A painting doesn’t have to be as complex as Basch’s The Last Judgement to be beautiful. Almost 300 years later, Picasso’s Cubism used simple shapes and colors to create affecting works. Art has always been more about what a creator can do with a medium, and not the other way around.
2016’s DOOM is a perfect example of this. In a world full of military shooters with big, movie style campaigns, DOOM was simple. The story of Hell pouring out on Mars surface wasn’t new, but it was well realized. The atmosphere sung. The mechanics were tight and responsive and, the level design actively supported both.
If MotherGunship, the procedurally-generated shooter from Grip Digital, does anything right, it’s appreciate that mantra. Art is ultimately a concept of execution, and when it matters most, MG absolutely executes. It does so inconsistently, though, sometimes shooting just short of the stars and in others, not really shooting at all.
After waking up in peril, you get recruited to the human resistance, fighting the good fight against an alien menace. The Archivists are basically DC’s Brainiac, they travel space, absorbing knowledge and re-purposing it to create it’s fleet of ships. Each is filled with randomly organized rooms, full of a layouts and hazards that will be unique and interesting at first. After about 10 hours, they become pretty routine.
Each mission, be it main campaign or side tasks, send you into these vessels to blow them up from the inside. The enemies you face, like the rooms you’ll path through, will be randomly distributed as well. These creatures come in a limited array of shapes and sizes. Their diversity is determined by how hard they hit, or how many of them are in your face. An aesthetic miss that gets old quick.
Same with the overall sci-fi world. It’s incredibly generic cartoony tech, with just enough character to match the tone, but not enough to be memorable in the more grand video game executions of the genre. None of it is taken too seriously, with a punchline punctuating every interaction with the limited characters you’ll meet. Even with Dave Pettitt channeling his inner Peter Serafinowicz’s Tick in his role as the The Colonel, your disembodied guide, the “funny” is really inconsistent.
MotherGunship takes its basic pieces and makes a stable arena for you to play in. Then it passes you a bunch of pieces, and asks you to get equally as creative. In this, MotherGunship comes together and really wows.
As you progress in the shooting of generic robo-foes, you collect pieces to put guns together with. And this erector set of pain is only limited by your own imagination. So long as you have the barrels and the connectors, you can shoot in ways that dont even make any sense on paper. Two triple chain guns with bouncing bullets? Rockets launchers that are also chainsaws? Nonsense is the name of the game.
The enemies will give as good as they get, often covering every square inch of a room with projectiles of various shapes, colors, and speed. It gets reminiscent of Nier: Automata’s bullet hell sequences, but with far more cartoonish action. The ebb and flow of boosting through the air with way too many jumps, dodging fire while keeping an eye on your own health and gun energy (ammo) is a powerfully rewarding experience that you’ll chase for hours.
It’s simplicity hurts MotherGunship in small ways. Every shape in Picasso’s Don Quixote is placed with purpose, as long and solid as it should be and no more. Every variable in this sci-fi shooter does the job, but not to the best of its ability. When it gives the artistic control to the player, via the create-a-gun feature or the busy ballet of bullets your given to use them in, MotherGunship truly becomes a masterpiece.
This game was reviewed on a Standard PlayStation 4 system with review code provided by Evolve and Grip Digital.