The gaming industry is going through somewhat of a renaissance with regards to the recent resurgence of bombastic, over-the-top action games. For years, the genre has been gravitating away from the ridiculously absurd towards an ultra-realistic, unbendingly serious template utterly devoid of any silliness whatsoever. While such games certainly have a play in the grand scheme of things, they just don’t quite capture the same feeling of edge-of-your seat action immortalised by the likes of Doom and Unreal Tournament. Thankfully, after a plague of modern-military mundanity the genre is finally making a resurgence; and Bullshot is leading the charge.
Right from the get-go, it is evident where this 2D side-scrolling action platformer draws its inspiration from. The title screen is a glorious amalgamation of classic tropes from all the best action games of the past. The pose of main character Frank F. Franky is straight out of Duke Nukem, and the font of the game’s title has clearly been inspired by the all-conquering Doom. However, imitation is one thing, but being able to capture the essence of those classic masterpieces is another. Thankfully, Bullshot absolutely knocks it out of the park, and then some.
Though the narrative premise of the game is absolutely absurd and entirely forgettable, the rest of Bullshot is anything but. Well, maybe aside from absurdity part. Composing of nine complete levels, five extra bonus stages and an optional co-op multiplayer mode, Bullshot possesses more than enough content to justify its insanely low £3.99 price-point. Every single one of the levels resonates with a sense of chaotic beauty that perfectly captures the old-school look of the genre whilst still retaining the razor-sharp sheen of a contemporary game. From gloriously detailed backgrounds to the bombastically brilliant explosions and effects, the whole aesthetic radiates with the pure, unbridled delight of the very best classic shooters, something which is epitomised by the super rocking soundtrack that just screams classic Nukem.
Such a feeling is also captured by Bullshot’s gameplay. While certainly not revolutionary, the act of mowing down hordes of ravenous aliens with a cornucopia of outlandish armaments is simply exhilarating to experience, with the notable example Mr Franky’s change ability that utterly devastates all in his wake. The sprawling levels (complete with hidden secrets) are inundated with enemies, and while the A.I. is about as dumb as a bag of hammers, diving head-first into large hordes results in you lasting about as long as a lamb in a slaughterhouse. There is enough challenge on offer to keep you on your hooves, and you’ll constantly find yourself dying and respawning as you get caught up in gloriously bloodthirsty action.
There are a few issues, however, that slightly dampen the experience. Movement, at times, can feel stiff and rather clunky, especially when the action begins to intensify. It’s rarely noticeable, but when it is things can soon become infuriating. Additionally, the boss fights are utterly underwhelming. Each one can be defeated by simply exploiting a single, glaring weakness; a rather disappointing fact considering how challenging the rest of the game can be.
Bullshot is about as subtle as a bull in a china shop, yet its eccentric personality and over-the-top action are what makes it so spectacular to experience. It perfectly captures the spark of classic action extravaganzas in all their glory, reigniting the 2D action platformer genre with a dazzling bullseye.