Guns, Gore and Cannoli is a side-scrollin', guns blazin', zombie-em-up that struck me at first as being a rather throwaway affair. This, however, was a thin assessment of a rather more interesting and exciting title.
In a sentence, take Shank, whip in Goodfellas and Resident Evil, and you're about there. With tongue lodged firmly in the cheek, Guns manages to take a pretty simple formula and make a thrilling, rather than prosaic side-scroll-shooter, with only a couple of hiccups. The success is primarily down to a deeper level of combat than you'd expect and the presentation.
In the single player campaign (I shall not be covering the co-op play, as I lack the patience for friends), you jump in the shoes of Vinnie Cannoli who has all the vocal and visual you would expect from a mafia pastiche. The ludicrously named Thugtown is being overrun by the undead and you play out a fantastical gangster caper amidst the gore of a Romero flick. You're never too far away from some mafia slang, wiseguys and moody atomosphere.
A hearty selection of varied guns and projectiles are at your disposal, oddly, however, the developers have not gone for an Intrustion-esque mouse directed shooting system. At first, this to me was a gamebreaker, simply due to the level design requiring a lot of height variation. After some time, however, I found this very directed action worked well. The combat is a structured affair in well-designed levels that stretch in a very satisfying way, never outstaying their welcome and never being too short, with a decent pace and variety.
Vinnie splashes out mafioso colour with only slightly repetitive regularity, reminding you not to take it too seriously, but how could you? The enemy types are imaginatively designed, from sandwich-board armoured types, to Thompson weilding soldiers, burlesque dancers with whips and giant rats all lurching and grunting around. The story throws rival human gangs in too, adding a level of madness to the scenario, gangsters vs gangsters vs zombies. Combined with the thoughtful combat, the variety within the levels is spot on, allowing a much more tactical experience to emerge than one would expect.
Couple this with truly brilliant art and music and the game delivers in spades. The backgrounds have had so much attention to detail and love poured over them, something so rare. The character animations feel fluid and spot on cartoon-esque, only occasionally exposing a little articulated-puppetness. The art is a constant joy, especially the burning zombies. It's almost worth the price for that alone.
I only really have minor grips with Guns. At times Vinnie feels a little slow on the uptake to turn, which can make escapes harder. The reload times are wonderfully tense, but to feel like you pulled a great dodge while reloading, then blow a horde away that is bare inches from Vinnie takes more effort than it should. I would wish for just a little extra tightness. Loading times are a little crunchy, but certainly not agony. Finally, I'd say that the enemy behaviours got me down a bit after some levels. It felt a bit predictable, even with the more complicated patterns of bosses.
I'd recommend this for any side-scroller-shooter fan, particularly those who have a penchant for presentation or silly organised crime.