Danse Macabre

If you’re afraid of learning karate because of the risk involved, just be glad you don’t live in a world where martial arts involve firearms! Right now, in some ruthless alternate universe, there’s a dude standing in the dark and surrounded by about a million other dudes aiming guns at him. A spotlight clicks on, and from that point forward the martial artist’s lifespan is measured in fractions of seconds while he busies himself firing back, the only things going for him being his slick dance moves and the miraculous fact that he never needs to reload. He has to be right every time; the multitudes swarming him have to be right only once. Realistically, there’s a 99.99% chance he’s not going to make it out of this alive — but if he does, he’ll be proclaimed a master of Gun Fu (Out Now, $0.99)!

I think it’s safe to say Dobsoft has brought us the most intense shooting gallery game on iOS. It’s also an interesting peripheral vision exercise: focusing on the smartly dressed protagonist, the player watches for soldiers swarming in from every angle and promptly taps on them to blow them clean away before they can do the same to the player character. The main game mode is composed of ten “Trials,” each marking a higher level of intensity and complexity of enemy formations. Enemies will pick off the shootist within moments of closing in, so the player has to make frequent use of multitouch to attack in just as many directions as they approach from.

Besides the protagonist’s lack of a helmet and body armor – apparently these would just cramp his style – there are a few other things working against the player in Gun Fu. The shootist holds himself to rather high standards, so if the player misfires a certain number of times, he will fall into a state of dishonor and just freeze so the enemy can execute him on the spot. Higher-level Trials mix in enemies that take two shots before going down, making multitouch that much more critical to keep going without missing a beat. On balance, the player is rewarded for swift reaction time by a “Fury Meter” that lets the protagonist go into an invincible shotgun-fueled frenzy once it’s filled.

In theory, Gun Fu‘s 10 Trials could be completed in around ten minutes but the game is designed precisely so most players won’t make it that far. At least Gun Fu‘s difficulty is purely by design and can’t be attributed to interface flaws — it’s definitely got the pick-up-and-play part down. As a consolation prize, players who are able to complete at least half the trials unlock Gun Fu‘s endless Onslaught Mode and can pick up plenty of Game Center and OpenFeint achievements without being the world’s highest ranking master of virtual gun kata. What I find most interesting of all is Gun Fu‘s serious approach to player training: the player unlocks a practice area for every Trial he or she has managed to reach, and here the Trial’s intensity is replicated without the pesky mortal danger for purposes of sharpening one’s multitap skills and reaction time.

Once a Trial is failed the player will have to work his or her way back up from the bottom, and this brings to bear the game design difficulty of “intensity drop” that I typically note in infinite games. I couldn’t help but think back to Shooting Demon when I reflected on Gun Fu‘s no-nonsense tap interface, and it’s worth fleshing out that comparison. Whereas Shooting Demon featured a level map, RPG-like upgrade system, and required a little thinking in the middle of firefights, Gun Fu is a pure exercise in swift reaction. It’s a much more fast-paced and visceral experience, but also one lacking in depth; it’ll exercise your cerebellum but not your cerebrum. There does appear to be another mystery mode on tap for updates, which should help stretch it out for players over the long haul.

Its fundamental simplicity leaves Gun Fu in much the same situation as the recently released Croma: it can wear thin very quickly unless you’re really into high score competition, but it oozes such style that even the casual player is liable to keep it on hand and come back to it every so often. Screenshots can’t do justice to how Gun Fu‘s shootist looks like a dancing six-armed Shiva once the action’s warmed up, and an addictive techno track ushers the player right into “the zone.”

If it hasn’t been made patently clear already, there’s plenty of blood to go around in this one, so Gun Fu may not be something you’ll want to pass off to impressionable youngsters — even if a gun fight where everyone’s made of 1s and 0s can be devilishly fun to watch! Flashing visual effects also set in under certain conditions, so fair warning to epileptics.

One bug did make it into a review copy we received last week, and likely made it to App Store releases early today as well. US App Store customers shouldn’t be affected thanks to an expedited update, but customers in earlier time zones are advised to update to the latest version that just became available as this writeup went live.

iFanzine Verdict: Gun Fu is by no means the deepest game in its price range, but it is one of the fastest and most exhilarating if you could go for a very cleanly built and unyielding shooting gallery title.

[xrr rating=4/5]

Big thanks to everyone who re-Tweeted last week’s interview with Dobsoft! Hang on tight, we’ll disburse promo codes to the winners this Friday!