Indie Quickie: RunGunJumpGun

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What is it and who made it? Imagine if Flappy Bird, Jetpack Joyride, Hotline Miami, and Super Meat Boy had a baby, and then that baby started tripping out on acid. That about sums up what to expect from RunGunJumpGun. Thanks, ThirtyThree and Gambitious!

What platforms is it on and how much does it cost? This one’s hot off the Steam assembly line starting today for $7.99 (plus a 15% launch week discount). A Special Atomik Edition is also available for $9.99 featuring the soundtrack, a pack of wallpapers, and cover art,

How much did we play? In an hour of playtime, I’ve already died a grand total of 406 times. I’ve completed the first of three worlds and a half dozen stages into the second world. That’s 46 of 120 total levels down, to be more specific. So far I’ve nabbed 368 of the Atomik collectibles, which is good for 30% of the total quantity. Completing a world also unlocks a marathon mode which involves running that world’s full gauntlet of levels in one sitting for a spot on the global leaderboards. I played around with this a bit, but didn’t make it all the way through a full marathon.

Any technical concerns, hardware requirements, or other details you should know about? The game offers full screen and windowed views, but no preset resolution options, which means playing in windowed mode requires manually scaling the window with the mouse. Not a major concern, but not ideal either. Button/key rebinding is supported for both gamepad and keyboard controls.

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Why should you play it?

    • Chain Gun Pogo Stick: Playing as a rogue scavenger who automatically charges forward while being pursued by the rapidly encroaching left edge of the screen, you jump and shoot through one trippy sci-fi obstacle course after another, each lined with all manner of insta-kill death traps, including spikes, fireball-spewing turrets, laser barriers, and catapulting saw blades. Armed with a huge frickin’ chain gun as both a means of attack and propulsion, you press the RB button to fire forward horizontally–deflecting projectiles or breaking down barriers that get in the way–or the LB button to shoot downward, the firepower generating upward thrust. Whenever you aren’t shooting forward, gravity does its thing, meaning the scavenger begins to fall out of the sky like a stone. Whenever you’re shooting down, obstacles ahead or above immediately become a danger. So the trick is to alternately pulse-blast between the two, bobbing up and down amidst the chaos… like a chain gun pogo stick. This game’s not just twitchy, it’s super, ultra, to the max twitchy, where even the slightest miscalculation or over-press leads to certain doom. The difficulty curve for the most part increases at a steady incline, though I did encounter the occasional spike or dip where a particular level would out of the blue seem noticeably harder or easier than other stages before or after. However the game does allow for skipping levels that may be too hard, which is a nice touch for fairness and accessibility. The level designs are also well done, with new types of obstacles or mechanics introduced at a regular pace. Just getting into the second world, for example, has brought on increased complexity in the form of a screen wrap mechanic where certain sections of the screen’s top and bottom can be passed through like portals to the opposite side. Taking that new twist into account while dodging all the other madness only ratchets up the insanity.

    • Rewind Button: Though you’ll surely be dying a lot should you choose to brave the challenge, the game’s restart mechanic always keeps you in the thick of the action. Upon death, the game literally rewinds upon itself right on the spot, allowing you to watch as the scavenger gets pulled back to the starting point in a trail of neon rainbow pixels, where the run immediately kicks back in for the next attempt. The way this game handles restarts is pretty damn brilliant.

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    • Atomik Challenge: Just clearing the levels in one piece is a difficult task, but glowy collectibles called Atomiks are placed throughout each stage as an additional form of replay challenge. A certain number of Atomiks are needed to unlock the second and third worlds, but the gating effect really isn’t an issue since the unlock requirements are so minimal. (For perspective, I have access to all three worlds already without even a full third of the collectibles.) Hitting a perfect run, taking the toughest path through a stage to grab all of the Atomiks while somehow not dying, is incredibly satisfying. At the same time, going through a tough run but just missing out on that one tricky Atomik is like a spike to the heart. Something else you’ll begin to notice is the way that the Atomiks serve as bread crumbs or a sort of racing line through the stage, though you still need to have the skills to pull it off.

    • Bringing the Crazy: In addition to the LSD-induced pixel art and chiptunes, the levels are interspersed with quick story bits delivered by a wacky cast of aliens and other weirdos. The story is of little consequence–there’s something about the sun dying and a solar system in peril and some evil warlords–but the kooky design of the pixel art character portraits on top of the random absurdity of their dialogue helps to cool your temper between stages with momentary jabs of levity. For example the TV reporter Gronch McGuffey, who spouts off about witnessing a woman eating her own hair or how a bunch of bees stole his wallet.

Parting Thoughts: Brutal as all get-out yet supremely addictive and satisfying, RunGunJumpGun is a masochist’s dream game. Seriously, this game is hard. And it’s loaded with trial and error galore. Obviously, anyone who isn’t good at hyper-twitchy games should probably sit this one out to preserve their mental health (and perhaps their hairline). But in my eyes the extreme challenge is what makes it so great. This is the type of game that makes dying time after time feel like practicing a tough routine of finger-tapping gymnastics. You’ll fail, and fail, and fail, which only makes the sense of accomplishment all the sweeter when you finally nail the choreography. This two-button runner-style platformer may pound you into submission, but it’ll also leave you begging for more.

What is Indie Quickie? It takes a lot longer to fully review a game than it does to get a good sense of what a game is. Even with a full-time staff of writers it would be impossible to fully review the thousands of games that are released every year. Indie Quickie is our way to offer snap impressions of the countless indie titles small teams and one-man game studios are releasing literally every single day, and to help guide players to worthwhile games they may not have heard about before.

Disclosure: A Steam code for RunGunJumpGun was provided to VGBlogger.com by the game’s publisher.

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles.

Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere.

Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn’t mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!