably only shoot once before you have to wait for its energy to recharge. Thankfully, two arms means two guns, so you can complement your more absurd weaponry with something a bit more rational. Then again, you might just want two stupid guns, like me.
These modules are earned as rewards for completing missions and found in shops in levels. Every gun is assembled on mission at a workbench, with each mission letting you take only a certain amount of modules with you and leaving you to find the rest in shops. When you finish a mission you bring all modules you have back to base with you, but if you die you’ll lose them, including the ones you took with you, though you do get to keep any cash and XP you’ve earned. The game could use a favourites section, or a way to save guns, as whilst creating guns is fun, finding the specific part you want in the ever growing list of parts every time you start a mission does get a little finicky after a while. Nevertheless, building guns is very satisfying and your choices can make or break your run should you go the wrong way.
The combat itself is relatively simple in comparison; it’s fast and twitchy, where standing still almost inevitably means death. Each level is made up of rooms that increase in difficulty as you get towards the end, and each room is an arena waiting to fill with enemies as soon as you cross the threshold. Enemies range from flying octopus laser things, through small swarming cat things, to fixed cannons that relentlessly bombard you as soon as you are in sight. Bullet hell is alive and well, and it helps to to be better at dodging bullets than I am, or you can shoot incoming fire out of the air whilst feeling like a badass.
Then there are the bosses, huge enemies with weak points to shoot and patterns to learn, whilst trying to avoid their often literal screen-filling attacks and dodging an upended smorgasbord of projectiles. Thankfully, you start the game with a triple jump that can be upgraded, as constant movement is a requirement unless you want to find yourself boxed into a corner, except the box is made of explosions. Movement speed and amount of jumps, as well as things such as maximum health or energy and a secret finder, can be upgraded by spending skill points that are earned when levelling up.
There are also special rooms, such as challenge rooms, which will present you a bit of a challenge with the promise of a reward if you don’t die horrifically, or dice rooms, which are a bit of a gamble but can enable modifiers that could be helpful, or not. Rooms can have multiple exits, some more hidden than others, and a special room will have a sign outside, so should you want to increase your rewards for a little more risk, you can.
All of this is presented with good looking, well designed visuals at a rock solid frame rate. It’s not the most graphically intensive game, but performance is king here. A nice touch is that different types of ships, which have different types of enemies and traps inside them, each have their own distinct decor to reflect them, some all neon and dark whilst others are more red and full of molten metal.
The story is entertaining enough to inform the gameplay, with you setting out to save your planet from a fleet of alien invaders one ship at a time, eventually taking down the titular Mothergunship, which presumably is the mother of all gunships and/or the gun of all motherships. The dialogue can be quite witty as well, often making me at least snigger aloud (about a 6/10 on the laughter scale, between breath harder through nose and chuckle), although it does repeat when restarting missions, which grates a little bit as you skip through it a sentence at a time. Early on, you accidentally install a virus that spreads large, floating holographic ads throughout your base, which was a particularly fun and inventive highlight from the story.
But for a dash of repetition, both in gameplay after a long period and the slightly disappointing variety of enemies, Mothergunship is really a great game. The story takes a back seat to the gameplay, so if you’re looking for a story focused experience you’re in the wrong place. However if an FPS rogue-lite with gameplay in the vein of Quake and the ability to create a gun that shoots both lightning and floating grenades is your thing, you could do a lot worse than Mothergunship.
Version tested: PS4 – also available on Xbox One and PC