In an age where movies are named with little effort and some video game companies have followed suit, it’s nice to come across a title that stands out and demands attention like the Claeys Brothers’ Guns, Gore & Cannoli.
Set in the Roaring Twenties, during the golden age of prohibition, Guns, Gore & Cannoli is a light-hearted game that combines two things we never see together: mobsters and zombies. Let that sink in for a minute, and think about how great a premise that is, because it’s genius.
After choosing your character and waiting for up to three local friends to do the same, you’re thrown into a slice of America that is under attack from something it knows nothing about. It seems that an outbreak of zombies has taken hold on an island known as Thugtown, and it’s up to the mob to kick its ass.
Well, sort of.
The story centres upon one Vinnie Cannoli, an appropriately named gangster and hitman who’s sent to Thugtown in an attempt to locate a kidnapped compadre. He wakes up, narrates his orders to the player and then gets on a boat headed for the epicentre. He does this knowing that things are bad there, although he doesn’t seem to be aware of just how bad things have gotten. The streets are overrun with flesh-eating corpses, buildings are the same way, and all of the survivors seem to be mobsters. That’s fitting, though, given that they have most of the guns.
I don’t want to spoil anything for those who’ve yet to play the game, but it kind of goes without saying that things don’t go as planned. Vinnie finds himself caught up in a shit storm of epic proportions, and all he has at his disposal are his pistol and his wits. That is, until he comes across a plethora of other weaponry, including machine guns, shotguns, a tesla coil and a rocket launcher. Appreciably, Molotov cocktails and traditional grenades also factor in, and allow players to blow shit up with gory results.
At its core, Guns, Gore & Cannoli is a 2D shooter with platforming elements, like BroForce and Metal Slug, and its simple controls make things easy to grasp. Things are extremely straightforward, which is a good thing, because it’s an easy game to just jump in and play. Your goal is, and always will be to survive, and you’ll need to master jumping, shooting, kicking and grenade tossing in order to do so. I’d also suggest being prepared to run at any moment, because enemies will quickly outnumber you and can come from each side at any given time.
What you’ll want to note before spending money on this game’s meagre price tag is that it isn’t without its faults. Yes, it has a great premise and is a fun way to spend a few hours, but it’s short and gets rather difficult. Its checkpoints are thankfully pretty generous, and health-refilling cannoli isn’t in limited supply, but it’s not difficult to get overwhelmed by a large group of enemies. The developers really wanted to make things frenetic and hairy, so they spam you with undead, zombie rats, army men and even human mobsters, sometimes to a frustrating extent. The good news is that ammo is always in great supply, so you’ll never run out, but the bad news is that enemies in the latter portion of the game pack a powerful punch.
Guns, Gore & Cannoli also tests your skills with a few major boss battles. They’re challenging, too, but careful observation and spamming powerful weapons/grenades will aid you well and help you emerge victorious. Then again, I played through this game by my lonesome because I didn’t have any friends at my disposal, so the challenge was likely heightened as a result.
Outside of its main campaign, which spans several different environments, including a strip club, a police station, a heavily guarded bridge and some unholy sewers, the Claeys Brothers’ quirky shooter offers a competitive versus mode wherein four players can battle it out. This option takes a lot of cues from Super Smash Bros. by dropping the characters into platform-littered arenas, and is somewhat similar despite being faster-paced and focusing on guns over melee combat and special moves. I can’t see people getting a lot of play time out of it, though, because it’s nothing too special and there’s no online support – something that is also missing from the campaign even though it would’ve been a welcomed addition.
There’s a lot of heart to be found here, though, because Guns, Gore & Cannoli lives up to its awesomely colourful title. It’s fun, despite being repetitive, and features a lot of tongue-in-cheek humour that keeps things lively. You’ll notice one-liners that have been ripped from classic movies, like Cool Hand Luke’s, “What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate,” and will enjoy watching the game’s impressively hand-drawn and cartoony visuals in action. On the downside, the frame rate will occasionally freeze for a brief second or two, and the hardcoded subtitles don’t always line-up perfectly with what the characters are saying.
Guns, Gore & Cannoli knows what it is and doesn’t try to be anything different. It’s a quirky and comical game, and one that indie-loving console gamers will enjoy.
This review is based on the Xbox One port of the game, which we were provided with.
Guns, Gore & Cannoli is a fun way to spend a few hours, especially if you have two or three friends over. It won't set the world on fire and isn't without its faults, but it knows what it is and doesn't try to do too much.