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Wildcat Gun Machine review: Its meow is worse than its bite

By Jon Bailes. Posted

It’s a good name, right? Wildcat. Gun. Machine. Words that invoke images of adrenaline-laced shootouts, chunky ordnance, screenfuls of bullets, and pounding industrial music. While Wildcat Gun Machine is a twin-stick shooter, however, it rarely hits those highs. Not so much a wildcat, it’s more like a well-fed house moggy – capable of occasional bursts of energy, but mostly found dozing on the sofa.

Indeed, despite sharp cartoon visuals, Wildcat Gun Machine feels flat from the off. Traipsing around a space station overrun by lumpy aliens, you’re teased with a sprawling map, but soon realise it’s simply divided into colour-coded pathways to be tackled in a strict order. Venture to the end of one segment, find a key, warp back to the hub, complete the next segment, and repeat until boss. This is a pattern the game sticks to with uninspired devotion.

And although there are many beastly things to slay en route, few are a thrill to fight. As you step into one of the station’s cavernous rooms, some materialise around you, shuffling forth like fed up zombies, while others pop up in far-flung corners, beyond the jurisdiction of a camera that’s too zoomed in, from where they listlessly lob projectiles your way. Once you’re done with the close encounters, then, you’re often left exchanging fire with packs of foes you can’t see, with no minimap or radar for guidance.

Bosses are suitably gruesome, but it’s often best to shoot them from distance.

It doesn’t help either that most rooms cough up countless waves of aliens to exterminate. Natural climax points arrive and then vanish over the horizon as more gooey monsters appear, until you’re begging for respite (and should you die at any point, expect to redo the whole thing). This tortured plod is exacerbated by a two-gun loadout system that gives you one infinite ammo pea-shooter and one high-damage heavy weapon that quickly runs out of juice. Effectively, you need to save the big boy for peaks of activity, and so spend calmer moments slowly pew-pewing opponents into submission.

Then again, letting rip with a machine gun or laser cannon isn’t especially cathartic anyway, as nothing in Wildcat Gun Machine packs real wallop. It’s quiet. Too quiet. There’s not enough boom or shake, guns whisper, the music is heavy but not pumping, and the aliens have taken a vow of silence. Even the moments when you fill your power meter and unleash your gun machine – ten seconds of charging around in a small mech – lack spectacle. It’s like Nex Machina on Xanax.

Admittedly, it does get busier after the first two levels, and quite challenging. Once you’re dealing with four or five different enemy gangs at a time, you have to prioritise, stay on the move, and make risky dashes for ammo refills. The basic pleasures of shooting and dodging improve too, once you’ve upgraded your speed and dash capabilities. However, as battles continue to outstay their welcome, it’s hard to maintain genuine enthusiasm. Sadly, the name is Wildcat Gun Machine’s most exciting feature.

Highlight

There are at least plenty of different guns to play with in Wildcat Gun Machine, with new models to find or purchase appearing throughout. Range, fire rate, and power are the variables to consider when picking your loadout, or simply whether you prefer dealing death by laser, flamethrower, or ricocheting buzzsaws.

Verdict

An arcade-style shooter with plodding pace and underwhelming audio.

45%

Genre: Twin-stick shooter | Format: Switch / PC / PS4 / XBO | Developer: Chunkybox Games | Publisher: Daedelic Entertainment | Price: £12.99 | Release: Out now

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