If you're looking for a dual joystick shooter to keep you occupied for a while, Gatling Gears has enough content that satisfies despite some shortcomings.
Gatling Gears must have sounded like a fantastic idea on paper. A dual joystick shooter, with bullet hell elements, persistent upgrades and mechs. From a theoretical standpoint it sounds awesome. Couple these elements to the fact that it’s set in the same universe as Vanguard Games’s earlier title Greed Corp and it could’ve been something special. It could’ve been….if these elements came together more seamlessly.
From the start of the game you play as Max Brawley, a soldier in the Empire army’s Gatling Gear (read: mech) corps. Brawley sees what the army is doing and refuses orders from his friend Julius Steelwell to kill innocent civilians. Brawley deserts the army and lives a life of solitude with his neice Zoe. Unfortunately, the Empire army has plans for the world of Mistbound, and Max has to pull the tarp off of his Gatling Gear and set out against the Empire.
Gatling Gears is a dual joystick shooter, but it also incorporates other weapons with a persistent upgrade system that is available across the single player campaign, co-op mode, and survival mode. Both the single player and co-op mode take place in the standard story campaign within the same levels, with each player earning their own upgrades by finding gold bars within the environment. Gold can be spent at a Pirate shop at the start of each level. There are three weapon types that your mech is equipped with including a gatling gun, cannon, and grenades. Upgrades are also available for your health which gets increased through better mech armor. The co-op elements are box standard with local drop-in, drop-out co-op, and online co-op built in. The survival mode is wave based, and the start of each scenario gives you and your partner (if you have one) an objective to defend. As you kill enemies they drop gears and power-ups. Gears provide a boost to your score multiplier while the power-ups provide a temporary bonus to a specific weapon.
Gatling Gears doesn’t really do anything amazing to the dual joystick shooter formula, and comes off as being very by the numbers. To be honest, I probably could have foregone the entire story description. In fact, the whole story is told through text pop-ups in the upper left-hand corner of the screen. Which are really hard to follow and see as they have a terrible tendency to spring up during some of the more hectic moments on-screen which had me lamenting the lack of any voice over. It also doesn’t really help that the narrative is as contrived as it happens to be.
But to be fair, we often don’t associate good storytelling with a dual joystick shooter. Not that I’m excusing the game’s shortcomings, but it just bothers me. This is especially true when this is juxtaposed against the art style of the game. Gears looks perfect given the emphasis on its steampunk aesthetic. The look also compliments the more hectic moments on screen. And speaking of hectic moments, this game has a lot of stuff that springs up on screen at once. In the confusion, one of my major pet peeves was the fact that finding your mech amidst the chaos is incredibly difficult. There is a means of pinging where you are on screen with the press of the square button, but the ring from your mech doesn’t contrast enough with the background to be useful. Also aiming your secondary weapons is difficult given how hectic things can get. Aiming the cannon shells and grenades feels more awkward than it should. Lastly, all of the enemies are bullet sponges. As you upgrade your mech the range and impact of your weapons increase, but it still feels strange that soldiers on foot are able to withstand a fully powered gatling gun.
Despite how negative this review sounds the game has this strange addictive quality that still managed to draw me in. In the end, the good within this title outweighs the bad and you could do worse for $9.99 on PSN. So if you have $10 free and are looking for a game that will keep you occupied for around 7 hours you might want to give this game a look. Otherwise, I would suggest some of the other dual joystick shooters on PSN, such as Everyday Shooter, which is not only cheaper but also tries to push the genre forward with some unique design elements.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes. For more info on our review policy click here. This review is for the PlayStation 3 version of the game.
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