If the juxtaposition of murder weapons and Italian sweets isn’t the most deliciously deadly combination in history, I don’t know what is. This is something that Guns, Gore & Cannoli, a 2D platforming extravaganza with the soul of The Godfather, knows extremely well. And with Italy’s operatic pop trio Il Vivo recently placing third in the Eurovision Song Contest, I dare say the climate seems ripe for a review.
After almost 1.5 years in the game development oven, the brainchild of Crazy Monkey Studios has released to very positive Steam reviews, and with its compelling narrative, chaotic gameplay, and authentic audiovisual presentation, it’s not hard to see why. Even the game’s menu, an animated portrait of zombies crawling through the streets, blissfully unaware of the rain glazing the sidewalk as Italian music plays, is nothing short of awesome.
Set during the Prohibition period of the United States, Guns, Gore & Cannoli quickly introduces us to a savage world torn apart by violent gangs and gruesome murders. Resident mob enforcer Vinnie Cannoli is no stranger to this anarchy, but even he is a little surprised when mafia boss Mr. Bellucci requests that he travel to Thugtown, the epicenter of all the commotion. But before his ship can safely dock at the grungy Thugtown harbor, the captain and crew are ambushed by a flurry of undead-and this is where Vinnie’s journey begins. His sole objective is to track down a trouble maker known as ‘Frankie the Fly,’ a task which is complicated by swarms of zombies who seem magnetized to his presence.
Guns, Gore & Gannoli is jam-packed with action right from the get-go and wastes no time onboarding the player with the basic control scheme. The commonly adopted WASD movement system applies, while the space bar represents jump and ‘J’ corresponds to shoot. Instructions for actions flash on-screen just before players are required to use them for the first time, such as when defending against an enemy, offering a nice introduction. The action continuously intensifies, adding maneuvers such as crouching (S), throwing grenades (U), and kicking (K). Committing all these buttons to memory seems a little daunting at first, but can be mastered with just a bit of practice in combat, which is where the game earns its title.
The highlight of Guns, Gore & Cannoli is the gameplay itself, a chaotic bullet dance of zombie-blasting bliss. Naturally, defeating waves of the undead consumes resources which Vinnie must replenish along the way, ranging from bullets to grenades and molotovs. These are widely available throughout the game, and never leave players feeling defenseless. The checkpoints are also well stocked, and are usually accompanied by a plate of cannoli and a cup of coffee, which players can use to regenerate their health (let’s assume somebody’s Nonna generously baked all these).
Vinnie’s health is depicted in the form of a green bar in the top left corner, and tends to take a beating when zombies gang up on him. This is one aspect of the game I found slightly overwhelming, even when kicking the zombies away to diminish the onslaught. However, this ‘hard fun’ also proved to be much more satisfying upon victory. The developers made the wise decision of catering to a broad spectrum of platforming skills by including modes that range from easy to impossible, as well as offering a multiplayer mode, boosting the game’s shelf-life significantly.
Every good game has that ‘aha’ moment that takes it up a notch from just good to great. For me, that moment in Guns, Gore & Cannoli is when there is a sequence of exploding kerosene barrels that go off like dominoes in time to a perfect, musical beat. However, it is hard not to be swept away by the game’s perpetually infectious atmosphere; the detailed 2D cartoon visuals, the 1920’s jazz soundtrack, and Vinnie’s one-liners work in synergy to create an immersive sidescroller that will be remembered for its uniqueness.
“I’m sellin’ lead by the kilo nowadays!” -Vinnie Cannoli
Gameplay always transitioned smoothly into well animated cutscenes, presented from a variety of angles (including a bird’s eye view) that left me yearning for more, and the enemy design was to die for! Evidently a labor of love, these undead came in all shapes and sizes: Demented zombie women, bloodsucking vampires, knife-wielding chefs, zombie sailors, and even the dreaded American football player, who came with a very mean punch. Personally, I think it speaks volumes when you can say you have a favorite enemy in a game.
Crazy Monkey Studios are to be commended for their painstakingly crafted artwork and animations, the effort they have put into immersing players into a bygone era through a well chosen soundtrack, and seamlessly fusing the zombie apocalypse theme with the 2D platformer genre. At its heart, Guns, Gore & Cannoli is a perfect recipe for a bloody brilliant brawler, combining a few Tommy guns, a bunch of loveable undead, and a shady gangster. And you know what they say, sweets are enjoyed fresh out of the oven. You can get your copy of Guns, Gore & Cannoli from Steam today for just $9.99 USD. Buon appetito!