ThirtyThree Games' RunGunJumpGun is a memory of gaming's early eras that lives up to modern standards. Set in a post-apocalyptic solar system where the player must escape the wrath of a villainous empire, RunGunJumpGun is an automatic runner that allows players to navigate levels by alternating between shooting an oversized gun at approaching obstacles and using that same weapon to hover over these threats. RunGunJumpGun exchanges gameplay complexity for inventive level design to create difficulty without appealing to a particular crowd.
The pleasant thing about RunGunJumpGun is the many ways that its elements complement each other. Though actions are limited to either hovering or shooting through a level, a quick-witted decision between jumping high enough to grab a nearby Atomik (the shining green collectibles of RunGunJumpGun) can immediately affect whether or not it's possible to dodge a cloud of hazardous orbs. More often than not, quick decisions will result in death, forcing players to restart a level until they adapt well enough to each particular sequence. This situation is rarely painful or annoying, as any attempt at most levels in RunGunJumpGun easily have the same sense of thrill as the first. Each level is designed to force players to think about their strategies. Only running through a level is likely to result in failure. Surprisingly, overthinking a scenario has the same effect. Being successful in RunGunJumpGun requires that players exhaust their natural instincts and pay attention to each level’s structure.
This is made possible partly due to the game’s mesmerizing art style. A 2D wonderland of sci-fi effects, RunGunJumpGun is loaded with stunning retro visuals. From the dynamic cloud that squirms in level backgrounds to the colorful flash that resets players after a failed attempt, there is always a reason to be visually captivated by RunGunJumpGun. Audio design is equally attractive, with an electronic soundtrack that sets an appropriate tone in this over-the-top sci-fi setting.
Some of the game’s less challenging levels can't help but feel disappointing. The challenge of being tortured by almost completing a level only to be forced into restarting because of a single mistake is where excitement and risk are born in RunGunJumpGun. The most memorable moments of the game are also the most threatening and seemingly impossible. Failing a level dozens of times until discovering a different way to get around obstacles is shamelessly satisfying. Sadly, all of this is lost when the game decides to be merciful. Some levels will torture players only to catapult them into a level that only takes a few lazy jumps to complete. It's hard not to feel removed from RunGunJumpGun when the well-earned focus suddenly stops.
Being punished by difficulty does have its limits. The novelty of needing to just barely clear a level over and over can only be appreciated so many times before it becomes a chore. At times, RunGunJumpGun’s more complex levels make luck feel too important, which lessens the motivation to replay levels, as the only real reason for doing so is to collect all of the Atomiks on each level. However, successfully collecting these orbs seems to have no beneficial effect besides a sense of pride. While going back to try a different approach to each level is a pleasant prospect, there is not enough incentive to re-experience RunGunJumpGun’s difficulty spikes.
The game’s story elements can be just as inconsistent. RunGunJumpGun’s tells the majority of its plot through a few lines of speech delivered by one or two characters between levels. While this creates a focus on the chaotic action, many of these instances can be confusing. Without a proper narrative, some of the lines used by the game’s characters seem incoherent and strange instead of relevant. The distraction of these sequences only increases as the game progresses. During the first world’s later levels, characters spout monologues that are difficult to tie back to the unmemorable speeches of earlier levels. These details do not cripple any of the enjoyable aspects of the game. In fact, they can be unimportant to players who only want to run headfirst into the punishing world of RunGunJumpGun. However, these smudges can easily remove players from an otherwise great product.
Even in its alpha state, RunGunJumpGun is a promising title that teases a simple, yet addictive experience. The polished visual design of RunGunJumpGun is beautiful enough to be enjoyed on its own. Mixing this with gameplay that engages players and forces them to work with a limited set of actions creates an honest, fun adventure. Despite some disappointing difficulty spikes, little replay value, and distracting story pacing, RunGunJumpGun is a game that anybody who is looking for a decent challenge should look forward to.
RunGunJumpGun was previewed on PC via Steam with a code provided by the developer.