Ahh, yes; hyper-difficult platformers. The 2D platforming genre has always brimmed with games that require pixel perfect jumps and unwavering, split-second judgement to survive increasingly ridiculous obstacle courses. RunGunJumpGun is a stripped-down take on the punishing performer genre that sees its release on 31st August, and I’ve had the chance to play through roughly the first half of the game this week.
RunGunJumpGun, which I’ll refer to as RGJG from hereon, takes the crowded clusterfuck platforming of Cloudberry Kingdom, throws in the uncooperative jumping mechanics of Flappy Bird, and drizzles with the oppressive sadness dressing of Super Meat Boy to present a charming asshole of a game. The warped space setting feels anaemic, despite its bright and colourful textures. The thrum of bass and electronic/ hip-hop blended music is unsettling. The story is very much a side dish at this dinner table, yet the player knows to feel unwelcome the second they’re in. So far it’s pretty good.
RGJG pits players as an unnamed sprite; a cast of peculiar characters show up between each level, helping you to piece together an idea of who you are, where you are, and what the hell you are doing in this godawful place. You are a scavenger on the hunt for valuable Atomiks dispersed throughout every level, following an astronomical tragedy. For what purpose is unknown, and if your platforming skill level is anything like mine you’ll only manage to grab a small percentage of the floating orb Atomiks anyway. Some are laid out in your path, but most are tucked away in the most precarious of spots.
The gameplay of RGJG consists predominantly of dodging spikes, sawblades and turret fire, navigating claustrophobic hallways and dying many times. The instant respawn sends you flying back into certain death in a heartbeat, which is almost as quickly as you died in the first place. I was relieved upon entering the second world to see entirely different levels thanks to additional environmental mechanics. I’m keen to see what new tricks are presented in the final section when the game is released, because that sense of fresh novelty is what drove me through the painful, messy action.
The player-controlled mechanics in RGJG are stripped way back to only two buttons. Press and hold left shift to shoot your minigun straight down, imitating an indecisive jetpack, and press right shift to shoot a hail of bullets in a dead straight line ahead of you. That’s it. Even the harshest of platformers typically offer players the opportunity to pause and analyse an obstacle before jumping in, but RGJG will throw you headlong and with full force into the deep end, again and again, until you’ve reached the other side. Even if it does take 337 lives.
RGJG is an automatic 2D-scrolling platformer, meaning there is no opportunity to stop and smell the roses, and there never would be, even if there were any garden beds by the wayside. This also means that trial and error will become your reluctant new best friends. Better friends than that heartless “luck” anyway. Luck will show up announced, give you a false sense of security, and skip town right when you need them. I’ve had enough, luck. It’s over.
While the left/right shift control scheme piqued my interest initially, I quickly found that playing with left/right buttons of an ergonomic mouse makes for a much more pleasant experience. It turns out this accessibility was in mind during the game’s development, and the whole game can be played with one hand.
For fans of video game ventures in masochism, RunGunJumpGun is a no-brainer; it’s a solidly built title with intense completionist challenges and some quick laughs thrown in amongst cries of anguish. For those who don’t find fun in throwing dry pasta against the kitchen wall, it will take a bit of self-convincing. However once you’re in, that mesmerising atmosphere will ensnare you and push you to your limit, and you will tell yourself that all you need is just one more shot, and you’ll show this damn game who can win. And you can do it. Because you have to. Run. Gun. Jump. Gun.
RunGunJumpGun will be released for PC on Steam and GMG , and for the Mac through the Mac App Store on 31 August. Also check the game’s website for a cool graphic novel-style intro. Send some love!
Select Start Media was provided with a preview code for RunGunJumpGun on PC.