I am so very impressed by everything that Gun Rounds does. Rarely have I come across a game that so skillfully marries such disparate ideas. Playing it feels like watching a balloon modeller as they twist and squeeze together two resolutely independent balloons. It’s loud, it’s captivating, and I have no idea how it’s being done; and then at the end, the modeller is left holding this pristine two-tone masterpiece, an inextricable and inexplicable marriage which is far, far more than the sum of its parts.
Gun Rounds is a turn-based roguelite shooter. Your aim as the little red person at the bottom is to defeat all enemies on the screen in order to move to the next level. On your turn, you get to pick one of the four weapons at your disposal, and aim it wherever you like. All the while, the enemies dance around in looping patterns in an attempt to evade your shots. After you shoot, it’s their turn to attack, and you must attempt to defend yourself by clicking at the right moments to deflect all incoming attacks with your little personal shield. Successful blocks will grant you bonus ammo for future attacks, while failed blocks will – predictably – result in loss of health.
And that’s pretty much all there is to Gun Rounds. And at the same time that description doesn’t even break the surface of this fabulous pixel-art game. To do that, I’d have to explain the enemies and their deliciously sneaky attacks. See, Gun Rounds thrives on misdirection. The simplest attacks are a projectile that moves at a constant speed from enemy to player, like in most games. But you’ll quickly come across far more devious attacks in Gun Rounds. One enemy might send a bullet from each corner of the screen, each at different speeds so you have to rebel against any kind of rhythm with your defence. Another might misdirect you with a grand display at the top of the screen, while silently summoning a knife at the bottom of the screen that flies upwards to embed itself in your back while you’re distracted. I cannot remember a time when I’ve been more reluctantly impressed by the sheer dickishness of a game.
I want Gun Rounds to have about 1000% more content than it currently does. I want it to match games like Slay The Spire in terms of replayability. If it did, it would easily be one of the best games I’ve ever played. As it is though, Gun Rounds is “merely” a successful proof of concept of an ingenious marriage of ideas. Tight gunplay, gorgeous pixel art and animations, challenging enemies, a stonking chiptune soundtrack (that almost rivals that of equally brilliant pixel-masterpiece Downwell), and possibly the best use of real-time systems in a turn-based game that I’ve yet seen.