Mech-themed games seem to be all the rage at the moment and Gatling Gears is Vanguard’s steam-punk-lite outing, in a world of technology gone wild. If the style of the title seems a little familiar that’s because it’s set in Mistbound, the same universe that featured in their previous release, Greed Corp. However the tile based strategy leanings found there couldn’t be further away from the approach taken here. Gone is the resource management and crumbling hexagonal titles, replaced with a pacy twin-stick shooter.
Naturally this means there’s an instant familiarity to anyone who might have played Greed Corp. Along with some of the units being similar in design, it shares some of the same backstory – so expect to see lots of bridges flanked by big huge drops into the clouds and even crumbling stages during the course of the game. If anything the style here has been made a bit brighter, something of a welcome addition given the faster and more destructive tone. There’s certainly no denying that, even for a shooter, there’s lots to see and blow up. If it isn’t enemies bursting through the walls or trees around the levels, then its huge enemy ships sweeping through the sky or the resource drained landscape disappearing under the pressure of full scale warfare.
The game starts the player off as the pilot of a mechanised walker in the ranks of the Empire, the initial skirmish being against The Freemen faction. The prologue does a good job of introducing the player to the weapons on their unit, each having distinct positives and negatives which the player will need to take into account when stomping around the stage and trying to avoid getting shot / blasting enemies.
There’s the titular Gatling gun, which although speedy and provided with infinite ammo, has limited power and range. Next is the cannon which is powerful but has only limited shots before needing to be reloaded. There’s also a grenade launcher, handy for clearing out groups of incoming troops, but it needs to be manually aimed and is quite slow. Lastly there’s the shock attack, the one shot smart bomb which clears out the whole screen of enemies. What really impresses is the time-limited power-ups which boost your firepower; unleashing a barrage of rockets or endless stream of rapid gatling gun fire is something of a rush and the level of chaos unleashed, even sparingly, is something to behold.
It’s to the games credit that the little things go a long way in freeing it from the rigid stuffiness that plagues the more hardcore twin-stick shooter. The game isn’t a `take one shot and you’re dead` affair, meaning it gives players a chance to learn from mistakes and the learning curve is pitched just right. This means even if this isn’t really your genre, you can still find yourself getting drawn in. There’s even the nice option to play either local or online co-op, handy for getting a friend in to help you out if need be.
Collecting gears from destroyed enemies increases the score multiplyer and the tally at the end of the stage dictates the final result for posting on the leaderboards. However the real resource that the player will want to keep their eye out for is the hidden gold bars scattered around the levels. These are used in the Pirate Shops found at the start of each level for upgrading the mech, adding additional firepower or toughness. Additional colour schemes can also be unlocked as you progress but while pretty, offer just superficial changes.
Finding these gold bars is essential to making the game a little bit easier as things progress and enemies and bosses become tough, but sadly Gatling Gears suffers from a very old school quirk that isn’t necessarily conducive to finding them. The game is a one way ride, meaning that by pushing too far up the screen there is no way back without replaying the whole level. Annoying as this may be if you spot a gold bar that is now just out of reach, it’s possible that this was an intentional decision to prevent the game from being too easy. Certainly a slow and steady player should have no problem in unearthing them all.
As much as it could be argued that it gets repetitive, there’s no denying that Gatling Gears is a fun little title to play. The fact that it’s part of the persistent universe that Vanguard have created lends it more of an enjoyable air than your average throw way affair and even fans of Greed Corp will certainly welcome the more intimate battles and change of pace.
Even those who didn’t like Greed Corp may find this a bit more up their street and while it couldn’t be classed as original or innovative in a market that is currently very crowded with games of this genre, Gatling Gears more than punches above its weight to offer the player some mindless blasting and a couple of hours of entertainment that’s worth investigating.