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‘Gunhouse’ Review: Built on a Shaky Foundation

Gunhouse, a puzzle and tower defense game by Necrosoft Games, first saw the light of day in 2014 on PlayStation Mobile. This long-forgotten marketplace once sold games on Sony phones under the PlayStation brand. Over the years, Gunhouse received updates and upgrades, finding its way to countless storefronts, with Steam being the latest. Its Frankenstein’s monster-esque backstory speaks volumes about the kind of game this is – a shallow mobile port hidden under a pretty coat of paint.

A Gunhouse Built on Unstable Ground

Gunhouse purports to be both a puzzle and tower defense game, though both modes feel half-baked.

Each level starts with a matching-style puzzle segment. Your goal is to match four blocks of equal type to create either a weapon, extra ammo for that weapon, or a special attack. Weapons and ammo slide to the left while special attacks slide to the right, and once you form complete blocks they’re stuck there until the second phase. So, if you need weapons but happen to get mostly special attack blocks, well, too bad for you!

Gunhouse tower defense mode

When the puzzle section is over, you switch to the tower defense portion. Here, you can choose when to fire your guns and use your special attacks… and that’s it. The guns fire at enemies as long as they have ammo, and the special attacks last as long as their animations. Gunhouse’s tower defense section is almost entirely automated, leaving you little to do other than timing when to use your weapons and waiting for the puzzle section to start again.

Each level swaps between the puzzle and tower defense modes until you clear the stage or die. This is the pattern in every level, with no changes or additions to spice things up. Form blocks of four, fire your weapons, form more blocks, fire more weapons, win or lose.

Attempted Variety

There is a half-hearted stab at variety in Gunhouse. There are multiple weapon types, such as lightning, frost, electricity, fire; standard stuff. However, they all perform the same amount of damage, and there’s no system in place where some enemies are weak to certain attack types. The bonus damage comes only from forming multiple blocks of the same type and loading them into the same slots as ammo.

Gunhouse puzzle mode

There’s a store where you can buy items with money you get from defeating enemies. Enemies have tons of health and their numbers and vitality increase with each level. Chances are whatever weapons you have won’t be enough to clear much of the screen in one tower defense segment, as many bigger enemies will shake off even the strongest of attacks. This means that the extra health, health regeneration upgrades, and shields found in the store are all but mandatory just to keep up with the onslaught.

Annoying or Challenging?

Gunhouse has an annoying mechanic where you have to not only form blocks, but form them in the right places. If you have a frost gun loaded in the top spot and form a complete block of fire next to it, the fire gun will override the frost weapon and ignore any potential blank spots in your defense. If you want to move that fire gun to a blank spot, you have to delete all the rows beneath it along with whatever potential combos you might’ve built up.

The board resets with each new puzzle phase, giving you new pieces and positions in the process. Gunhouse punishes players who play the long game and try to set up big combos for later on. Instead, it rewards forming blocks as quickly as possible, wherever and however you can. This conflicts with the placement system, though; you’re constantly destroying guns and power-ups you already have by slotting in new ones in places where you don’t need them simply to get the most weapons possible.

The reason for this mad rush is because the puzzle segments only last a ludicrous 18 seconds. That’s less than half a minute to form blocks, consider what types of blocks you’re forming and where you need to place them, what side of the board they’re on to create either a weapon or special attack, what pieces are already on the board, and which pieces are upcoming to form your next move. It’s too much to manage in too short a time, especially considering that the tower defense portion leaves you sitting on your hands with nothing to do.

Gunhouse tower defense boss

Send Gunhouse to the Poorhouse

The tower defense and puzzle segments of Gunhouse do not mesh together. The puzzle segments are too fast and hectic, and feel difficult for the sake of being difficult. The tower defense segments require no skill at all and take too long to complete since enemies have so much health.

The only thing Gunhouse has going for it is the presentation. This is a gorgeous game, sporting wacky, colorful art design and Saturday morning cartoon-esque animations. It’s not as stylistic as Cuphead, but it’s easily the most impressive thing about the title. Otherwise, this is yet another re-release of Gunhouse that succumbs to its fundamental design flaws. If you’re hungry for puzzle game hybrids, there are better options out there.

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