Armored Hunter Gunhound EX is a fast-paced mecha action game, developed by Dracue and published by G.Rev. It was originally a game released on the Playstation Portable in early 2013, but has now been ported to the PC via Playism for the Steam platform. As a huge fan of mecha and action games in general, I was fairly excited to get my hands on this one. I will try to elucidate whether or not Gunhound EX is worth your time and money.
My first impression of this game was, to be honest, fairly negative. Upon booting it up, I was greeted with the main menu, and immediately attempted to map the controls to my gamepad. However, this was an unnecessarily confounding process, that ended up taking me roughly 10 minutes to figure out. Instead of hitting “begin” and then mapping the buttons in a sequence, you have to hit Z, map the command to a button, then hit down on your keyboard, Z again, and map the next command.
And then, to top it all off, when you think you’re done, you’re not. There’s a bunch more commands that you have to scroll down to see, but there’s no arrow or anything indicating that you have to. This lead me to hitting cancel a few times, thinking I was done, and completely resetting my progress. Call it a minor pet peeve, but it was a pretty damned annoying start to the game.
The annoyances, unfortunately, continued. The game was a port from the PSP to the PC, and there is a certain way to go about doing that. They did not get that memo, apparently. The PC port of Gunhound EX is just about as bare-bones as it can get.
You can’t adjust the resolution, there’s a frame-rate cap, and every time the Steam overlay pops up–whether it be for a message, or an achievement–the entire screen goes black. It’s almost as if the port team wasn’t aware of the features of Steam, or how it works. I also had some nasty crash issues when booting the game up, but I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and say it was my hardware.
So, let’s get into the actual game, particularly the visuals. Everything about Gunhound EX looks incredibly dated, and of poor production quality. The menus are ugly and obtuse, and the game itself looks like it’d feel right at home on the SNES. The retro look isn’t objectively a bad thing, but the upscaled pixel work on a large monitor looks rather muddy. I will say that the animations are all pretty slick, and the artwork between levels is quite pleasant to behold. Sadly, that doesn’t save it–the only accolades the appearance of this game could recieve would be due to nostalgia goggles.
The gameplay is pretty much what it says on the tin. “Eliminate robotic foes with your Gunhound across multiple stages of mayhem.” There are a few things done well, and a few things done poorly. What they did well was craft a mostly competent side-scrolling mecha shoot-em-up, with various weapons and an emphasis on replayability. The game is a prime example of trial and error, rewarding you for learning enemy attack patterns and exploiting them. I personally approve of this type of difficulty, as it is always satisfying being able to make it through a level without taking a single hit.
What did they do wrong, though? Well, for starters, the aim in Gunhound EX is 360 degrees, controlled by your d-pad. Your movement is also controlled by the d-pad. Just describing that alone makes it sound clunky. Now imagine you’re in zero gravity, and have to move up and down to dodge bullets, but still manage to right your aim to shoot straight ahead of you. It makes sense that the control scheme was originally this way, due to the PSP’s limitations as a console.
However, the PC port was this game’s chance to get a revamped control scheme, and they chose not to do so. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, the game is pretty short, clocking in at around 3 hours of solid gameplay. There is some replayability in retrying the levels, to attempt to get the highest score. But the same could be said of any shallow arcade shooter, and it’s hardly a selling point.
On deck now is the sound design. It’s pretty awesome, honestly. Apart from some annoying menu bleeps, the music and general sound assets in this game are great. The guns sound kickass, explosions resonate satisfyingly, and the music is jammin’ as hell. It’s even fully voice acted, with English subtitles, and there’s a nifty companion app for your phone or tablet that lets you hear the actors from the game, as if you were in the cockpit yourself. It’s a cool feature, but one that is probably not as fun for most people who don’t speak Japanese. Regardless, the sound design is hands-down the best feature of Gunhound EX.
Lastly, let me talk about the story. It’s nothing special, but I didn’t expect Citizen Kane. Essentially, there is a reason for you to be killing all of these poor saps, and that’s all I need. The characters are generally likeable, having some amusing interactions with each other, but I can’t say any of them are all that memorable. At the end of the day, the story isn’t why you play a game like this, but the narrative serves well enough.
So, in closing, is Gunhound EX any good? Well, unless you’re a huge fan of giant robots, I can’t in good conscience recommend this game to anyone. It’s a hellish PC port of a game with clunky controls, muddy graphics, and a bland story.
The soundtrack is delightful, but in my opinion, you should listen to that and just avoid the game entirely. If you must buy it, I’d wait for it to go on sale, or just buy a better mecha game instead, like Astebreed, which is also ported by Playism.
Gunhound EX was reviewed using a code provided by Playism. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s reviews/ethics policy here.