Local multiplayer games are a dying breed thanks to the continued growth of online play. That sort of in-room party atmosphere is something that is lost in the wake of livestreams and matchmaking, but some games out there are still accommodating to that very specific niche and do so with great enthusiasm.
Cutthroat Gunboat is one of those titles. Tucked away in the corner of Play NYC, the freshman game by indie developer Minor Faction carved itself a spot that was enticing to the passers-by within the convention walls. One of the few pure multiplayer games at the show, it is the quintessential party game—fast paced, easy to play, and most importantly, fun with a group. The game has the player pilot a pirate ship in a free-for-all multiplayer battle, using cannons and tricky maneuvering to eliminate your opponents.
One of the best things about Cutthroat Gunboat is the amount of hidden depth in the title. You have your choice of six different ships (with more being promised as DLC) each with their own strengths, such as speed, armor, and firepower. Maneuverability is also done well, utilizing a twin-stick style of movement with the left and right trigger buttons. There is a physics system present as well, allowing your ship to glide freely in the environments with a high degree of control.
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Firing your cannons is also in a twin-stick style, using the left and right bumper buttons. All your shots need to be aimed, so the timing of your shots in conjunction with your movement is paramount to your success. If the normal cannon is not to your style, several special weapons, from ricochet shots to flame throwers, can be picked up in the arena to give yourself an edge in a match.
Each matchup on a given map would take less than five minutes to play, allowing players to have multiple matchups in a stretch. This offers the perfect storm for a party game, allowing for frantic team and four-player free-for-all battles to be consumed by a group in a few minutes at a time.
That is Cutthroat Gunboats greatest strength: providing the perfect party atmosphere with couch multiplayer. Minor Faction did an excellent job in making sure all aspects of the game fit this mandate, right down to the level design itself. Each arena is a open-sea riddled with different obstructions and hazards, allowing for constant replay value on the maps themselves. The random power-ups, such as the aforementioned weapons, health kits, and more also add variety to your matchups, ensuring that no two battles are the same in the game.
While the local multiplayer is the highlight, it is also the ultimate weakness for a game like Cutthroat Gunboat; namely, not everyone is going to be interested in local multiplayer. By virtue of where the market is, the lack of online play is a handicap that can be detrimental to the longevity of the game. If there is any other weakness, it is the limitation on the game requiring a controller to play, but the use of the controller makes sense given the key mappings to the game’s twin-trigger system.
In the context of a party game though, Cutthroat Gunboat is pitch perfect in offering bite-sized entertainment with a group of people. Minor Faction should be commended for creating a game that is fun and addictive, and certainly worth a look for the next get-together you have with friends.
Cutthroat Gunboat has already been released on Steam, so for anyone looking for a a small game to fill in the time with friends, I recommend you check it out for yourself.