Flapping onto PC comes Birds With Guns, a 2D Action roguelike twin-stick shooter where you play as one of a flock of birds out to save their children from an evil robotic fox. Play through seven quick-fire levels as you fight through scores of villains to get revenge and save the day.
With a host of colourful birds to play with, a selection of powerful weapons to use, and plenty of things to use them on, Birds With Guns offers a fun and light gameplay experience that feels rather reminiscent of the action arcade games of yesteryear. Sure, the game itself isn’t terribly long, but with it, you are treated to an honestly brilliant and fun little experience for the price of a cup of coffee.
Birds With Guns is available on PC via Itch.io and Pico-8 on lexaloffle.com.
STORY – BIRD IS THE WORD
The story of Birds With Guns is that the evil Robofox has captured all the eggs in the Bird Kingdom. It is down to you and your plucky band of feathered friends to infiltrate the train in which Robofox and the eggs are located. Then, you’ll negotiate the release of said eggs by introducing Robofox and his minions to a fist full of boomstick, bombs, rockets, and just about any other artillery you can get your mitts on. And that is just about it as far as the story goes.
There is no opening cutscene, no demo, or attract screen telling you about this, instead gathered from the store page. So naturally, anyone expecting some epic storyline is going to be disappointed. However, that isn’t what the title is about. It’s an arcade-style twin-stick shooter. You go in, try and win the day in one life, if you do, great, if not, you try again.
The premise for the game is fun, quirky, and has a neat sense of humour. Birds With Guns doesn’t get bogged down in trying too hard to be funny, offering the right amount of silliness without becoming too self-indulgent. The writers understand the tone that a title like this requires and they get it dead on. Of course, the meat of the entertainment here comes from the gameplay and not the story. Thankfully, the gameplay is rock-solid.
GAMEPLAY – BIRDS WITH PUNS
Birds With Guns is a 2D action game with elements of twin-stick and bullet bell shooters thrown into the mix. You play one of several birds, each one with it’s own starting weapons. From there, you travel from wagon to wagon on a train defeating waves of baddies in your path. Along the way, you’ll find additional weapons which you can swap out with your current set as well as extra ammo and health to keep you in the fight longer. There are a variety of different enemies you have to defeat, each with its own weapons, attack styles, and quirks that you’ll need to learn in your quest to save the eggs.
Birds with Guns‘ gameplay is fine for what it is. It has a fun, bordering-on-addictive core loop that is extended by discovering what loadouts each of the birds start out with, and what kinds of weapons you can find. If you are a fan of 2D twin-stick shooters then there is a lot to enjoy with Birds With Guns. It is in the same gameplay neighbourhood of titles like Enter The Gungeon and Relic Hunters Zero. So, if you have ever played either of them, you can get an idea of what you can expect from this one.
In actuality, saying that Birds With Guns a ‘twin-stick shooter’ in this review is something of a misnomer. Whilst it does have elements of that in its control scheme said elements are limited when you are using a controller. When you play the game with a keyboard and mouse, you move using the keyboard and use the mouse to aim and fire; each piece of hardware functioning like a separate stick.
When you play with a controller, you only have control on where you are moving and have no direct control over where you’re aiming; you will always automatically lock-on to the nearest target or just fire in the direction you happen to be moving in. Essentially making it a single-stick. Whilst Birds With Guns isn’t unplayable like this, this is possibly the first time I have ever played a game where the ‘twin-stick shooter’ element is best executed on a control interface that has no sticks!
Again, this isn’t to say that the controls are unpleasant on a controller. They are frankly fine and do the job well enough. But for a game like this, movement is as important (if not more so) than hitting your target. And with the controls at present being what they are you are left having to duck and dive to get as close as possible to some enemies. Which can leave you awfully exposed. People with more experience with titles like Birds With Guns might well be used to situations like this. Those who are new to them may struggle. This lock-on system doesn’t make it impossible to play, just more difficult than it should at times.
One thing I must point out in this Birds With Guns review is that the game is rather short. There are only seven areas you need to clear to complete the game, and those areas are rather small. In fairness, despite it’s length, the game is still great fun. And it offers a decent amount of replay value. To be fair, the title is only a couple of dollars, and having played it through a number of times I feel like I have gotten my money’s worth. Furthermore, how much playtime you get out of it depends on how much you enjoy these kinds of games. But for such a small price, you are getting a fun little game.
As enjoyable as Birds With Guns is, it doesn’t reinvent the genre, though it’s a hell of a lot of fun. If nothing else, just think of it as paying to get unlimited access to a decent twin-stick shooter in your local arcade. Sure, the title in question isn’t going to revolutionize the gaming landscape and isn’t going to give you the most compelling of narratives. Nevertheless, what you do end up getting is a decidedly fun game that you’ll get a lot of enjoyment out of.
GRAPHICS & SOUND – MORNING CHORUS
To be blunt with you dear reader, Birds With Guns‘ soundtrack has no right to be as good as it is. Whilst the title only really has one song that plays throughout, it’s shockingly well-made. For a game with a title like ‘Birds With Guns’, you’d expect that the music would be a little silly, a little gimmicky, possibly even a little memey too. Thankfully however that is not the case.
As one would expect from the visuals, the soundtrack is retro-inspired. While the soundtrack doesn’t feel inspired by one system or another in particular, it really nails the feel of being from another era in the best possible way – feeling like something that is of a certain vintage yet doesn’t feel too regressive. The soundtrack almost sounds like those you’d hear on the Spectrum, C64, or even some on the SNES that really pushed the limits of what those devices were capable of, creating music and sounds that shouldn’t exist on that system, yet seemingly by a feat of magic do.
As fantastic as the soundtrack is there isn’t much musical variety. As said before, there is only really one piece that plays throughout with an additional one for the game over screen, but that’s about it. But, given how short this particular indie twin-stick shooter is, it’s wholly understandable that it isn’t more in it. And again, the music that is on offer is honestly fantastic and is almost worth the price of admission on that alone.
PLUCKED AND LOADED
Visually, the graphics and art style are bright and colourful. Birds With Guns features a rather traditional, blocky, pixel art style which most people who play indie titles by now will be well used to seeing. This isn’t to say that the aesthetics are generic. It’s just that they don’t stand out as well as the soundtrack itself does.
With that said, however, the graphics are pleasant to look at – the world and the characters therein look nice. Everything looks as it should with the limited scale they are working with. More crucially for a game like this, it is clear where attacks are coming from, where item pick-ups are located, and where you are going. It is a very functional art style that works well to compliment the gameplay. And even beyond just function, the art style is suitably cute and fun to look at and all of this together creates an art style that shows a lot of care and craft went into creating it.
(This article features video by Itch.io)