Reviewed On: PC
Developer: Grip Digital and Terrible Posture Games
Publisher: Sold Out
Review code provided free of charge by the publisher.
Do you like guns? Do you like shooting guns? Do you like shooting lots and lots of enemies with those guns? Mothergunship might just be for you then, letting you click together guns like a deadly version of Lego. Want a lighting rod strapped to a flamethrower? You can do that! Or do you just want multiple barrels that fire spiky metal balls? You can do that too.
You’ll be playing as a nameless recruit fighting in a war against alien invaders, done by clambering into their ships, shooting through a bunch of randomly selected rooms and then standing on the giant self-destruct button. Repeat potentially hundreds of times. If it sounds utterly stupid then that’s because it is and the game is wholly aware of that, playing into the fact with a merry sense of humour and a cast of characters such as The Colonel and an A.I. who just can’t be arsed anymore.
To my surprise, the story is actually rather enjoyable. It’s kept simple with tongue firmly entrenched in cheek with a twist that you might see coming but is nevertheless cool. The characters are never given any genuine backstory or proper fleshing out, but the voice acting and humour is strong enough to make them a likeable bunch.
But that’s just window dressing for a game that’s all about shooting hundreds and hundreds of enemies across dozens of alien ships. Not only can you speed around like you have a rocket shoved up your backside and perform potentially dozens of air-jumps, but it all feels incredibly good. The controls are tighter than my waistband after a visit to the buffet, and the end result rivals even the great DOOM from Bethesda, a game whose movement system I lavished praise upon.
Thank goodness the movement and controls are on point because Mothergunship is really keen on spawning enough enemies to obliterate entire countries. Each time you move through a door a new room will be randomly selected and then populated with enemies. Sometimes there’s just a few, but more often than not the air gets replaced by a barrage of missiles and bunches of floating robots, while the ground becomes home to turrets, a few stompy robots and maybe even a healing tower or twenty. Mothergunship describes itself as a bullet-hell shooter, and amidst some of the most challenging rooms it’s impossible to argue that point if only because you’re tongue is sticking out the side of your mouth from concentration.
Best of all the wonderful controls coupled with the sheer amount of bad guys on screen proves extremely successful at lulling you into that magical zone, the frame of mind where you barely seem to be consciously registering anything yet are somehow flowing through each room, magically avoiding every attack, mowing down the bad guys and even becoming almost paranormally good at being in the right place at the right time.
As for the weapons you get to use you’ll be piecing them together yourself using a simple modular system. Basically, as you go through each ship you’ll get coins from destroyed enemies that you can then spend in the shops that often spawn in the various rooms of the ship. In these shops you can purchase components like machine guns, lasers, grenade launchers and more, as well as various types of connectors and mods. Using these and the crafting stations you can piece together a weapon, like strapping two shotguns onto a connector as well as a rocket launcher, or maybe having a sawblade launcher beside a railgun that’s bolstered by a Lava container mod. The only limitation you need to consider is that the more powerful the weapon you cobble together the fewer shots you’ll have before it needs to recharge its energy supply. In other words, you can absolutely build a teetering tower of railguns but you’ll probably only be able to fire it once before waiting for it to recharge.
The game never fully commits to its own insanity, though, largely because if it did the design of the combat would probably suffer. In the endless mode, firing range or the sandbox you can build up some mighty impressive contraptions using the parts you’ve been gathering, but in the actual missions themselves you can start with a couple of components and will likely only ever pick up a few more along the way as you’re at the mercy of the RNG system when it comes to coins being dropped and shops spawned. Sometimes I would go through entire ships only ever seeing one or two shops and having little to no money to spend in them. Other times I became rich, yet barely ever saw a shop. Even when you do get a good amount of money and opportunity to spend it you’ll hardly ever be fighting with more than a gun or two strapped to each arm, with maybe a modification part.
Thankfully the quality of the combat and the sheer pace of the game managed to keep me from feeling too disappointed that I couldn’t replicate my insane weapon designs from the sandbox mode in the actual missions. On top of the speed at which you can scoot around the game loads faster than Superman farting. The only hiccup is that when you exit a room you have to spend up to 20-seconds waiting for the game to randomly select the next room and populate it with baddies. Considering you can load Mothergunship, hit play and be in a mission in under 30-seconds these moments where you have to stop feel like running head-first into a brick wall.
The issue with Mothergunship, which I’m sure you’ve already worked out, is that it’s built entirely around a few gimmicks and nothing else. At one point you’re introduced to the concept of side-missions that reward you with bonus XP, more coins to spend at your very own black-market dealer and even free gun parts, but the missions themselves are exactly the same as the rest of the game; run in, shoot stuff, stand on the self-destruct button. By the time the first hour rolls by you’ve seen all the different gun components in the game and, almost all of the enemies and even the rooms are starting to repeat themselves. All games are built upon gimmicks, but the case of Mothergunship they’re very repetitive gimmicks by their very nature,
Weirdly, though, this level of repetition is almost charming, a sort of mind-numbing task that’s enjoyable even after repeating it hundreds of times. Initially, I thought I’d probably grow bored of Mothergunship’s simplistic concept in around five or six hours, yet here I am at 15+ hours and still having a blast. Once you’ve run through the main storyline you get dumped into what I assume is a never-ending after-game where you can keep tackling huge ships by first defeating smaller shield ships. There’s absolutely nothing new here except it’s difficult and it gives you a chance to stock up on the higher rarity versions of gun parts, including the yellow/gold ones.
There is at least some small attempt at variety via a couple of different room types that occasionally pop up. Apart from the standard assortment, which includes pink ones with bouncy trampolines everywhere, there are special rooms such as challenge rooms that offer up some bonus coins if you can kill X enemies in X time or survive a certain amount of time. Other rooms have a dice symbol meaning you might end up in a room with extra lava or acid, or one where all regular drops get quadrupled. Or there’s my favourite dice room where all the enemies just drop jump upgrades so that end up performing dozens of mid-air jumps, essentially letting you glide around. But that’s it for the extra room types.
However, the developers are promising a co-op mode coming in August as well as new enemies, rooms, gun parts and a continuation of the storyline. Most interestingly they are promising new bosses, which would be great since there’s just three in the game, as well as “new ways to play” which could really help combat the repetition.
So, in the end, I can’t put a coveted (HA!) recommendation sticker here because there are some very key flaws holding Mothergunship back, but I still loved it and it’s dedication to letting me shoot everything while evading a hailstorm of incoming missiles. At times the way you construct guns feels like it has been forcibly restrained, made to be more sensible than it should be, but even so it’s a fun system to play around with. I can’t wait to see what future updates bring to the table. Co-op should be a lot of fun, and more gun parts can only improve the system.