An absurd and violent run and gun game for the Nintendo Switch, Guns, Gore & Cannoli offers single player play as well as multiplayer in cooperative and competitive modes. But is Guns, Gore, & Cannoli worth your Pavarotti? I think so, with a couple minor apprehensions for those run and gun fantatics.
Set during the Prohibition era, Guns, Gore & Cannoli has you assume the role of Vinnie the mobster. You find out that Thugtown is overrun by zombies, and right about now you can get an idea of the humor of the game. It’s all somewhat cliché, but it works because the game doesn’t take itself seriously. The Prohibition setting is something that I enjoy, and the game makes sure to give it proper attention through appropriate visuals and music. The story is told through cut scenes that add more than enough story to surpass what was found in the typical arcade run and gun I recall playing as a kid. Along the way, you encounter not just a variety of zombies, but rival gang members and more. Knowing that the game is rather campy, it’s easier to understand why zombie football players and leprechauns appear out of context. The game actually feels like it could be enjoyed just as a setting against rival mobs, but the story glues together the chaos and the mix of genres adds to the game. Also, it’s fun watching the undead attack the rival mobsters that are taking shots at you. What you can fire back range from your standard pistol, to a tommy gun, shotguns, and much more. There’s also grenades and molotov cocktails at your disposal with a press of the shoulder button and holding it to adjust the distance. Here’s where a couple gripes about the game play pop up from behind cover. Not being able to shoot in any direction other than straight ahead is somewhat of a nuisance, since there are times it would be great to shoot at an angle. You can duck and shoot, but it isn’t enough. This is something you can get used to, but it just feels limiting. Something else that fans of run and gun games might not like is that reloading takes time that could be the difference between shooting a zombie’s head off and getting mauled. This actually doesn’t bother me because it changes the pacing a bit and makes for a more tense experience. Consider reloading before busting open the door ahead. You can also kick to push the enemy back, giving you additional time to finish reloading to take them out as they recover before coming at you again.
To keep with the arcade appeal, the campaign of Guns, Gore & Cannoli allows you to play one to four players. The guns you pick up are shared among all players, and there’s a slew of characters to choose from. The game is already somewhat hectic, and adding players just adds to the fun. This is one benefit of the Switch version over others, as this is one more game you can play with a friend by simply passing a Joy-Con. Each player chooses a character to play as when starting the game off, as players can join in on a saved campaign. I found the game to run smoothly with my one cooperative partner, so with all of the action happening on screen I’d imagine it would play just as smoothly with three or four. Play through what you like with as many players as you like, and when you return to resume the game at your saved checkpoint, just choose how many will play as whatever character you pick. Sure, Vinnie will always be the character in the cutscenes no matter who player one chooses, but each character has a different voice in game. The things that character says can become somewhat repetitive, so it might be fun for the player – especially if playing through this game alone – to change up the character once in a while.
There’s a fair amount of campaign content with 12 missions that is just right for the game and flows seamlessly along with the occasional boss battle. What adds to the game in a surprising way, however, is the local versus mode. This is an understated mode that I don’t feel has been given enough time in the spotlight even by others that have discussed the game. The versus made is an absolute “blast” with to play with friends for a total of four players, and even includes bots to supplement if you want to go at it alone or with one or two friends. Bots aren’t needed, however, so a duel of two players works out fine with the other respawning at a distance. The movement of the characters is faster in this mode, which adds to the frantic arena deathmatch. Sure, playing the campaign is fun with friends. But while the gameplay of the campaign is best played in bursts, the versus mode has that appeal of wanting to play “just one more round”. Choose your weapon type and level, and run all over the arena to collect guns. The arenas really show off the breadth of settings in the game, and the characters are fun. I’d even like to see additional content for the game that provides additional arenas, characters and modes. I’d pay a couple dollars for it. The versus mode is that much fun.
Guns, Gore, & Cannoli has a crisp and cartoonish art style that looks great because it is hand drawn. All the more reason it was jarring to see in this game so much well, gore. If it weren’t part of the title, I’d have been surprised to see something animated in such a way carry so much violence with its head shots and bloated exploding zombies. But this is part of the package that is Guns, Gore, & Cannoli. Audio, along with the aforementioned music throughout, adds to the game as those burned from your flamethrower scream and cars blow up on the street after taking a few rounds to the engine. The sounds that come from shattering glass and breaking down doors makes you feel like you’re busting your way through the levels and not just “platforming” along. An odd discrepancy in the subtitles is found when you listen to the game while reading what is on screen and realize that what is said isn’t always what is read. It reminds me of bad closed captioning, as Vinnie at times says something that is abbreviated or amended and seems disconnected.
Controls are easy to pick up on, by moving the left stick. Cycle left and right through weapons by pushing Y or X. Shoot with R and reload with ZR. Chuck a grenade with L or a molotov cocktail with ZL. Jump with B and kick with A. Simple enough, though be sure to allow others a moment to figure out what does what when using a single Joy-Con. Those SL and SR buttons come into play, and things become hectic enough without knowing what does what. Touch controls work on the menus, but it really isn’t necessary and the text is too small to tap to be effective.
The pacing of the game is also accompanied by difficulty levels that can be changed on the spot and generous checkpoints. Do you feel like you’re breezing through the game? Increase the difficulty. Or likewise, reduce it in order to get past a difficult horde. This and the checkpoints make it all the more enjoyable of a portable experience. I play through a mission or resume where I left off. When I return, my friend might’ve joined me for a while. Or we’ll put it on the TV for versus. It works out well for a hybrid console.
Guns, Gore & Cannoli is a solid 2D run and gun game for the Switch that offers versatility in single player, cooperative, and competitive play. It might not be placed upon the mantle occupied by the likes of Metal Slug and Contra due to the limitation of aiming, but I don’t think it plays the same and shouldn’t be entirely judged against them. Consider this game if you like this style of game, but definitely pick it up if you have at least one more player that would also like to gun down some zombies and mobsters.