Guns, Gore & Cannoli
Guns, Gore & Cannoli is a schlock-horror 2D shooter from three-man Belgian indie developer Crazy Monkey Studios. Set in the 1920s, the game combines gore-splattered action reminiscent of 1970s grindhouse movies with the mafia dominated underworld of Prohibition-era America. Lead character Vinnie Cannoli, an up-and-coming gangster, arrives in Thugtown on the hunt for a goodfella who has gone missing only to find that the city has been taken over by hordes of the undead. With the denizens of Thugtown’s criminal underworld turned to zombies, Vinnie must cut a bloody swathe through the city to find his mark.
Crazy Monkey Studios cite Metal Slug as a major influence on Guns, Gore & Cannoli but this reviewer was reminded equally of the side-scrolling 8 and 16-bit RoboCop games of the late 80s and early 90s. Either way, you can expect frantic 2D shooting action, with a small amount of platforming mixed in for good measure. Enemies come in from all corners of the screen, including behind you, forcing the player to stay on their toes and creating surprisingly dynamic and tense encounters.
The game provides a steady drip of period weapons, including a tommy gun, magnum pistol and flamethrower. On the lower difficulty level, ammunition is abundant and allows players to blast away with their favourite weapons without too many concerns. On the harder modes, however, ammo for powerful weapons is more scarce and choosing when to use it becomes a key tactical consideration. For those times when Vinnie does take a beating, health is recovered by consuming plates of cannoli, a rich Sicilian pastry dessert, that provides him with the sustenance to carry on through the undead hordes.
Successive levels add new enemy types, with the simple zombies of the opening sections soon joined by werewolves, vampires, knife throwing butchers, hulking quarterback zombies and many more. Each of these foes have their own distinctive attack patterns and while they’re easy enough to take down one on one, even seemingly innocuous abilities become potentially lethal when Vinnie is swamped by multiple enemies. This occurs fairly frequently over the three and a half hours it takes to complete the game, with each level typically climaxing in a tooth-and-nail battle against hordes of zombies or a boss fight.
One of the most distinctive things about Guns, Gore & Cannoli is its colourful hand-drawn 2D art which gives the game a character all of its own and is complemented by excellent character animations and special effects. Of particular note is the enemy and object design, with each foe type and interactive item feeling distinct, their function in the game clear from the excellent use of visual communication. The environments are plenty varied too, reflecting the broad range of 1920’s era inspirations, and Vinnie moves from Thugtown’s docks to its run down inner city and on to its sewers, jazz clubs and mansions.
While Guns, Gore & Cannoli looks great thanks to its unique art style and detailed backdrops, the PC version suffers from performance issues that impact playability, often severely. The game stutters constantly during play, momentarily freezing on explosions, enemy spawns and deaths. This appears to be a bug related to the game saving information in the background for achievements and at the time of writing, the developers are working on a patch for the issue. In the meantime, however, sections of the game are virtually unplayable for those with low to mid spec systems.
Unfortunately, these technical problems make it difficult to recommend Guns, Gore & Cannoli on PC in its current state. It’s a real shame because underneath is a slick and well-designed side-scrolling shooter that pays homage to its noir and grindhouse inspiration while carving out an identity of its own. At £6.99, it represents good value and doesn’t overstay its welcome, although replayability is there for those who want it. With a patch on the way and a console release forthcoming on PS4, Xbox One and Wii U, let’s hope that Crazy Monkey Studios can get the game into a fit state so it can be enjoyed by a wider audience.