Mothergunship feels like it was created in a ‘Random Video Game Generator’. Procedurally generated levels? Yes. First-person shooter? Yes. Bullet-hell shooter? Somehow, also yes. Against all odds, however, it works.
Telling the story of an unnamed soldier (that’s you), you’re thrown into a battle against aliens attacking the Earth; Mothergunship’s story immediately feels like it could’ve fit into a video game from the eighties. It smartly recognises this, using sharp dialogue and great voice acting to poke fun at the tropes it’s built on. Coupled with a sci-fi visual style that looks like a cross between Borderlands and the DOOM reboot, everything takes on a whimsical edge which makes it a joy to run and gun through.
Each mission begins the same: you take some gun parts and land on an alien ship. You use these parts to craft increasingly powerful and nonsensical weapons and proceed to shoot your way through to the end, often with a boss battle. The procedurally generated levels and random enemy placement keep things unpredictable, and dying will lose all the gun parts you chose to start the mission with. Also, don’t forget to bring a gun barrel – crafting a gun that can’t fire is an option, but not a smart one.
Where Mothergunship’s bullet-hell trappings appear is in the amount of enemies on screen at any one time. Only a few levels in, the game’s intensity hits a perfect balance between making you feel powerful enough to deal with almost insurmountable odds and also making you wish you’d packed more guns.
Smaller drones will chase you around a room, making rapid fire weapons a priority, at the risk of dealing less damage against a more powerful foe in the next encounter. Weapon crafting stations are plentiful, but the aforementioned level generation means you’ll always need to adapt.
Just as the gameplay loop is a “Frankenstein’s monster” of pieces chopped together, the soundtrack is equally distinct. The excellent mix of synth, bass, and electric guitar is the perfect backdrop to the on-screen carnage and eighties B-movie plot.
Unfortunately, the game’s varied influences mean some inconsistencies in the controls: while R2 and L2 fire right and left handed weapons as expected, there is no reload button – as per many bullet-hell games. Where this is troublesome is that when playing from a first-person perspective brings forward, years of conditioning meant we felt compelled to use square to reload. In Mothergunship this performs a 180-degree turn to face backwards, which is a handy mechanic but can become problematic in frantic situations when you’re muscle memory takes over.
There is also a distinct lack of feedback to let you know that you’re taking damage. While there is controller vibration, it can be difficult to ascertain whether that is coming from the guns you’re firing or the bullets hitting you – especially with very little feedback on-screen.
Excitingly, developer Terrible Posture’s adding co-op in the coming weeks, as well as leaderboards for more competitive play. The team will also be expanding upon the in-game content, improving the levels and upgrading the arsenal options available to you.
In conclusion, Mothergunship is more than the sum of its disparate parts, and definitely deserves your time. It’s a big silly mix of destruction, synths, and sci-fi and a lot of fun to play through.