Vanguard Entertainment’s Gatling Gears
places players in a steampunk-themed environment where the main goal is to destroy everything in sight as enemies pour towards you in waves. You’re given several different upgradable weapons to attack with, and will traverse the fields stomping on trees and discovering gold bars as you progress. There is something innately vapid about the entire experience, however, that quickly dries any initial excitement one may have in watching enemy tanks burn and crumble to the ground at your devious doing.
Don’t get me wrong: racking up points and pushing the boundaries of your last high score and highest multiplier chain is certainly an appealing challenge. After a while, however, the redundancies in both the environment and battles take a toll on a player’s interest. The only intriguing quality that holds the experience together is the brute fun of watching tanks explode and squashing the fodder enemies under your steel feet. Massive explosions and heavy artillery will only muster motivation for so long, however, and the lack of a beefier, more detail-oriented storyline proves to be a hindrance to how enthralling Gatling Gears is. Although Vanguard Entertainment captured my attention with opportunities to bulk up my steampunk mech to its fullest potential, they lost me with low counts of gold - and therefore slow level progression - and limited changes to battle scenarios (generally when met with a boss battle).
The most exciting part of playing Gatling Gears is acquiring one of the temporary power ups that you’ll find on the battle field - a product of the freshly wrecked corpses that you can loot. Never before has your gatling gun seemed more powerful, or your cannons killed more enemies at once. It is the most gratifying moment in gameplay, although very short-lived.
Boss patterns are fairly predictable. In fact, most of the AI in Gatling Gears is transparent. Some enemies are more fickle and better equipped than others. Some will charge somewhat abruptly at you - cause enough for a temporary adrenaline rush - while others are annoyingly small and hard to pinpoint, save for the gush of flames coming out of their indiscernible weapons. None of them will feel remotely disconcerting as opponents. In fact, they quickly become rather bland.
Gatling Gears is certainly a game characterized by its chaotic onslaught of bullets, rockets, and many other hazardous munitions flying in your direction. The key to success is to dance between these clusters of questionably slow-moving ammunition while simultaneously launching your own attacks during your enemy’s vulnerable state.
Although the weapons feel disparate, they actually complement one another very well. The right joystick controls the aim of your cannon and gatling gun, while you will have to drag a cursor for your grenades. Mastering the dual-stick controls and learning to maneuver your mechanical protagonist ensures that the first few levels are still entertaining, but nothing lasting particularly when considering a lack of significant advancements to your equipment.
As much as I have attempted to lend my attention to the storyline, dialogue and contextual cues often flew over my head as I was busy setting priority on scouring the battlefield for gold or gears to increase my points. Because the storyline took such a backseat to the rest of the game, I was more prone to ignore it than be genuinely intrigued in learning more. If characters were even given voice-overs, I might have been more inclined to let my ears perk up to listen. At the very least, the text could have been slightly more emphasized to denote a change in the pace of the game. As it stands, while I’m still in hunt-down-and-kill mode, text appears on screen practically unbeknownst to me.
Unfortunately, the hindrances to a fulfilling enjoyment of the game don’t end there. The camera panning restricts your movement and pushes you toward moving forward. This is definitely not a game made conducive to exploration. While forcing you forward, the camera panning will also restrict you from places you’ve just come from. Even if there are gears and gold to collect, you’ll be denied access with just a slight, oftentimes accidental movement away from them.
Be prepared to strain your eyes. Even with my 50” TV, I had to squint to distinguish ant-sized enemies and random stray bullets. You will often find yourself caught in the crossfire without particularly noticing it until a mini explosion ruptures on your mech and your controller vibrates. Fortunately, health was never a particularly challenging issue for me, especially if you opt to focus on leveling your health capacity first.
Ultimately, as much as maneuvering your character amongst the clutter of enemies, bullets and debris on screen can be a challenge, the content of the game’s design fell short of what is required to maintain my interest in a game. If you’re anything like me and are seeking incentive to continue playing a game in much the same way a good book lures you to continue through each chapter, Gatling Gears will quickly falter. If you’re a score junkie, however, you might just find the perfect recipe in this twin-stick arcade shooter.
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