Space shooters have come a long way since the days of Asteroids and Galaga. Instead of confining the action to a single screen, shooters like Ikaruga, Raiden, and Galak-Z see the player move level to level, dodging hundreds of projectiles and defeating screen-filling bosses.
GunTech 2, a decades-later sequel to the 1992 shooter Utopos, is no different. It offers the fast-paced action the genre is known for and features a bevy of ships and weapons to try out. However, some poor design decisions hinder this game’s goodwill.
Story – Space: The Final Frontier
GunTech 2 doesn’t offer much story. You control an anonymous space cruiser that finds itself helping scientists stop a mutating virus and quell a bug infestation by developing an antigen. Any plot is confined to mission logs displayed before each stage.
GunTech 2 isn’t trying to hook players with an interesting plot, it hooks players with its fast-paced action.
Gameplay – Shoot to Thrill
The game plays like a typical top-down shooter. The left analog stick controls your ship while the right analog stick fires your weapon. Which direction your bullets go depends on the direction of the stick.
Your ship comes with three firing options. The other two are activated by pressing the left or right shoulder buttons. One is an alternate firing mode, the other shoots a bomb.
The campaign is broken into five acts with nine levels each. You’ll blast scores of enemies while completing objectives before heading to the exit. Beating missions and completing any optional tasks rewards you with experience.
To unlock and upgrade equipment, you need coins. Enemies drop coins, but you also earn extra coins by leveling up or from encountering new bad guys.
There’s a decent variety of weapons and ships to unlock. Not all weapons are compatible, so you need to be mindful of which ones to equip. Fortunately, the game lets you preview weapons before buying them.
New ships are acquired by defeating bosses. Any unlocked ships can be upgraded, which boosts a ship’s armor. It feels satisfying upgrading a blaster from its run of the mill firing rate to a rapid-fire, triple-shot blaster that annihilates everything in sight.
Space Trucking Around the Stars
GunTech 2’s combat is fun. It’s not ground-breaking, but the tight controls and frantic action means there’s never a dull moment. The enemy roster is an interesting mixture of conventional foes like rogue drones and satellites, and more unconventional ones like viruses and giant bugs.
The opening chapters are a bit easy, but the difficulty ramps up as you get further into the campaign. I felt exhilarated as I narrowly swerved passed heat-seeking missiles or blew through a horde of bad guys on my tail.
The inclusion of an online leaderboard gives you an extra reason to go for a high score, if only to see where you place in the ranks. While GunTech 2 isn’t short on thrills, it falls short in its mission variety.
Rinse and Repeat
The campaign consists of five acts, but each mission follows a familiar pattern: complete objectives, kill enemies, then head for the exit. Said objectives are repetitive. You may have to rescue scientists, find puzzle pieces to complete a formula, or defeat X number of foes.
It’s fun the first time, but not fun the sixth time. GunTech 2 is great in short bursts, but in long sessions, because then you realize how tiring the gameplay loop is. It’s disappointing because the core combat is solid, but the missions lack the same spark.
Things pick up during the last chapter, which sees you recovering lost cargo and returning it to processing, all the while defending it from invading enemies. It’s such a stark contrast from the other levels, where the focus is moving from one point to the next.
Ditto for holiday stages, which are some novelty levels where you deliver gifts on Christmas and rescue stranded trick-or-treaters.
Boss Fights? What Boss Fights?
In shooters like Ikaruga, the boss fights are the standout section. They require twitch reflexes and a keen-eyed awareness of your surroundings because one slip-up is enough to kill you. It’s the hardest part, but also the most rewarding.
GunTech 2’s bosses are a joke. They’re stationary targets that don’t present much of a challenge. It’s easy to hug the far side of the screen and whittle away their health without taking much damage. It felt less like a test of my skills and more a simple chore to do.
On a positive note, defeating bosses rewards you with a new ship, so there’s at least a nice reward for what little effort you did.
Visuals and Sound – Colorful Yet Bland
On the Nintendo Switch, the game looks good, with plenty of detail put into the ships, enemies, and the explosions. Yet, everything about it feels bland. I’m not sure why, but I think it has to do with how copy and paste the environments are.
The various cave and spaceship environments blend together, and nothing about them stands out. Plus, instead of using a unique font, all the text is written in Myriad Pro, which is off-putting, to put it lightly.
At least the music is decent. The hard rock instrumentals get the job done and manage to get you pumped for the ensuing top-down action.
GunTech 2 was reviewed on Nintendo Switch with a code provided by Utopos Games.