Cast into a 3D storybook countryside you play as John Gore, heavily armed and ready to do battle against…Furries, no, not the pervy kind, the monster kind. Dark, scary and of varying sizes the snarling Furries come at you from all sides as you help the remarkably square John Gore stem the tide in the dark fairy tale land known as the Hardlan. Episode One doesn’t go into detail about dear John’s predicament or why he’s a beacon for the Furries, but you don’t need to know any of that to unleash some survival shooter power on those sasquatch guys.
Gore can be moved in all directions through the lush, isometric landscape. It is possible to walk though terrain obstacles like rocks and groves of trees, but so can the Furries and those little buggers are all too easily concealed! What you can’t walk through are a couple of eerie gravestones in the upper right of the map, and what looks like a freshly dug grave just waiting for J.G.’s mangled mini corpse.
Controls follow a dual-stick principle and are intuitive, smooth and easy to use. Move your thumb within the blue circle in the lower left to steer Gore and use the red circle in the lower right to aim and fire. Under preferences you can opt to remove the color-coded circles, though I found them to be a handy reminder of how far my thumb was straying in the desperate battle. Unless you are moving along the very edges of the map, the camera stays centered on J.G. as he moves, so you won’t be inadvertently squashing him under your thumb. For as well as the controls work I still lament having to take up any screen space in the frantic firefight – and I have dainty lady thumbs!
Out to get Mr. Gore, the Furries come in four fiendish varieties. Smallest are Minifurry and his companion of the same size, Firefurry. The latter is a triple threat with speed and flaming fur on top of his gnashing teeth. The Furry is a larger beast that when fired upon splits into a bunch of Minifurries. Much to John Gore’s consternation, the looming Giant Furry splits into Furries that then split into Minifurries. It’s a vicious Furry flood, really.
Before you leave John Gore to his doom, consider your arsenal: a machine gun with the rat-a-tat of a mafioso and unlimited ammo. Enemies will drop crates that you can snag for a double-barreled shotgun power-up or fire on to transform into an explosive booby trap. The shotgun’s extra firepower has limited ammo tracked in a red meter at the top of the screen. Better than crates is collecting three clovers and sending John Gore into Beast Mode. In this fiery and formidable form you just mow down the opposition while the soundtrack cranks out snappy banjo tunes to boot. Your remaining Beasty-ness is measured by the depleting clover power in the upper left, and I was never left unawares – and with the machine gun handy, never unarmed. The quirky thing about Beast Mode is that third clover. The first two drop and look very enticing, or at least benign. It’s obvious you want those little guys, but the third one is on fire and nothing about a flaming clover says “Come here! Touch me!”. Similarly, I figured out quickly that the crates exploded, which made me want to steer clear. It was only morbid curiosity and the promise of multiple weapons that prompted me to try and pick one up, and only then did I discover the shotgun.
Minigore is a survival shooter, folks, and right now two hits kills you. There is no health bar, but you can keep track of what precious little you have by Mr. Gore’s appearance. He loses his hat when a furry chomps him the first time, and you can see a little bit of blood and a bandage on his big block head. When J.G. does take damage, he is accelerated out of the fray, a nice self-preservation mechanism. If you are feeling confident, Expert Mode allows you to take on a more furious onslaught of furries, ramping up both the frenetic challenge and the time from 0 to new high score.
I love the storybook style, and the look of Minigore will both charm and impress. The animation of the furries (particularly the Firefurry) is great. You can use your music collection, but I enjoy the adventue theme of the in-game soundtrack. John Gore has a nice variety of dialog, so you don’t really get sick of him talking to himself, telling furries to get off his leg or giving welcome cries of delight over a dropped clover you might otherwise miss in the fray. The entire landscape view of the screen can be flipped, a life-saving feature if you play with headphones (and you should play with headphones, otherwise you might muffle the speakers and the awesome sound). Want more gore? Just savor the sights and sounds of the G.O. screen, as furries descend upon Gore and devour him with horrific fervor.
From the main menu you can view your own scores, but to see where you really stand tap Online to jump over to Feint where you can check you ranking and take part in the social side of gaming. Importing friends allows you to compare within your own crowd, and Feint lets you to issue challenges and partake in game chat. The best part about this feature is that it doesn’t take you out of the app. The Minigore music plays throughout and a quick tap of “resume” takes you back to the main menu for some more furry fighting.
This review is based on a build of the game identical to the one submitted to the AppStore, and is only the first of John Gore’s adventures. An update is already in the works and will include a radar system. While the current lack of radar is by no means a hindrance, knowing where the furries are will allow you to make the most of Beast Mode, and ramp up the fun in the standard difficulty level. Also added will be a little accessorizing for John Gore: a headband, which will serve as a very welcome third piece of health. Minigore is so fun to blast through that the whole dying thing can really disrupt the good times, and a little more leeway on health will be most welcome. Also in the works is two player peer-to-peer co-op over Bluetooth, and even the possibility of a free multiplayer client so that only one player needs the full version.
This gem from Mountain Sheep and Chillingo is a challenge for your focus and arcade gamer skills. Charming presentation and ferocious gameplay are a winning combination, and an excellent addition to the survival shooter genre. Rocking that cutesy macabre thing to within an inch of its block-headed life, I can’t wait to see what’s in store for Gore in Episode Two.