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Complete Review & Description

When you get your first look at Blowfish Studios’ community-focused retro shooter, your first thought is Minecraft with guns. While that may not be completely accurate, it gives you a reasonable idea about what the Australian indie games developers may have been thinking when they first came up with the concept. Build a world, share a world, shoot everyone in the world. Sounds great.
Although Gunscape, at least visually, has some things in common with Minecraft, it is a completely different beast. Consequently, it probably won’t capture the world’s imagination in the same way Minecraft did back in 2011. For me this isn’t a problem. My experience with Minecraft was limited to being in a room while someone else was playing it. In contrast to this, I’ve always enjoyed running around shooting things. So the first thing I did, once the game downloaded, was pass a second controller to an unoccupied Minecraft fan, and dive into the game’s Campaign in old-school split screen mode.

Gunscape’s campaign is short and nostalgic, and takes place across eight blocky levels. It gives you a taste of the gameplay, without reaching any great heights, and an idea of the game’s potential. There’s the alien base, the castle, Tron, dinosaurs, underground mazes, locked rooms, and key cards. As well as this, there are ice guns, laser guns and rubber chickens – all the things to take you straight back to the days of Doom, Wolfenstein, and Quake. While it’s simplistic, and not terribly challenging (especially in two player co-op),, it’s a good guide to what’s possible when you try your hand at the game’s build mode.
For Gunscape, the campaign is about five percent of the game – and even that might be a bit generous. The rest is focused squarely on the online community. I mentioned earlier that Minecraft wasn’t my thing (and I didn’t build skate parks in Tony Hawk or Gummi ships in Kingdom Hearts, either). But, I could see the appeal of Minecraft, especially in the mixture of building and gameplay. The construction was integrated within the game world, and that added to the appeal. The big difference between Minecraft and Gunscape is that in Gunscape, the construction is separate to the gameplay. Without this integration, building maps and fighting feel like two completely different things. You could spend all your time doing one thing without ever doing the other.

When you first enter the Build mode the game searches for worlds shared by other users. You can choose to edit them, or just jump into their world just to see how it’s all going. Alternatively, you can start a completely new project, or load a world you’ve already worked on. When you first start you are floating near to four blocks that act as your world’s spawn point. Using the touch-pad accesses your selection of building blocks and props, including health, furniture, weapons, and enemies, all divided into a number of separate themes. There’s the Bierenstein theme that includes brick walls, barred windows, columns, lamps, and Nazi enemies armed with Loogie handguns and grenades, while the Electro theme includes Lightcycles, force fields and the Frisbee-like ID disk. Not that there’s anything stopping you mashing all the themes into one or setting up a multi-level campaign.
However, my main difficulty when it came to building was all the instructions on the developer’s website were made for the PC version of the game. So, everything was press tab, and right click on the mouse. I ended up having to save and quit from the build screen so I could open and scroll through the controller set-up to find out you add blocks with the right trigger and, if you fall through the floor, you can return to your starting position by pressing up on the d-pad. For something as complex as a level builder, not having clear instructions may be something that turns off the casual gamer before they even get started.
But, with a little perseverance, and a bit of creativity, you can publish your map and invite your friends.

At the front of the game is the Discover mode. It’s from here you can browse recently added maps, join active games or in-progress builds, check out Editor’s picks or the most popular maps, play the Campaign mode, or start your own free-for-all, team, or co-op game. However, with the game not out last week there wasn’t a great number of players online. When I did find a game to join it loaded quickly, and ran smooth and fast – as you would expect for a game situated so firmly in the retro market. Gunscape isn’t going to challenge anyone’s broadband or processor speed.
So, Gunscape isn’t another Minecraft. It’s a game for fans of old-school first person shooters. There’s a lot of references to the origins of the genre and the infrastructure to cater to online fans, although content is very limited at the moment. But, like all games of its ilk, it’s going to rely on the enthusiasm and creativity of the online community to build on an interesting concept, and fully reach its potential.



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