There has never been a more unlikable sounding group than the Aggressive Society Supporting Hatred and Terrorism, or, for short, ASSHAT. Unfortunately, in 2033, 17 years from now, the group will be proving to be a bit of a menace to… ultra-fast magnetic trains that run around the world. But it’s okay, we have these two guys, one dressed in red, the other in blue, who have machine guns, and they want to blast the asshats into grasshats, and I don’t mean hats made of grass.
Machine Gun Train Run’s simple humorous story may remind genre-fans of classics like Metal Slug and Contra, but, whereas these series evolved over time, this has all the looks of something flopping joyfully around in the primordial soup; it’s as basic as a shooter can get. You have one gun, enemies shoot in one direction, and foes all have a predictable attack pattern.
Nevertheless, the game is quite difficult, and foes’ attacks, despite their predictability, are hard to dodge. There are also a good variety of bosses that are particularly challenging. Careful planning is required, and it only takes three hits until you bite the dust; there’s not even health to pick up here. You do have infinite lives, and checkpoints are closely spaced apart, but dying once takes away all your score, which is what your aiming to increase; getting a medium score (3 out of 5 stars) in each level is necessary to progress to the final level.
It’s unfortunate that there are only four levels, and they can all be played through well within the space of an hour, which may cause many to question the value of the €4.99 price tag. Nevertheless, there are some extra modes available. Endurance mode offers three different difficulties in which you face a never-ending onslaught of enemies, speed-run pits your efforts in the main campaign against the clock, and all the modes are playable 2-player, so you can have your red and blue guys fighting the train-hating criminals.
A surprising amount of effort has been put into the graphic and sound design. Levels are colourful and the ASSHATS are well drawn, despite being overly similar. Explosions blast onto the screen when you defeat an enemy, and the protagonists bare their teeth in a manly snarl while shooting. Little touches like the narrator saying “Pause” and “Unpause” will bring a smile to your face. The music is also extremely catchy, and is one of the game’s most enjoyable aspects.
It’s unfortunate then that some of the later bosses lack any great amount of innovation, and the final one, despite being difficult, is anticlimactic. It seems like poor planning when you’re fighting intimidating giant robots early on, and *spoiler* some silent beardy guy at the end; he isn’t even given one line, which is disappointing, considering some of the game’s fun humour.
Machine Gun Train Run may be a budget title, but the lack of innovation, and short play time, make the price seem nearly still too expensive. Modes add some variability, and the little touches add character, but, when the gameplay mechanics are so basic, window dressing can only do so much. Nostalgia-junkies and genre fans may jump on this train, and find it quite enjoyable, but others might want to wait for the bus.
Charming, funny, but lacking depth.
Great humor, sound design and excellent music, but a dismal play time and lack of innovation spoil what could have been an enjoyable train journey.