Behind the Curve
When I got into gaming, I used to be into big tower defense titles like Plants Versus Zombies and Bloons Tower Defense. However, as time went on, that genre has died out, leaving little to no market for it. Likewise, I’ve moved on from the genre as well, so there was a bit of nostalgia when I booted up Gunhouse for the first time.
Reinventing the Wheel
As a concept, Gunhouse works really well. You combine tower defense with high-intensity puzzle solving. You have to be good at the latter in order to pass each level. The better you are at puzzle-solving, the more artillery you will have to take down the enemies that are trying to destroy your house and steal the orphans that live there.
Where Gunhouse starts to misstep is specifically how the puzzle mechanics work. You’re presented with a 3 x 6 grid where blocks of up to three different designs appear. You have to arrange the same design in a square, which you then swipe to the left or right to give you a gun that shoots for a short amount of time, or an area attack you can only use once.
The trick here is that the only way you can move these squares is by swiping a whole line of three left or right. Where this becomes a problem is that it can become extremely difficult to get the right shapes. It’s not so bad in the early levels, but when you’re only given 10 seconds to get your artillery ready, it starts to get frustrating. On top of that, you’re almost always at the mercy of the board. If you match a 2 x 2 square at the right side, but you want to use it for a gun on the left side, then you’re out of luck. It’s nearly impossible to choose which side your items will be used.
Attack phases are very simple. You’re given a short time to make your matches and get your weapons ready before the board closes off and you have to fight off the strange foes. It’s a nice balance, having to constantly switch between tower defense and puzzle.
However, that’s not all there is to the gameplay. At the top, there will be two of the different squares you have on your board will be depicted. If you make matches using those squares, the result will be stronger weapons to take down your foes. That said, it’s already difficult to make matches, let alone get the right squares intentionally for a bonus.
As you beat each level, you’ll be given money that you can spend on upgrading your current weapons, unlocking new ones, or giving more health to your house, which is a nice way to give the player a sense of progression that most mobile games don’t have.
Distinct from the Competition
Easily the most praiseworthy part of Gunhouse is the visual design. It takes a few edgy notes from the Jet Set Radio series, featuring spray-painted logos, and visibly diverse yet grotesque enemies. It’s a nice blend that’s sadly contradicted by a bland menu screen. That said, the visual design looks great when you manage to use the game in TV mode.
On the topic of TV mode, Gunhouse allows for both touchscreen and button controls. While the diversity is appreciated, it’s significantly easier to use touch controls, as the buttons aren’t nearly as reactive or snappy. In the wake of mobile games that don’t care about giving the Switch version button controls, I will say this was a nice change of pace, though it doesn’t work as well as titles like Cat Quest or OPUS: The Day We Found Earth.
While Gunhouse is a decent game on its own, there’s one factor that really brings down the Switch version: the price tag. This game runs for $14.99 and doesn’t add much from the mobile version. All you’re given to play is a normal and hardcore mode respectively. Meanwhile, the same experience can be bought on your smartphone for a measly $2.99. At the end of the day, I would recommend the mobile version over the Switch version in a heartbeat.
System reviewed on: Nintendo Switch.
Disclaimer: A review copy of Gunhouse was provided by Necrosoft Games for this review.