Mothergunship is an ambitious title from Grip Digital and Terrible Posture Games that looks to blend the mayhem of the bullet hell style of game with the ever popular first-person shooter genre while throwing in some gun customisation akin to playing with weaponised Lego. The developers are mostly successful in their endeavours and there’s an overall solid design at the core of the game, but some uneven difficulty and stingy gameplay elements put the brakes on the experience to some extent.
The hunt for Grimace brings us deep into his lair
As the ludicrous title of the game might suggest, Mothergunship’s story was never meant to be Shakespeare, but it is genuinely humourous. Essentially a powerful alien race hell-bent on cataloguing all knowledge in the universe is threatening to wipe out the last vestiges of humanity in their quest for data. It’s up to you, a nameless recruit in the struggle, to infiltrate and destroy the alien armada, and eventually take the fight to the mothergunship herself. What it lacks in narrative depth, it makes up for in funny and fresh dialogue. Your compatriots in the struggle are little more than talking heads playing over a comms channel, but their witty banter provides a solid counterpart to the moment-to-moment action.
It’s the gameplay that does the talking (and shooting) in this title, and it’s refreshing to see a developer try something new in the FPS genre. Missions take the form of a series of kill rooms, where you enter a space and are swiftly assaulted by all manner of mechanical creatures. Using a very clever and intuitive gun crafting system, you have to patch together an arsenal capable of getting you through the deadly rooms and hitting the self-destruct button at the end of before beating a hasty retreat. Enemies occasionally drop coins that you can use to purchase gun parts from various shops in each mission, and mastering how these gun parts go together is key to success. Using connectors, different barrels and mods you can make all manner of deadly weapons, and the sky’s the limit…sort of. You can make a rocket launcher that is adorned with an extra fifty chaingun barrels and a flamethrower attachment for good measure (you could even make one for each hand if you wish), however the more bells and whistles you add to your gun, the greater the energy cost of actually firing it. You may have a gun capable of destroying a small planet, but if you can only fire it once every forty seconds because it has to recharge you’re going to find yourself very dead, very quickly.
It’s a system that means you can’t simply craft some overpowered weapon of ultimate destruction, and balancing firepower with energy cost is the name of the game. I do think that the options can be a little too restrictive, and anything more than three barrels on a weapon starts to incur prohibitive energy costs. There are some upgrades you can purchase with experience points that increase the maximum energy you have, but it feels kind of meagre, and bizarrely locks you out of upgrades to maximum health. Given how parsimonious the game can be with dropping health sometimes in tough levels, it seems odd that one has to be sacrificed over the other. Harder missions do net you better gun parts which are more energy efficient, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that my inner mad gun scientist was being reined in a bit.
*slaps roof of gun* Yep, this baby is forty barrels of space freedom right there
Test out your monstrous creations on the range
The switch to a first-person perspective is bold, and the movement is fluid and responsive and the custom gunplay feels great, but there’s no avoiding the fact that you are robbed of a large portion of your field of view with a first-person perspective.
Bullet hell games are well established, but I don’t recall ever seeing it blended with a first-person perspective, and the fact that it works at all is impressive, but it’s not without some fundamental flaws. Games that feature a bullet hell style live and die by having the player feel that despite the extreme amounts of enemies raining fiery death upon you, the perspective gives you enough information that you can avoid incoming threats while simultaneously laying waste to the opposing force. This is why a third-person perspective makes sense in most instances, as you have a certain situational awareness because you can take stock of your surroundings. The switch to a first-person perspective is bold, and the movement is fluid and responsive and the custom gunplay feels great, but there’s no avoiding the fact that you are robbed of a large portion of your field of view with a first-person perspective. This means it much harder to take stock of the threats that surround you, and when Mothergunship gets hard, it doesn’t always feel fair…or fun.
Searching for intel on dodgy porn site backfires
Mothergunship does a lot of things right, the weapon customisation is very clever and well executed, the movement feels fluid and the gunplay is extremely satisfying. The fast-paced bullet hell action doesn’t always mesh with the restricted peripheral view, and the game’s challenge wanders into unfair territory at times, but there’s a confident style about the game that’s endearing. The developers are also keen to support the game into the future and the addition of co-op is promised for August, and I’d definitely recommend jumping in and giving this gun porn/bullet hell hybrid a solid whirl.
Reviewed on PlayStation 4 | Review code supplied by publisher