Guns. As gamers, we’ve been fed a steady stream of lasers, crossbows, bazookas, and sniper rifles since the genesis of the hobby. Like it or not, it’s a linchpin to the success of the entire industry. Sure, there are certainly games that don’t lean on this highly explosive crutch, but you would be hard pressed to find an object more crucial to countless high-profile franchises. While some are attempting to buck the trend and move away from a projectile-focused premise, it’s just as refreshing when someone throws caution to the wind and goes all-in on firearms. In enters Mothergunship from stage right, giving a double-barreled bird to countless activist groups in the process. Sometimes it’s more fun to make shit go “BOOM!”
Bring the Noise
At its core, Mothergunship strives to reduce weapon design to simply being an extremely deadly Erector Set. Every weapon that is seen on-screen in this first-person shmup (shoot-em-up) is designed by the player, by drawing from a deep well of interchangeable components. These handmade malice machines are then unleashed on a steady stream of mechanical machinations, hell-bent on tearing players limb from limb. Stepping forward into a new room results in all heavy metal doors clanging shut, and the fecal material hitting the oscillating blades. There’s only one way out: reducing anything that dares move to nothing more than a molten pile of slag. You are in the destruction business, and the industry is booming.
Clearing a room will lead to in-game currency, health, and gun energy being jettisoned skyward. Once collected, the currency can be used in several stores scattered throughout every stage. These rooms allow players to purchase additional gun barrels, support components, or health upgrades. Considering that you start most stages with a handful of basic pieces, the resulting arsenal when crossing the finish line is usually nothing short of remarkable. Have you ever had the chance to shoot of a gun that launches a laser tornado, fires a grenade, and launches a sawblade simultaneously? No, I am not talking about the next iteration of the BFG. This was a real gun that I created. And believe me when I tell you, it was friggin’ glorious.
The process of fabricating make-believe weaponry is surprisingly intuitive. The UI displays how each part connects together, using a green outline to indicate when something is a valid design and a telltale red for parts that are colliding together. There’s a fine art to balancing design and functionality, especially when considering finite amounts of firepower available at any given time. It doesn’t matter if you have the most obscenely overpowered gun on planet. If it can only fire off a single blast before needing a lengthy recharge period, it will most likely never survive the stage. Experimentation is key to learning what configurations best fit someone’s play style. Luckily, once you find that sweet spot, there will be plenty of booty to gather over the course of each conquest.
Keep on Grinding
Virtually everything that is accrued during a successful mission is taken back to the base ship, which also acts as the game’s central hub. It’s through here that the player’s core gear and mission selections can be made. This is also where the one other ingredient of Mothergunship’s genre soup comes into play. Despite the genre’s definition being muddied a bit in recent years, you can absolutely see some of the title’s rogue-like tendencies peeking through. For one, all stages are procedurally generated on the fly. Aside from the first room being consistent each time a mission is replayed, all of the subsequent rooms are randomly created. The result is an infinitely replayable experience that, if you are following one of the other pillars of rogue-likes, will mercilessly beat you into submission like rented livestock.
The continuous death cycle should, at least on paper, completely render it devoid of any entertainment value for me. Yet for some reason, it wasn’t as off-putting as other rogue-likes I’ve had the pleasure to rage quit. In fact, considering that you are constantly progressing the core unit’s level means that there is very little cost to a loss, aside from scrapping the components you initially took into a mission. Even in death, the experience accrued will be used to get additional customization points that can be applied to such persistent stats as maximum weapon energy caps and total health.
Fresh Out of Ammo
If you are looking for extensive lore to justify your mayhem, that may be the one arena where Mothergunship is a bit of a letdown. That said, there’s still plenty of amusement that can be gleaned from the hilarious commentary team. The three characters that constantly spew dialog into your earpiece are really what helps bring the experience together. While rarely accomplishing true laugh-out-loud moments, there were plenty of occasions where an amusing quip would bring a smile to my face. The exuberant naiveté of the main captain, especially when compared to the dry delivery of the AI, have an undeniably humorous back-and-forth dynamic. Plus, when they also manage to squeeze in references to getting computer viruses from other strange AIs, it has the type of humor that is guaranteed to strike a chord with the wider gaming audience. I mean, who doesn’t love a digital STD?
Ironically, the one true downfall to everything that this experience brings to the table could also be argued is also its greatest strength: replayability. Though you will never play through the same mission or stage twice, the sandbox doesn’t seem deep enough to make stages feel genuinely unique. Individual room structures tend to grow repetitive by sheer virtue of entering into the same twenty-ish layouts and fighting against the same handful of different enemy types. Thankfully there are boss fights mixed in to keep things from growing too stale, but that isn’t even enough to keep things fresh through extended playthroughs.
When played in small bursts, Mothergunship has the potential to be an extremely amusing experience. The bite-sized nature of the mission structure and fast-paced action make it ideal for burning small bursts of time. Even better, the constant progression makes every session, regardless of length, feel like it’s consistently contributing towards turning the player into a certifiable badass. As long a bit of repetition isn’t a turnoff, there are countless hours of destruction that await.
Mothergunship review code provided by publisher. Version 1.0 reviewed on a standard PlayStation 4. For more information on scoring please see our Review Policy here.