“Puzzles! Tower defence! Weapon upgrades! Infinite levels! Weird bosses!” It’s hard to comprehend what’s happening in Gunhouse, a part-puzzler part-tower defence game that wants to cram so much in your direction that the experience never feels anything less than chaotic.
But, that’s exactly what Necrosoft Games has looked to deliver, and, as alien invaders descend on your home to gobble up the delicious orphans that you’re protecting, you are challenged to gather ammo to load gun turrets and obliterate them into intergalactic oblivion.
As strange as it sounds, it’s hard not to raise a smile at the concept that, coupled with the equally peculiar art direction, soon amounts to one of the quirkiest games that I have come across on the Nintendo eShop so far. However, spend some time with it, and troublesome cracks in its defences soon start to show.
The most problematic is that Gunhouse is ill-suited to button input. With your (Gun)house overlayed with a puzzle grid to the right on-screen, your immediate challenge is to slide the rows of blocks left and right – looking to combine the blocks that fall to create larger ones. Then, you can slide any big blocks that you create left to load your guns with ammo or to the right to load special (and usually far more destructive) ammo.
Given that you only have an 18-second window to load as much ammo as you possibly can before a shutter prevents you from carrying on, it won’t take long before you realise how clumsy it is to play Gunhouse with Joy-Con or the Nintendo Switch Pro Controller. That’s an inevitable shame, as it is far better to witness the colour-packed destruction that you are about to unleash on a TV screen. But, given the game’s origins on the App Store and Google Play, it perhaps should come as no surprise that playing with touchscreen input in Handheld mode – where you can swipe left and right far more quickly – is the way to go.
Guns locked and loaded, you await the enemies as they approach. Whether feline astronauts, ice cream trucks, cake-bearing chefs or mechanical monstrosities, you simply tap on your guns and specials to activate them – automatically targetting nearby enemies to rain down bullet hell on them. Once you have used up all your ammo the action momentarily freezes, the shutter reopens and you have the chance to reload your guns.
The ammo that you load will determine the gun(s) that you have access to. You start out with the flame-spewing Dragon Gun, ice-chucking Penguin Gun and skeleton head-hurling Skull Gun, and, with the money that your robotic companion sucks up from your defeated enemies, you can unlock access to more and upgrade those in your arsenal in the in-game Store. You can only ever have three types equipped at any one time, but the Beach Ball Gun was a clear favourite, especially when loaded as special ammo which sees a giant beach ball roll across the screen, as well as the Sine Wave Gun’s ground-cracking spikes.
With three bonus objectives to set out to achieve in each level, you are showered with enough virtual cash to start to play around with everything that Gunhouse has to offer. Time passes in-game from wave-to-wave, but the game has infinite levels meaning that the challenge will continue to ramp up as you continue to tackle it. You’ll need to upgrade your heart meter and, when you can unlock it, armor to hold out for longer, with your only chance to replenish your health coming from defeated enemies that drop hearts.
Gunhouse never lacks in spectacle, but it won’t take long before you recognise that the gameplay loop that it looks to hook you on is a shallow one. This collision of genres can still entertain, but it needed a few more ideas that remixed its own concept to keep the player’s interest from waning too quickly. It’s good in short bursts, but lacking in depth.
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Review copy provided by Necrosoft Games