Ripstone Ltd. would like to sell you a time machine. For only a buck, you can download Gun Commando [$2.99] and travel way back to 1993, a year when Bill Clinton was president, Sega and Nintendo went 15 rounds in the 16-bit console prize fight, and first-person shooters didn't bother with radical ideas like aiming up and down.

id Software also released a game called Doom in 1993--maybe you've heard of it--but Gun Commando has more in common with Doom's pappy, Wolfenstein 3D. The Macintosh version of Wolf3D, specifically, since character sprites only have one side. That means no sneaking up on alien goobers and capping them in the back. Levels are made up of rooms cut at 90-degree angles, the graphics are good and pixelated, and the plot, told through beautiful comic-book-style cutscenes, gets no more complex than "aliens are bad so shoot all the aliens."

You might notice that your 99-cent, Gun Commando-themed time machine affords access to a few tricks that B.J. Blazkowicz didn't have on hand when he went up against Robo-Hitler in id's seminal shooter. When you shoot an enemy, you add a few bars to the experience bar at the top of the screen. Fill it up and your one and only peashooter evolves, changing color and packing a mightier punch with each upgrade. Enemies that took four shots to put down soon only require three, then two, and before you know it, you're a one-shot hotshot.

Careful, though. Miss your target and you lose experience points. Empty your XP bar completely and your gun downgrades one level. It's a clever upgrade system that encourages steady aiming instead of button mashing, and makes you feel like a badass every time you topple a previously hearty bad guy in one or two shots instead of a handful or more.

Not that your enemies are sturdy to begin with. Once again evoking the zeitgeist of the 2D era, enemies pack more bite than brains. The base enemy, a grunt who swings a shield as his only form of attack, marches resolutely toward you, giving you plenty of time to take him down before he gets close enough to attack. Gun-packing aliens only fire when you step within a few feet of their position, which means you can round a corner, spot them looking right at you, and pop them off at your leisure.

Other enemies move and fire at the same time, but won't open fire unless you're in a certain range. I cleared most rooms by running in to wake up the aliens, retreating a safe distance down a clear hallway, and knocking them off one by one without taking a lick of damage. Throw in the fact that your health jumps back to 100 between levels and you can stroll right up to the final boss, no sweat.

If you do die, you just head back to the beginning of the current stage with full health and your upgraded weapon intact. Why not dock players a gun level to add tension? Not that most enemy mobs inspire much fear even with a low-level weapon. You'll meet pockets of worthy resistance on the game's twilight stages, but your gun should pack enough oomph to topple them in a few shots or less. The only real threat to Gun Commando's beefcake hero is the control scheme. Invisible sticks move and strafe, but movement fluctuates between choppy and floaty, like sliding across an icy pond.

How much you'll enjoy Gun Commando will depend on how nostalgic you are for a shooter that recalls the bygone days of boot disks and Sound Blaster 16 cards. I grew up on a healthy diet of old-school shooters where the goal was to mow down legions of mouth-breathing monsters, so I enjoyed my brief jaunt through my formative years, and appreciated how the upgrade system added some tactical consideration to the experience. Those interested in more sophisticated shooting galleries should pass.

TouchArcade Rating

  • phonecats

    5 stars here.
    and i cant even beat the first boss!

    • themostunclean

      Mash button, dodge, repeat. Ignore the turrets.

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  • rawr=3567

    So what if the control scheme is a little wonky its a good fps with a great art style if u have a buck buy the game, Im only on like the second level I have mostly been playing gargoyle ruins though

  • Biff Superman

    Yes how the hell do you kill the first boss

    • David L Craddock

      You just shoot it. No trick involved. In fact, bosses are the easiest way to level-up your gun. Just move far away out of his attack range and open fire. You'll fill your meter at least once, maybe twice.

    • jeffyg3

      Yeah, that boss is extremely easy...just keep shooting him...I hardly even got hit.

      Anyways, the game is kinda short, I finished it on the second day. Still tho it was fun, I liked the upgrade system as it makes you want to hit the target and not shoot randomly. Controls are a little wonky at first, but it gets smooth once you get used to them. The first area the levels are short and boring, but once get further on and get keys it gets more fleshed out. It was fun for the short time I had with it. I'd probably give it a 3.5/5

  • drloony

    Come on TA, 3 stars? This game is better then that, the artwork alone is worth 3 stars, throw in smooth controls, aliens, golden guns, and rock bottom price, you got minimum 4 stars, why the hate?

  • Bones00

    Isn't this on the Vita as well?

    • themostunclean

      Yes, and any official Playstation mobile device.

  • Laszlo Tuss

    3 Stars? Ohh sure, it's not from Rovio, i forgot...

  • Alc819

    Respectfully disagree with 3 stars like most everyone else.

  • Advancedcaveman

    This game has nothing to do with old first person shooters from the 90s. A better comparison would be a java/shockwave web browser/cellphone game from the early 2000s. Basically one of those proof of concept type things where someone slapped together something to test an engine rather than making an actual game.

    Pre half-life shooters have non-linear levels full of secret areas and alternate paths. Wolfenstein style games with maze levels like this were only around for about a year before Doom came out and introduced height. Then Duke Nukem 3D added more variation & a sense of place to the environments in addition to a ton of fun weapons and gadgets. The levels also had puzzles in them; they usually involved flipping switches but some games like Dark Forces had basic adventure game style puzzles where you had to find and use specific items.

    The levels in Gun Command are just empty mazes with no puzzles, keys, secrets, or alternate paths. The fun of collecting an arsenal of different weapons is completely absent. There's none of the enemy variety that old shooters have, and there's none of the personality or variety in visuals & level designs that a game like DN3D or Outlaws has.

    • David L Craddock

      I did compare Gun Commando more to Wolfenstein 3D than other FPS games from the 90s.

    • drloony

      Ya but this game costs $1, Doom cost like $80 when it was released

      • Mj1ggy

        Doom was shareware, but maybe you were joking?

      • drloony

        Nope, not joking, I based that off the price of a PC game at the time. I see I was wrong. I do know that I don't like Doom though, it might of been good 20 years ago. It's just memorable in people's minds , but today it looks like pixilated barf

  • airwa1k

    I bought the game. Beat the entire thing. Loved it. Doesn't have much replay value though except for high scores. It's pretty hard to do legit. You need to never die completing the whole game. Harder then it sounds.

  • Grummie

    Just bought it, love it, 4.5 stars

  • JoelSixPack

    The controls do take some time to get used to, but there is a sensitivity setting in the menu that can be adjusted. After experimenting with it, I bumped it up to 8 and actually really liked how the movement and aiming felt after playing the first two or three levels. However, like pretty much all games with virtual buttons, this game would still benefit from having some different control options for people to choose from.

    But after I got comfortable with the controls, the game itself was a blast to play through. I love the pixel art (there are tons of 2D pixel art games on the Apps Store, but not as many 3D ones like this), and the weapons upgrade system really makes you think before you shoot. The thing I probably like about it the best is that it's actually a great high score game. Your score resets to zero if you die, so there's a real incentive to try to make it through the entire game with one life -- a goal that can be tricky in a few spots but is actually quite achievable. In fact, I would love to see a harder difficulty mode added in an update that gives you a chance to earn an even higher score.

    Overall, this is a great game, I think better than 3/5 stars. I would give it 4.5/5.


  • Br0n5t3r


  • araczynski

    i'm not a fan of pixel games in general, but that has got to be the most fugly i've seen in a few years on ios.

  • TetsuoAK2

    And still no one to talk about the free PC original: Locomalito's 8bit killer. This game is just a bad copy. Just play this game and forget about this commando thing. Everyone is crying when Ridiculous Fishing was cloned, but no one says anything about this one... I really don't understand.

Gun Commando Reviewed by David Craddock on . Rating: 3