With a heavy influence from 16-bit shooters like Cybernator and Metal Warriors, the three-man team at ASTRO PORT set out to capture their nostalgia and share it with the world. With other 16-bit mech shooter ARMED SEVEN under their belt, the team seems to be picking up steam. How does the game hold up though? Should it be huge or a scrap iron?
It’s the 21st century. Earth is at war with a race of hostile aliens known as Ramulons. The forces of earth have finally pushed the front lines back to the planet of Ramulon itself, and now its time for you and your mechanized robot, the ‘GMR-34 SALADIN’, to deliver the final blow and end the war. Across ravaged cities, through underground caverns, and beyond, you’ll have to take the fight to the Ramulons or die trying.
Fans of old-school mech shooters like Metal Warriors will get a great sense of nostalgia from GIGANTIC ARMY. The look and feel will cater to the small kid that sat in front of your TV with the SNES on every Saturday morning, watching pixelated explosion with sheer joy.
The controls feel a little off-putting when you first get to try them out. Players used to WASD controls are going to feel backward by default. The arrow keys control your movement and gun angle, and you fire, jump, shield yourself, and use your special weapons with Z, X, C, and V, accordingly. It’s a bit jarring at first, but once you get the feel of it you’ll be fine. If it’s too much to overcome, though, you can customize your controls however you want.
Apart from the controls, the game feels great. When you first fire up the game, you select from one of three primary weapons and one of three special weapons. Each behaves substantially different, giving you a handful of loadouts to replay the game with.
Maneuvering around the environment feels a little slow and plodding, just like a mech game should. It’s never so slow you become bored, but with a time limit that imposes a serious threat to your livelihood, you’ll want to get a move on between battles. To that effect, you’re given a dash to move on quickly or evade enemy attacks, and you can hover for a short time after jumping. It all comes together to present a game that genuinely feels like you’re piloting a large, powerful beast of a machine, and it feels satisfying.
The game isn’t terribly long. There are only six stages, each taking a few minutes to work through. To its credit, though, each stage is well designed and visually distinct, bringing their own feel and enemies for a properly varied game. There are four different difficulties, guaranteed to let you pick the challenge that’s right for you. The game also has around a dozen fun, unique bosses that give the game a great sense of variety and flavor.
Visuals & Audio
GIGANTIC ARMY looks as good as any 16-bit game could have. The sprites are bright and well animated, levels and enemies present great variety in design and color palette, and the animation is fluid and well paced. Tearing through a war-torn city, fighting against a giant, crab-like machination on one stage, taking to enemies in a series of caverns, and fighting against Gundam-like enemies on a moving airplane are just a few of the exciting stages and bosses. The game has a simple look by today’s standards, but GIGANTIC ARMY is fun and satisfying to see in action.
In my mind, the sound design is easily GIGANTIC ARMY‘s biggest weakness. The sounds of gunfire and explosions are solid enough, but there’s no noticeable soundtrack you’ll want to come back to. I never caught myself tapping my foot to anything in the game. On top of that, the options to turn the volume down work for some of the sounds, but the others are almost unbearably loud despite that.
Overall, GIGANTIC ARMY is a satisfying retro mech shooter. The level design is well thought out and looks different from one to another, staying interesting throughout the game. Boss encounters also present wide variety and fun challenge. The look and feel are right at home with some of the best 16-bit shooters around. The sound design feels a bit lacking, which is a shame since so many old school games are known for their classic tracks. I would also have loved for there to be more here. Six levels just feels like it’s over too quickly. Though the romp is fairly short, it’s a fun and explosive ride that retro fans will surely enjoy.
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