First Course: A Review of Gunhouse
To understand Gunhouse, you must first understand Molyjam…and high class cuisine.
Founded in 2012, Molyjam is a 48 hour game jam that’s based on tweets from @petermolydeux, which is a parody Twitter account of (in)famous game developer Peter Molyneux, known for his outlandish game ideas (Populous, Fable, Godus). Molydeux takes it to the next level, proposing countless bizarre game ideas based on increasingly strange concepts, such as a game where your heart beat relates to the frames per second of the title. Molyjam simply strives to make good on this, giving each participant one of @petermolydeux’s many stirring concepts.
It’s kind of like the videogame equivalent of an episode of Food Network’s Chopped, a cooking show where challengers are given bizarre ingredients and a time limit to create haute cuisine. From the disparate parts (sea urchin, mexican hot chocolate mix, and peanut butter jelly beans) they must make something that is more than just tolerable, it must be tasty.
The tweet that popped out of the box of Molyjam official and Necrosoft Games director Brandon Sheffield was “You live in a little house made of guns. You need many guns to fight invaders but also need to keep a roof on top of your many children.”
Thus…Gunhouse–the game where you play a cannon studded house packed full of tasty orphans under siege from otherworldly forces.
That’s really it. Anything else you want to know about the game can be gleaned from practically any video of it. Match same colored blocks, power up your guns, and keep the guts of the little ones under your charge safe and un-devoured. There’s a rudimentary upgrade system in place, allowing you to spend coinage dropped by fallen foes to improve your arsenal, but it’s not the kind of thing that’ll keep you playing into the twilight hours, your legs asleep from a longer-than-intended stay on the toilet.
It makes sense considering that Gunhouse itself was born in the game development version of a bathroom break: a harried concept given life through the most violent manner possible; fueled only by pizza, oddly colored beverages, and a fiercely burning spark of an idea. Sure, it may have taken the team at Necrosoft a year to go from rough gamejam prototype to polished product, but that single idea is still the biggest and most evident part of the game.
Metaphor aside, Gunhouse is not shit. It’s rather good at what it does. The talent behind it is practically bullet-proof–with Frog Fractions creator Jim Crawford behind the coding, Fez musician Disasterpeace throwing down tunes, and Game Developer magazine artist Juan Ramirez in charge of its unique art style. Sheffield, as director, manages to bring together these potentially powerful and disparate voices together wonderfully, making Gunhouse seem like a true collaboration of insane and bizarre ideas.
It’s just not a main course. There isn’t the depth of a finely grilled and seasoned The Witcher or the complex flavor of a steaming plate of Gone Home.
No, Gunhouse feels more like an amuse-bouche; a delightful and personality filled taste of something to come. Each of the artists involved has left their indelible mark upon it, like a chef striving to get their own perspective across before the meal even begins. It’s not a main course — there’s a very good chance I’ll probably never play Gunhouse again – but it accomplishes something potentially even more important for an upstart game company: it gets me ready for what’s coming next.