The latter half of 2009 saw a barrage of top-down dual-stick shooters emerge on the AppStore, though scarce few proved memorable or substantial. It is fortunate then that Guerilla Bob [AppStore] departs from the trend, providing both finely tuned action gameplay and all the bells and whistles expected of a polished title.
Guerilla Bob's bloody adventure begins with a forgettable story designed only to set the scene for the gun-toting action which follows. Fortunately, that action never lets up, periodically dispersing weapon upgrades and varied enemies in which to unleash them as you progress through the game's 7 missions. All up, these can be breezed through in well under an hour on easy mode, whilst the hard difficult may throw up the occasional challenge to lengthen that time as enemies fire more rapidly and in greater numbers. Though this may seem short, Guerilla Bob does a great job in keeping the linear gameplay fresh, unleashing enemies on you in a myriad of ways; be it from behind fortifications, on the banks of a river as you sail past, or mano a mano on a tight-rope bridge to name just a few.
From the onset Guerilla Bob's action feels graciously familiar, borrowing heavily from tried and true mechanics of past successes such as Minigore whilst wrapping the formula in a gorgeous middle eastern setting. In fact, it appears that sharing the same publisher has allowed a collaboration of sorts with the Minigore developers; a certain well-known protagonist featuring heavily in the loose Guerilla Bob storyline. More importantly however, the developers have ensured that Guerilla Bob handles just right, with the responsive thumb-sticks proving a boon in the enemy-laden Survival mode.
Where Guerilla Bob stands on its own two feet is in its terrific presentation. The middle eastern theme has been beautifully crafted, to the extent that you can make out various garments hanging from clothes lines as you pass underneath. Enemies are treated with the same careful brush and are introduced in a retro freeze frame as they are encountered to show off their detail. There is no problem at all telling the pot-wearing grunt from the explosive barrel-wielding suicide bombers. As each enemy requires a different strategy to counter, being able to tell them apart at a glance is a godsend. The presentation is rounded by Bob's amusing banter, his frequently corny but gruff commentary another throwback to Minigore. The rest of the sound is a mixed bag, with gun fire occasionally sounding more like popcorn. Fortunately the explosion and fire effects are spot on and the persistent jungle beat never overpowers the action.
If one had to nitpick, it's that perhaps the game is a little too short, relying squarely on its Survival Mode which is unlocked upon completion of the game to meter out replayability. And whilst the diversified levels are appreciated (particularly the night mission!); re-use of the same art assets throughout really leaves you pining for a fresh setting by the game's end, as the desert does start to feel monotonous. Fortunately, Survival Mode is challenging and frantic, and can very quickly amount to the bread and butter of the gameplay for those more competitively inclined.
It's worth noting too that Guerilla Bob is another game to feature Chillingo's very own Crystal SDK to provide many of the same features that we are accustomed to from the existing OpenFeint, Plus+ and AGON platforms. It appears to do the job just as competently and is integrated seamlessly with the game which is nice.
Guerilla Bob does a great job raising the bar for how a top-down dual-stick shooter should be packaged. It is both eye-catching and sassy in its presentation whilst still presenting a fun, non-stop desert rampage. Complaints about its length only accentuate how drawn into the gameplay one actually gets, as by the end of it you are already looking forward to a hopeful sequel.
Be sure to check out the launch trailer above and post your own impressions to our Guerilla Bob discussion thread, where people have been going crazy over the game since its release.
App Store Link: Guerilla Bob, $2.99