If the previous preview peaked your interest, then good news everybody, Gunmetal Arcadia is here. In case you missed it, Gunmetal Arcadia is a 2D retro platformer with rogue-like elements. J. Kyle Pittman (Super Win the Game) of Minor Key Games draws on influences such as Faxanadu and The Battle of Olympus for his latest game. Having spent a few weeks with the game and quite a few hours, it’s time to assess the results. Let’s do this!
As always, time for the story first. A group of monsters known as the Unmade are attacking the Tech Elves city. On a quest to seek out the queen and destroy the Seed of Unmaking, to hopefully prevent future attacks, are one of 5 different adventurers. Play as either Vireo, Starling, Grackle or Thrush (plus one other secret unlockable character) and fight your way from the city outskirts into the hive to defeat the Queen or King. On the way there are two factions that you can join up with: the Vanguard and Seekers.
In the prologue game, Gunmetal Arcadia Zero, the factions did have different advantages. The Vanguard were more melee focused in their offerings and the Seekers ranged, but that angle seems to have been muted, and there doesn’t seem to be much difference between the 2 in terms of what you can buy. Of course, who you join isn’t the most important part. The real key is what the hero decides to do once they have the Seed of Unmaking. Depending on the choice to keep it, destroy it, or give it to either of the 2 factions will alter the story for future adventures.
Now it’s time to dig into the gameplay. The game is split into 4 different levels each with its own setting. How you get through each level, however, will change each playthrough, as they are randomly generated. This is done pretty well. Sometimes procedural generation in platformers can lead to different levels filled with lots of the same smaller sections. Although, rather ironically, this can lead to something designed to feel different every time, feeling quite the same as always when played. Thankfully, however, Gunmetal Arcadia does a good enough job with the procedural generation to make each trip feel different. You may very well be going over the same elements, but it is not overtly noticeable.
Speaking of those platforming elements, as it concerns those classics, they are all there. Jumps, water, lava, falling blocks, sticky spots to slow you and, of course, ladders. Ladders seem like something mundane enough, why bother mentioning them? Ladders can become a frustrating thing to deal with in Gunmetal Arcadia. The ladders allow for lateral movement while climbing, instead of aligning you to the middle of the ladder. That in itself doesn’t sound so bad, but there are situations where this can be rather problematic. Enemies seem to like spawning near ladders, and a majority of the ladders like to extend over the top of the platforms. The player will cover enough ground while trying to exit the ladder to the left or right to put them right into the enemy. Jumping straight up over the top of the ladder will leave you standing on top like it’s a platform. If you’re thinking why not just attack from the ladder, the reason is simple, it’s not possible to do an attack from the ladders. While this combination of occurrences sounds like it might be rare enough to not worry about, it does happen fairly often. Generally, this can lead to unavoidable damage, but depending on the set up can also lead to a beating, in which you are helpless to defend yourself.
If you are lucky enough, those enemies perching near the tops of ladders can be dealt with through a wide variety of items. There are 75+ items and weapons throughout the game. These provide a good variety to help vary up each run. Most seem to offer stat boosts. Differing weapons can be rare, so be prepared as what you start with may be what you finish with in that department. Luckily, the enemies aren’t too vicious if you are upgrading when possible along the way. Most boss fights also include a mostly simple attack pattern, so even if you aren’t powering up along the way, it is still possible to deal with them.
If the items aren’t falling your way, no worries, Gunmetal Arcadia does include a limited legacy system. While there are over 40 different legacy events and rewards, the limit is in the reward side. Depending on certain actions during the run, the hero might get some bonus damage, more or less health and better drop rates on gems, for example. These rewards only roll over to the next run, or if you want you can disable this system as well. I like the limited nature of these, so it doesn’t become a “need” to obtain them; helpful but not overpowered by any stretch of the imagination.
Now that we talked gameplay, let’s look at some of the finer aspects, graphics and music. The graphics are filled with pixel-y goodness and do a great job of evoking this particular era of gaming. If just looking at pixels isn’t enough for your retro-stylings, Gunmetal Arcadia also includes the best CRT simulation I’ve seen. Improved over its iteration on Super Win the Game, the simulation now allows for users to fine-tune the settings to match their particular preference. Why retro game half the way when with the CRT simulation you can bring things full circle? That circle, however, isn’t complete without sounds and music, all of which is well done and, again, fits the game and genre perfectly. I’m not a huge game music fan, but even I caught myself humming some of the tunes from time to time.
That leaves us with controls. The controls are well done, no unexpected movements or delays. Everything feels just right. The only thing that takes a little getting used to once again involves the ladders. The game allows you to duck, but that comes into conflict at times near a ladder. To get around this there is a separate button for ducking, instead of just pressing down. It takes some getting used to but eventually flows with more and more game time.
Developer: Minor Key Games
Publisher: Minor Key Games
Release Date: 7th February 2017