Gun Bros Review: Battling bad guys and a buggy port
Seeing as how we haven’t had a new Xbox Windows Phone game to review in a while, it’s time to set our critical eyes on older releases that haven’t been reviewed yet. Sometimes we miss a game because it’s too terrible to endure (Babel Rising 3D), but on other occasions your favorite game reviewer has just been too tied up to review every single release.
With Gun Bros 2 due to hit iOS sometime soon, I’ve been inspired to put the original Gun Bros for Windows Phone through its paces. Is Gun Bros really one of the worst Xbox games on Windows Phone or just woefully misunderstood? Read on for our final verdict!
Mid-game loading screens use art of varying quality.
Each time players boot up Gun Bros, they will endure an amazingly long load time. The wait varies; I saw the game boot up in about 30 seconds once, but it usually takes about three minutes. It even took seven minutes once, causing my Lumia 920’s screen to time out before the game even started.
Sometimes the game crashes during the loading process too… It’s a real crapshoot. The protracted startup time seems to be due to Gun Bros’ online connectivity. It will load much faster if you turn off your phone’s internet connections. But that also disables some important features, so I tend to just leave the internet on, launch the game, and read a book until it starts. Seriously.
Build a bro
Some waves end with bosses.
At the outset players will choose between one of the two titular brothers. Both are big ugly muscle dudes, presumably based on a young boy’s fantasy rather than what most would consider the idealized male form. The choice doesn’t matter anyway since the two bros play identically.
Your character can be customized with a variety of weapons and power-ups. He can only carry two weapons at a time, switching back and forth at will. Guns come in a variety of categories such as rifles, shotguns, flamethrowers, and spread shots. Since enemies come in huge swarms, the spread shots and weapons with splash damage are the only truly useful guns. Each weapon has its own stats and can level up three times through extended use.
The game offers a nice assortment of armor broken down into head, chest, and legs categories. Each one affects the bro’s attack, defense, and speed categories – sometimes decreasing a stat instead of enhancing it. Unfortunately there is no way to view your overall stats; you have to just pick the best stuff you can afford and hope for the best.
Also, the armor stat system severely undermines the potential for visual customization. Players will want to equip the pieces that provide the greatest stat bonuses, so the vast majority of items go unworn and everyone ends up looking the same by the end. Too bad you can’t mix one item’s stat bonuses with another’s appearance.
Like most freemium games, Gun Bros has two forms of currency. Coins are the standard form, easily earnable in-game after refining minerals gathered from missions or by completing daily challenges. You can buy fairly good stuff with coins, but many weapons, armor, and even power-ups cost Warbucks.
Warbucks cost Microsoft Points, but players can also earn a few of them by playing the game consecutively for several days in a row. Unfortunately, the MS Point prices of Warbucks can hardly be considered fair or even sane. To get a decent weapon you’ll easily have to spend twenty real dollars, with prices soaring all the way up to into the hundreds of dollars! I know Glu hopes a few unhealthy individuals will blow their life savings on rare weapons, but I’m sure they’d get way more sales if a good gun cost about $5 and the best topped out at $20.
Twin sticks of death
Gun Bros is an overhead-view twin-stick shooter, much like Zombies on the Phone. The protagonists run around a handful of contained sci-fi environments, shooting everything in sight. Each kill gets them XP, leading to level ups and increased health.
While the core gameplay is actually quite fun and addicting, the controls often hamper the enjoyment. The virtual sticks are tiny and not adjustable. On a 4.5 inch screen they end up being a reasonable size, but on 4 inch and below screens they become uncomfortable to use. Regardless of screen size, the sticks occasionally become unresponsive, causing the player not to fire. Would love to see that fixed.
Whereas the iOS version supports both 2-player cooperative and competitive multiplayer via Wi-Fi and the internet, the Windows Phone version lacks true multiplayer. It does have a pretty decent buddy system that allows you to play along with an AI representation of someone from your Xbox Live friends list though. The AI companion actually uses whatever equipment its owner has equipped and shares the same experience level, giving players a way to show off their builds to friends.
The actual AI is rudimentary at best and terrible at worst though. It follows the player along, never moving of its own volition. It often refuses to shoot unless enemies come within point blank range and always switches between its owners’ two weapons at random intervals instead of just using the strongest weapon, which can be irritating. That said, better a stupid companion than no partner at all!
The Windows Phone version game has only four unique planets to visit, as it lacks the iOS game’s fifth planet. More planets are teased on the map screen but will likely never materialize.
Each planet contains 10 revolutions. Within a revolution are 50 waves of enemies to decimate. Knock out all of the waves in a revolution and you move on to the next one, facing tougher enemies for greater XP rewards. Complete a wave without taking damage and you’ll receive a 10 percent mineral bonus. The game tracks which waves you’ve perfected, and you can always resume any previously completed wave.
The Bokor grinding spot
While much of the game is a technical mess, Gun Bros’ Achievements seem to be in full working order (unlike Bug Village and Contract Killer). The three most time consuming Achievements require players to “service” (kill) 50,000 targets, reach level 100, and complete Revolution 10 on any planet. The first two actually aren’t too bad, as you can easily grind for kills will virtually no effort on planet Bokor.
Completing Revolution 10 tasks the gamer with finishing all 500 waves of a planet. It’s a laborious and time consuming process that you’ll want to spread across a few days. Later Revolutions become quite challenging because enemies start taking more hits to kill. Still, when equipped with the best coin purchasable weapon (the Coronal Ejector) and lots of health kits, you’ll do alright.
Gun Bros is a tough game to pronounce judgment on. On the one hand, its technical shortcomings are completely reprehensible. The eternal start-up load times, crashes, occasional losses of inventory, broken daily challenges ('Taze Me Bro' never works), and Options screen references to nonexistent social network and Game Center features (come on!) all should have been ironed out during the development and certification processes. Once the game somehow slipped out with such gaping flaws, the developer and publisher should have worked quickly to update it and improve the experience. They have not done so.
Still, despite the crappiness of the port, a lot of Gun Bros’ charm remains unabated. People who enjoy grinding will love working to level up, earn more money, buy new equipment, and enhance their weapons. Gun Bros may lack an appealing art style, but the core game is hard to put down. It’s probably too late to wish for a performance enhancing update at this point. Let’s just hope that Glu Mobile brings Gun Bros 2 to Windows Phone and that the porting team shows it far more care than the first game.
Gun Bros is a free game that runs on both Windows Phone 7 and Windows Phone 8. Grab it here at the Windows Phone Store.