It’s time to paint Thugtown red
The run-‘n-gun genre has been all but dead and buried over the past two decades. During the glory days of the arcade and 16-bit eras, games like Konami’s Contra series and SNK’s over-the-top Metal Slug titles wowed players with adrenaline-filled action, tons of explosions and massive boss fights. Guns, Gore & Cannoli, the latest release from Belgium-based developer Crazy Monkey Studios, celebrates these glory days of a bygone era by delivering a frantic, blood-soaked romp through a city plagued by a zombie outbreak that’s sure to both scratch your itchy trigger finger and tickle your funny bone.
Set against the backdrop of Prohibition-era America, Guns, Gore & Cannoli puts players in the shiny black loafers of the square-jawed, wisecracking Bellucio Family enforcer Vinnie Cannoli. Having been given an offer he can’t refuse by his boss Don Bellucio to track down Frankie, a mafia associate held captive by the rival Bonnino syndicate, the deliciously-named Cannoli hops aboard a ferry destined for the aptly named Thugtown USA to find Frankie and return him to his boss for a handsome reward. Unfortunately for Vinnie, the shit hits the fan before you even set foot on the hoodlum-infested city’s streets as zombies quickly overrun the boat. It’s here that Vinnie Canolli’s escapade begins as he fights for his life –and a mountain of cash– against hordes of bloodthirsty ghouls, rival gangsters and even the military in a slapstick, infectious shooter that pays homage to classic gangster flicks and campy horror in equal measure.
If you’ve ever played a run-‘n-gun title before you’ll be instantly familiar with the underlying mechanics of Guns, Gore & Cannoli. Players take control of Vinnie Cannoli as he makes his way across the overrun streets, docks, speakeasies and other urban environments battling countless enemies set on turning the loudmouthed Italian into prosciutto. As you make your way through the game’s numerous locales you’ll amass an arsenal of weapons that range from the classic magnum and pump-action shotguns, to the more eccentric such as an electricity-spraying cannon that arcs from enemy to enemy, and even a trusty flamethrower that reduces ghouls and goombahs to ash in seconds. You’ll also stockpile a wealth of molotov cocktails (great for cleaning out hordes of undead) and grenades (which can lure gangsters and other humanoids out of cover) and you’ll need all of these tools to make your way out of Thugtown in one piece, as enemies are plentiful and deadly. You’ll tangle with tackling football player zombies who can only be slowed down by a mighty shotgun blast, or whip-wielding undead flappers who can lash out at our fedora-clad protagonist from a distance. Even death hasn’t slowed zombified patrolmen, who unload hot lead on Vinnie at every turn. As if that weren’t bad enough, the gangsters and military who occupy the city aren’t scared to use their considerable arsenals on you as well, making you constantly consider which tool of destruction is best for the task at hand.
Whether you’re popping zombies heads like overly ripe watermelons with a well-placed shot of your .45, or hurling a rocket into the mouth of a giant mutant rat, the gunplay in Guns, Gore & Cannoli feels consistently tight and satisfying. About midway through the game you’ll run a gauntlet through a trap-laden laboratory that has Vinnie dodging jets of poisonous gas, leaping over glowing electrodes and floating along buffets of hot air (oftentimes all at once) and you’ll scarcely miss a beat due to the game’s polished and responsive controls.
While Guns, Gore & Cannoli’s single player campaign is a ton of fun, the game also offers plenty of incentive to grab some friends for some multiplayer mayhem. The game’s main story can be played with up to four players, creating an absolute spectacle of chaos as bullets and buckets of blood paint the landscape. In cooperative mode is where Guns, Gore & Cannoli truly shines (as is the case with most games in the genre) delivering a hilarious romp as you and your army of trenchcoat-clad hoods battle ever-increasing waves of the undead. The best part? The game runs well even when the carnage is at a fever pitch, only stuttering slightly when the screen is completely cluttered with sprites and explosions. When you’re done plowing through the game’s campaign there’s still plenty of fun to be had in Guns, Gore & Cannoli’s 4-player adversarial mode as well, which pits players against one another (or heavily-armed bots) as you duke it out in several arenas. This mode is an absolute bloodbath, making a fine companion to Crazy Monkey’s potent, putrefied main course.
Unfortunately, that main course gets devoured like so many a hapless Thugtown flapper in short order. Guns, Gore & Cannoli’s story mode can be completed in just a few hours. However, there are numerous challenge modes to test your mettle with, and again, the game is always a party with friends. Even still, you can’t help but wish there were a few more towering boss fights to experience or areas to explore.
In terms of presentation, Guns, Gore & Cannoli hits its mark like a .357 round between the eyes of a zombified butcher. Each stylish stage features gorgeously drawn environments just teeming with details. From cluttered kitchens stacked with cutlery and clutter, to dingy garages loaded with derelict cars and tools everywhere, each area is rendered with a ton of detail to take in. The animations are great, as well. It’s impossible not to smile as you rush through a pack of ghouls with your flamethrower and watch them burst into a raging inferno. This same level of care is also given to the hilarious voice talent who make up the cast of underhanded wiseguys that run Thugtown, with Vinnie spouting hilarious one-liners consistently. Additionally, the game’s score is comprised of a fittingly toe-tapping jazz score to accompany the game’s roaring 1920s setting.
Guns, Gore & Cannoli is a short but sweet ride that’s best when enjoyed with friends. Developer Crazy Monkey Studios deserves to be commended for crafting an instantly addicting, tongue-in-cheek shooter that’s dressed to kill, and isn’t shy about making a mess with the marinara. Whether you and four friends are laying waste to the undead in the game’s main story, or duking it out in the incredibly addicting adversarial mode, you’re bound to enjoy painting Thugtown red.
Final Verdict: 4 / 5
Available on: PS4 (Reviewed) Xbox One, PC ; Publisher: Crazy Monkey Studios; Developer: Crazy Monkey Studios; Release Date: December 8, 2015; ESRB: M for Mature ; MSRP: $9.99
Full disclosure: This review is based on a review code for Guns, Gore & Cannoli provided by Crazy Monkey Studios