Let's Replay: Gynoug / Wings of Wor

Release Date
Mega Drive/Genesis
Scrolling Shooter
Single Player
Sega, Dreamworks, NCS Corporation

In the golden era of shoot ‘em ups, there are several prominent, genre-defining examples that you can easily point to. Titles such as Defender spawned a decade’s worth of classic titles throughout the early 80’s and 90’s. However, for every Gradius, R-Type or Raiden there were countless others that fell by the wayside, often undeservingly.

Gynoug is one such game. Also known as Wings of Wor in America, Gynoug shared similar characteristics with many of its peers in the genre. It was a side-scrolling shooter that required you to hold down the shoot button, and gently out-manoeuvre your enemies by dodging their bullets and returning fire. Sounds like par for the course in terms of shooters, right? What makes Gynoug stand apart though is its distinctly dark, almost sickening art style.

Imagine Gradius with agonised human faces stretched over steam locomotives and you’re halfway there. The game is set during a war between heaven and hell, which is brutally depicted through its inhuman flair and level design. You play as an angel named Wor who is tasked with driving the hellish demons back to whence they came. You will fight them in the skies; you will fight them in the water. You will fight them inside corpse-mangling factories; you will fight them whilst flying around inside a pulsating body. One of the levels is quite literally set inside the body of an unknown creature and serves as appropriate nightmare fuel.

Nightmarish is definitely the best word to describe Gynoug. The enemy design is exceptionally imaginative, if you tend to imagine rotting carcasses being grafted onto machines. If H.R.Geiger saw these bad boys in his sleep, you can guarantee that his sheets would need a long wash in the morning. As an example, check out the delightful little critter pictured to the right.

This charming fellow shoots red blood cells, and will cheerfully fling his own heart at you as one of his primary attacks. Orrpus here is just one of many twisted monstrosities you’ll have to overcome.

The boss fights are undoubtedly the highlights of the whole game. Each climactic battle is more grotesque than the last. By the end you’ll have battled against disembodied heads, giant faces welded onto sunken boats, bizarre humanoid worms with exposed organs, and hermit crabs that will literally turn themselves inside out in a desperate attempt to kill you.

In terms of gameplay, Gynoug doesn’t throw that many surprises into the mix. It plays similarly to countless examples within the genre that you could care to mention. You will pick up power ups as you go that increase the speed and spread of your firepower. There are also feathers to collect which helpfully increase your movement speed, but collecting too many feathers can be a death sentence unless you have fantastic reactions. After four or five feathers, controlling Wor can be very sensitive and cause you to accidentally fly into walls and enemies with increased frequency, especially when trying to navigate through a particularly tight spot. Most interestingly though are the spells that you can occasionally pick up. These are special power ups that can be stored and deployed at the optimum moment, consisting of lightning bolts, shields, and other useful magical spells.

While the game isn’t particularly time-consuming (consisting of only six stages), each level is of a fairly respectable length. The main element that will stop you beating this game in an hour is the difficulty. Gynoug offers a decent challenge even on normal difficulty, especially on the final stage when you are presented with a boss rush. Add this to a final boss that sucks up bullets like a starving man with a packet of roasted peanuts, and Gynoug suddenly seems like a rewarding experience by the time the ending credits roll.

Bearing in mind that this game came out during a time when Sega were desperately trying to gain ground on Nintendo by promoting their edgier content, it’s surprising that Gynoug didn’t garner more interest at the time. It reviewed fairly positively, but since it was produced by a third party developer and lacked the marketing budget of other games, it seemed to disappear off of many people’s radars faster than a Malaysian airline.

Play It For: The hideously beautiful art style and challenging bosses.