Reviewed: December 13, 2006
Released: November 14, 2006
For a while there were only two types of PSP games; original titles and console ports, but more recently we’ve seen an influx of a third type of game known to PC gamers as ”shovelware”. Judging from the overflowing PSP game cases at many retailers combined with a lack of quality PSP games, Sony’s handheld system seems to have become the dumping ground for a lot of mediocre games.
Gunpey is just one of dozens of new titles being crammed into games cases this holiday season, doomed to be overlooked in a sea of competition until it eventually slips into the bargain bin. Gunpey falls into the ever popular and growing category of “action-puzzle”, which is no surprise considering it was developed by Q Entertainment (Lumines).
Gunpey does manage to bring something new to the puzzle genre but it only manages to grab your interest for an hour or two at most and then you’ll be looking for something else. I really tried to push myself into playing Gunpey longer, but the truth is I can only get so far into the game before I lose and I can’t seem to ever get further than that point. And when you have no hope of doing better, a game loses its addictive quality almost immediately.
At first glance Gunpey exhibits numerous qualities that make it look like a close cousin to Lumines, with 40 funky backgrounds and trippy music that you will either love or hate. The concept is simple. You have a grid of five horizontal columns divided into ten rows. Pieces of segmented lines will slowly rise from the bottom row to the top and it’s your job to swap vertical box pairs to connect the various columns creating a continuous line that spans the entire width of the grid.
Confused? I was too since I seldom read or even take my manual on the road, so it took me a few tries to even figure out what was going on. But even after I did the game just didn’t hold my attention. You can only swap vertical square pairs so you are really at the mercy of the lines the game gives you. And by the time you hit 40-50 thousand points the lines are scrolling up so fast you’ll be doing damage control (moving lines down the grid) more than trying to solve the puzzle.
Obviously, the goal is to created complicated paths of interconnecting lines that don’t necessarily go straight across. You’ll want to create as many vertical links as possible to remove as many line segments, but you must weigh this level of strategy with taking the puzzle too far and losing it all. Once a line hits the top row it’s Game Over.
And that was my main complaint with Gunpey – it was really hard to strategize after the first 10-15 minutes of the game. I was simply scrambling to keep the game from ending and any completed lines were more luck than strategy. The frantic techno beats don’t help to soothe the situation and the controls are a bit awkward and imprecise causing me to swap pieces I didn’t really mean to, and in this game you don’t have time to correct mistakes. I’m guessing the NDS version of the game plays much better with the direct input of the stylus – much like Zookeeper. It just doesn’t work on the PSP.
There are six game modes including a devastating 10x10 grid mode, time attack, and versus play, and you can choose between original and break rules, the latter being where line segments above completed lines will drop after being removed. Gunpey also supports two players for Ad Hoc matches but there is no game sharing so both players will need a copy of the game.
In the end, there is just no real motivating factor to make me want to play this game much past the 30-minute mark. There’s no story or structure and the only reward is earning more skins (backgrounds) for levels you likely won’t be able to get to. And make sure you manually save you progress before turning off your PSP or you will lose everything you have worked so hard to attain.
There are some truly tripped out graphics in Gunpey that made me want to go back and play Lumines. These animated backgrounds are colorful and have all sorts of weird elements that struggle to remain within the boundaries of an E10 game.
The actual game is nothing more than a grid and lines, something you could create with a pencil and some graph paper, and it ends up being just about that exciting. The lines will change color, get brighter, and eventually vanish when they span the puzzle, but that is the extent of it. The rest of the HUD has all the pertinent game data.
Forty skins and a new song to go with each - if you could unlock all the music and use this game as a jukebox it might actually increase its value, assuming you enjoy an eclectic collection of techno, trance, and house tunes. Some of the pulsating beats got on my nerves but I think that was more because they were set to the frustrating gameplay more than anything else.
I suppose if you end up liking this game you will find countless hours of addictive puzzle action, but if you are like me and demand more from your puzzle titles then Gunpey will release its hold on you after about an hour or two, which is about 4-6 attempts at playing the game…getting so far…losing…trying again and again and never getting past that one point. And when your only reward is unlocking new music and backgrounds, you really aren’t that motivated to put yourself through the aggravation of practicing to where you might get past that point.
I had no idea what to expect when Gunpey showed up for review. Just the fact that it was coming from the makers of Lumines got my hopes up, but it only took two hours before I had had enough and was ready to move along. There are some cool concepts here and I respect the designers for trying something new, but there just needs to be more varied and balanced gameplay.
When you have 40 levels waiting to be unlocked and you keep hitting a brick wall at level 7 or 8 something is wrong. It could very well just be me, so you might want to give the game a shot, but I wouldn’t pay more than $19 for it. And with other great puzzle games already out there, you’ll probably want to skip Gunpey all together.