Wildcat Gun Machine PC Review

Cartoony bullet hell fun times will be had, but don’t expect anything too easy on the Wildcat Gun Machine.

By LCLupus, Posted 29 Apr 2022

It’s easy to start seeing the indie bullet hell development scene as a place to make roguelike after roguelike, but Wildcat Gun Machine is, refreshingly, not one of those. This game is a standard, top-down bullet hell extravaganza of cartoonish violence that does not have roguelike mechanics. It has normal ole linear progression. So, if you want something you can play repeatedly, you may prefer to look elsewhere, but this does mean that the game has handcrafted levels and a definitive start and endpoint.

You may immediately think that a game with standard linear progression will have some narrative behind it; characters to talk to, et cetera. Well, that is not the case here. As soon as you click the new game button on the main menu, the game starts. There is no intro, no exposition; you are a strange cat lady with a gun, and there are creatures to fight. That is the plot. I know; it’s maybe a little too intricate for some.


Wildcat Gun Machine, PC, Review
 

So, if you’re not there for a narrative, the gameplay had better be on point. This is where I have, mostly, good news. The combat is solid. You fight in the usual bullet hell way and dodge the many projectiles and enemies that come for you. This means that you have relatively little health, so this is not for you if you’re not up for a challenging experience. There are no difficulty settings. You play it as is. 

As you’re dodging your way around many enemies, you have access to various weapons. You have two weapons to change between: an upgraded pistol with infinite ammo and a collection of stronger weapons with limited ammo. As you unlock these stronger weapons, you can choose to equip one at a time based on whatever the situation calls for. However, this is where you do immediately come upon a bit of a problem. Some weapons are better than others. So, as you unlock new weapons, you’ll likely use the new one and never really go back to the others unless you want to create an inflated sense of difficulty by using a purposefully weak weapon. However, some do have more contextual uses.


Wildcat Gun Machine, PC, Review
 

The upgradeable pistol is handy for when you run out of bullets, and it is somewhat helpful in the early game, but as you progress, the pistol becomes more and more useless. This is regardless of whether or not you get the upgrades because whatever upgrade you get, the enemies in that area will probably be stronger than the gun’s standard damage output. This is not great, and it also leads to one of the most significant issues you may have with the game: ammo can be scarce. 

The game starts off being rather generous because one new ammo refill per combat arena can generally get you through a fight, but in the late game, that one ammo refill means you will have to use the pistol. And as I said, the enemies in the late game tank that pistol damage. So, you will have many frustrating experiences as you’re sitting in corners, waiting for a chance to strike rather than doing the running and gunning that is far more entertaining to do.


Wildcat Gun Machine, PC, Review
 

Obviously, the devs realized this ammo issue when it comes to boss fights because the boss fight arenas are, thankfully, stocked full of ammo. You will never run out, and you’ll need that ammo because the boss fights are multi-stage combat puzzles. You will probably die the first time you fight them, but once you learn their changing moveset, it does become more manageable. This is also where something rather odd happens in the game because the game starts quite challenging and gets easier as you play (or at least until the very end of the game).

In the beginning, you have a terrible little peashooter of a weapon and, to make matters worse, you have none of the abilities that are locked away, like rechargeable grenades and a “rage” attack with a meter that you fill up by killing enemies. However, you also unlock a dash ability, an ability that would have been useful long before it’s given to you because that dash provides you with invincibility frames, which are necessary to escape the increasingly ridiculously bullet-filled screen. 


Wildcat Gun Machine, PC, Review
 

In the beginning, you only fight enemies and have to dodge their projectiles, but as you continue, you now need to dodge environmental hazards like lasers, flamethrowers, and spike pits. Thankfully, these can also be used against enemies, but they can become overwhelming if you’re not ready for them. This game is intense. It is a frantic dash through battle arenas that often go on longer than they should. They become trials of endurance as well as skill. And not every arena has a health or ammo pickup. So, if you die, you have to do it all over again.

This is also where we have to talk about the minor issue of death in this game. In the tradition of games like Dark Souls, you can use death to your advantage. It becomes a way to keep coming back, again and again, to face off against the same foes repeatedly (although they do thankfully clear the rooms of enemies once you’ve finished them, and it’s effortless never to redo them). Still, death also strips you of your ammo. So, if you have to go into a fight where you desperately need as much ammo as possible, you will have to backtrack every time you die and find an ammo pickup before retrying. This can get incredibly irritating.


Wildcat Gun Machine, PC, Review
 

However, the game’s map is laid out in an easy-to-understand way, so it’s always easy to find your way to an ammo pickup. Speaking of the game’s map, the progression is tied to colored keys. Areas need a special color key to be entered, and you generally have to fight through a couple of bosses to get keys to progress. This means it’s all in those boss fights, isn’t it?

And here’s where we do get to another problem. There are two types of boss fights. The regular ones that get you keys and the big ones let you move to the next level. Those first boss fights are fine. The second type is a problem because they send you to a room that you cannot escape, and so if you decide to go through that big end-of-level door without upgrading your equipment, too bad for you. You can no longer grind and accumulate the points needed to upgrade. Now, I’d probably call this an oversight, and it should preferably be rectified. Maybe it will be post-launch! Hopefully!

Although the upgrades do tend to be relatively easy to get before the big door, so there’s that. The upgrades are never particularly expensive, and you can pretty much buy them as they come around. These upgrades are for new pistol modifications, dash improvements, and faster grenade cooldowns. You will want these upgrades when it gets to the later enemies and arenas. You need those invincibility frames from the dash!



 

We cannot end here without discussing a few minor technical issues. The hitbox on your character can be a little finicky, so sometimes you may feel like you shouldn’t have been hit when you get hit, and there are some minor visual hiccups when the screen becomes too full of chaotic stuff. These are mostly fine and are relatively small issues to have. I have a more significant issue, which is a much more specific one, but for those who care about this, it’s an issue. The game is somewhat lacking in its key remapping. If you have a mouse with more than the usual number of buttons, you cannot remap anything to those additional buttons. This means that if you sometimes struggle with hitting an awkward key on the keyboard when you’re in a frantic battle, you don’t get to remap to your additional mouse keys to avoid it. This isn’t great, but it isn’t something that’s going to kill this recommendation because I would highly recommend this game to anyone who likes bullet hell games.

It may be frustrating at times but overcoming those moments is often part of the fun in bullet hell games. Plus, the game has some gorgeous visual flair and some over-the-top weapons. So, go for it if this is your jam. You’ll probably like it despite the flaws. Unless you dislike bullet hell games, in which case: stay away!


L.C. Lupus
Editor, NoobFeed

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General Information

Platform(s): PC, PS4, Xbox One, Switch
Publisher(s): DAEDALIC Entertainment GmbH
Developer(s): Chunkybox Games
Genres: Shoot-'Em-Up
Themes: Shooter, Bullet Hell, Dungeon Crawler, Indie
Release Date: 2022-05-22

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