|Developer||Minor Key Games|
|Publisher||Minor Key Games|
|Release Date||February 7, 2017|
Review code provided
Gunmetal Arcadia is a roguelike, retro-styled platformer and sequel to last year’s Gunmetal Arcadia Zero. You play as one of four heroes on a quest to help the Tech Elves of Arcadia in their struggle against the Unmade Empire. You’ll be aiding the struggle by jumping and slashing your way through a world that looks like it came straight from the NES-era, from the visuals and music right down to the gameplay.
Playing Gunmetal Arcadia is like stepping into a time machine. It hits you right from the first moments, as the wonderful 8-bit soundtrack starts playing and you progress through the first few screens of the game. From an audiovisual standpoint, Minor Key Games have totally nailed it. The visuals are charming in their simplicity, fitting the tone of the game really well, and the soundtrack itself transcends the nostalgic feelings it aims to evoke. It’s pretty damn good in its own right.
Gunmetal Arcadia isn’t beholden to its 8-bit inspired roots, however. The game mixes things up by combining its classic platforming with roguelike elements. Death sends you right back to square one, with the game relying on procedurally generating levels so that you get a (somewhat) fresh experience every time you attempt a run. It creates an addictive gameplay loop – every time I met my end I immediately wanted to crack on again and maybe get a bit further.
This procedural generation is a bit of a double-edged sword. If you’re as bad at platformers as I am you’ll probably die a lot. The fact that the game remixes its levels every time you need to start over can certainly help to keep things from getting stale, keeping you from needing to run the same gauntlets over and over again. However, because everything is randomly generated it can also cause some issues. There are times when it’s simply not possible to progress through an area without taking damage. A few times I would need to climb a ladder that was being camped by a group of enemies who refused to move away.
Because it’s impossible to attack until you’ve gotten right to the top, there was no way around getting hit a couple of times before I could move away or attack back, unless I had some kind of equipment to kill enemies above me. Gunmetal Arcadia also has a habit of creating some very weird levels. Doors to shops would spawn inside other shops and frequently the game creates paths that lead nowhere – ladders to empty areas, tricky platforming sections that lead to dead ends and the like.
Despite this, it can be a lot of fun tackling the various levels of Gunmetal Arcadia. The four characters you can choose from offer slightly different approaches. One character comes stacked with extra health, another starts with extra stars (ammunition for your subweapons). Each character has their own unique perk that you can use to fit your play style in the game’s beginning moments. Their differences matter less in the mid to late game, though, as you’ll find all the upgrades, subweapons, ammo and health boosts to negate any advantages the other characters have.
Gunmetal Arcadia also features an extensive loot and stat system, or at least far more extensive than you’ll typically find in a platformer such as this. Throughout your travels you’ll collect coins that you can use to purchase new weapons, subweapons, moves and stat boosts. These items are randomised between shopkeepers and they can really change the way you approach the game.
There’s an extensive variety of ways you can augment and upgrade your character. More typical upgrades can include extra health, higher base damage, faster movement speed or more powerful weapons. Subweapons are where things get really interesting – ranging from fairly standard throwing knives, axes or tridents to items that consume stars to make you temporarily invincible or create a random item, upgrade or even enemy.
You can also buy upgrades to your character, able to acquire things like a double jump or the ability to attack vertically (and pogo on top of enemies Zelda 2 style). Shops are even run by different factions, which can have an impact on your spending habits. You can choose to collect sigils to gain discounts with one faction, at the cost of the other factions jacking up their prices. There’s an impressive amount of depth in the loot system in Gunmetal Arcadia.
All of this is built on top of a solid 2D platformer. The controls are simple and precise. The enemies are interesting and varied, with an array of moves that force you to constantly consider your approach to them. Each level also features two bosses, a mid-boss who is basically just a tougher variant on a standard enemy (and not all that hard to take down) and end-bosses, all of whom come with their own carefully designed stages, attack patterns and weaknesses.
Gunmetal Arcadia is a fun platformer. While it’s definitely a throwback to the NES-era in its visuals, soundtrack and gameplay style, it also adds a lot of its own ideas and mechanics to a classic formula. Its roguelike mechanics are hit and miss. Restarting the game after death creates an addictive gameplay loop, but the random generation of levels and enemy placements needs some work. The game throws up so many blind alleys as to make exploration as frustrating as it can be rewarding. The loot system is the big win here. It’s incredibly in-depth, giving you access to a suite of weapons, equipment and stat boosts that can fundamentally alter your play style and really help you make massive progress through the game, all without every making you too overpowered.
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