Those wretched bugs have finally returned to Earth once more, and now only Jack Bennett — along with his endless supply of bullets — can ever hope to kick their asses back into outer space again. So goes the setup to Ripstone Ltd’sGun Commando (out now, $0.99), a game that pays homage to the FPS genre’s roots — such as Wolfenstein 3D and Blake Stone: Aliens of Gold — which is now available on the iOS via Abstraction Games. Those looking for run and gun action will certainly know that they’ve downloaded the right app when Gun Commando’s title screen opens up to the hero’s gravely voice impatiently declaring, “Let’s shoot something!”
Let’s begin this review by first discussing Gun Commando’s controls, since the FPS genre has become infamously renown for being impossible to smoothly implement on touch screen based devices. The left side of your screen will function as a virtual analog joystick, with your character moving forwards and backwards — as well as strafing — in relation to how far/fast you moved your finger. Meanwhile, the right side of the screen serves as your rotate left and right function — again responding to how much acceleration you used — which in turn means that you can perform genuine circle strafing in this port.
Actually firing Jack’s gun — quite possibly the most important of all functions in an FPS game — is executed by quickly tapping, rather than holding, the right side of your device’s screen. Double tapping the left side of the screen — on the other hand — causes Jack to slide a short distance across the ground, which is used to safely avoid dangerous laser security beams that sometimes block hallways. While these controls do come together to let you control Jack with near total finesse, I won’t lie about the fact that early on they’re extremely awkward to wrap your head around (and you can’t fire while circling at all).
While Jack can find health packs all over the place — and even hold more than 100% health if he’s extra careful — one thing you will never have to deal with in Gun Commando is searching for ammo, since Mr. Bennett has an infinite supply. However — even though the bullets themselves are free — there is still a motivation for the player to not waste their ammo, as Jack gains and loses experience points each time he opens fire. Filling up his experience bar will replace his current weapon with something even bigger and better — capable of killing enemies even faster — while blindly firing around will cause his weapon to downgrade, putting him in an even worse position to defend himself.
This mechanic lends a very tactical feeling to Gun Commando, which may otherwise have felt far more generic if one had simply been running about while shooting mindlessly at anything that moved. In order to succeed in Gun Commando, one will have to memorize stages — as well as how many bullets their current gun takes to destroy something — if they ever hope to truly excel at bug slaying. This furthermore adds a real sense of replayability to the game, as — even after someone has already tackled all 24 of Gun Commando’s stages — they can always go back to better hone their ammo efficiency. Furthermore, since any individual level can easily be finished within the span of a single coffee break — the place where most mobile gaming is usually tackled — those seeking to replay these missions will find many opportunities in which to do so.
Game mechanics aside, I am happy to report that Gun Commando does an extremely impeccable job of capturing the heavily pixelated feel of ray-traced FPS games circa the early nineties. Those whom remember playing titles such as Wolfenstein 3D and Blake Stone: Aliens of Gold will definitely feel right at home in Gun Commando, thanks to its blocky pixels — perfectly straight 90 degree corners — and sprite based enemies. While the game doesn’t exactly come with the most epic of plots, the between area cut scenes are handled via appropriately macho comic style artwork courtesy of Romano Molenaar.
Finally, I am happy to report that all of this quality retro action — complete with extremely low price tag — has been delivered utterly free of any IAPs that might have otherwise mucked up this gaming experience.
iFanzine Verdict:Gun Commando is — assuming that you’re willing to spend the time needed to learn the awkward controls — a fine tribute to the FPS classics of yesteryear, which furthermore provides a lot of replay value. This goes doubly so when you consider that numerous other attempts to bring this genre to mobile devices have all resulted in controls that were far less manageable. Further add in that each of the 24 levels can easily be finished within a single coffee break, and also that Gun Commando is completely IAP free, and you easily have the ultimate mobile FPS offering.