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First Impressions: Gunshine


Gunshine is a good example of a game that will probably be lumped into the "Facebook game" category. I bring this up only because the game uses Facebook as a vehicle for its content, yet it also takes advantage of some of the social aspects of the network. The truth is that it launches in its own window, so really it's as much of a "Facebook game" as Free Realms is. Many MMORPGs of all shapes and sizes use Facebook's social tools occasionally at the same level that Gunshine does.

So let's be clear: There is no farming or coin-clicking in Gunshine. It is simply a top-down shooter, and a cute one at that. While I soloed most of the time in the game, I was aided by the occasional extra player or rented NPC mercenary. What I found was a game that has a lot of potential, makes great use of Flash, and is a good amount of fun.

But I found plenty of issues as well. Join me past the cut and I'll tell you about it.

Gunshine offers players some basic choices in both customization and classes. You can be a Hunter (a ranged character), a Bodyguard (a melee class), or a Doctor (the game's healing class). There's nothing really complicated or stuffy about the character choices, and each one seems to fill its role just fine. I went with a Hunter and logged in.

Graphically, the game works well. It's not trying to be anything more than it is. It's not attempting super-realistic graphics or flashy explosions. Instead, it's obvious the developers wanted to make a game that could run on many different devices and would remain a constant experience across all of them. The Flash-based client is always the same window size (which is sometimes a little aggravating) and the top-down perspective keeps lag low. I'm not a huge fan of Flash-based gameplay, mainly because of its ability to become sluggish and hog resources, but a lot of developers use it. At some point in the future I want to investigate the use of Flash and why developers choose to use it, but for now I usually enjoy the results.

"I went to my objectives, popped into battle with some pretty neat (and nicely animated) enemies, and got back to my quest giver generally without any hitches."

The gameplay of Gunshine is nothing truly innovative or surprising. Still, I enjoyed taking missions and destroying mobs, and the quest helper was pretty handy once I became used to the layout of the different zones and how to navigate the world. It was frustrating to track a quest but not see the quest helper arrow until I was in the exact zone that hosted the objective. I'm sure this could easily be fixed by making the quest helper arrow light up no matter what zone you are in.

I went to my objectives, popped into battle with some pretty neat (and nicely animated) enemies, and got back to my quest giver generally without any hitches. Again, though, it took a little while for me to get used to the flow and logic behind some of the zones, but once I did, everything was pretty easy.

In fact, maybe everything was too basic. I am not exactly sure what the developers are going for with Gunshine. If they wanted to make a basic action-based game that anyone could pick up and play on almost any device, they achieved it. But what is the drive behind the game? Is there housing later on? Do our characters become powerful enough that they never need help? While I am sure there is lore behind this world, I don't remember any of it. If I don't remember it, it probably was not very memorable.

"I would like to see more major boss battles, with a lot of explosions, earlier on. The fights wouldn't have to be impossibly hard, just more dynamic than the rest of the game."

I'd like to see a little more oopmph from this game. While the combat is definitely fine, the game itself could show off more of the bells and whistles early on. I will bet that later on in higher levels there are some really cool items or pieces of equipment to use, but for most of the time I spent in the game, I really didn't need to upgrade nor did I care to. Why exchange my perfectly good shotgun for one that doesn't seem to do much better -- especially when it's relatively expensive?

I would like to see more major boss battles, with a lot of explosions, earlier on. The fights wouldn't have to be impossibly hard, just more dynamic than the rest of the game. As it is right now, my experience was fun but felt like one continual, vanilla line. I loved the grenades and cool devices like shurikens that were easy to use and fun to watch... so give me a handful immediately. Let me dispatch my foes in much more spectacular ways.

I think perhaps I am a different type of gamer than Gunshine is meant for. If you are going to make a game that is based around slaughtering foes, make it feel more brutal. I know this game has it in it. The animators and artists have pulled out some pretty cool characters and animations, so I know the game could do so much more -- yes, even early on. So why not wow us right away?

While Gunshine does attempt to get you to ask your Facebook friends to join you (thus taking the risk that it will be lumped into the category of "those annoying Facebook games"), it does so very rarely. In the entire time I played, the client asked me only once to spread the word on my profile, and even then it let me skip the process without feeling like I would be missing out on the coolest stuff in the game. Still, I think that the developers are hoping that we do spread the word, because the game is much more fun in a group of real-life humans (as compared to the rentable NPC groupmates). The team might consider ramping up the difficulty or designing some systems that make grouping more desirable, otherwise I imagine most players will just grind their way to the top as so many gamers do by default.

Gunshine is fun, even cute, but it's a little confusing. Let's recap.

  • Will run in any browser that supports Flash
  • Easy to learn and fun to jump in and play
  • If you have no friends in the game, you can rent NPCs to fight alongside you
  • Variety of weapons and items
  • Facebook connectivity for those who like that sort of thing
  • Made in Flash, so some might see a performance hit
  • Quest system and maps are confusing at first
  • Not enough excitement early on
  • Running is slow. Mounts please?
  • Zoning is so 2004
  • Items and mercs are too expensive at first
  • Mercs do not last long enough, currently 10 minutes

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