I picked this up as an impulse buy, while it was on sale with 10% off at launch. It’s gameboy-esque graphics and platformer vibe was enough to tempt me, hot on the heels of completing the story in ‘Celeste’ (for clarity, I will never 100% that game, not a chance).
In my opinion, ‘Gunpowder On The Teeth’ shares some of the same ambitions of ‘Celeste’. To be a tough but rewarding platformer, who will introduce you over time to new mechanics keeping the platforming fresh enough to encourage you push on, re-take the level you just cannot beat, in order to be rewarded with completing the game.
One thing I wasn’t expecting this game to match ‘Celeste’ on was a compelling story or arc to the game. ‘Gunpowder On The Teeth’ has a simple premise. You’re a soldier, dropped into a level with a key activity; rescuing other soldiers, or blowing up key enemy targets like radar dishes, etc. Jumping straight into the game I had high hopes for the look and feel of the game.
Controls are generic. Run and sprint are the key ones, but you also have a gun, which has to be reloaded together with grenades in later levels. The mix of run and shoot felt good. I’m not sure on whether there needed to be a reload built in, but it didn’t hamper the game.
After a few levels of play, getting through the learner levels, I started to struggle with the graphics. While the gameboy styled graphics, with the pixel art and varied green colours are perfect for a soldier / war based platformer, they haven’t combined well. The level of definition around the characters and the items you’ll interact with just aren’t there. You then end up in a position where you cannot trust you and your eyes. Case in point, see the screenshots below.
See the mines, which once you touch you of course explode?
How about the barbed wire, where you get caught in and on wriggling free of you explode?
I couldn’t. So in my view, you end up running the levels several times, getting frustrated at the game more than enjoying it or the challenge it’s posing you. I do wonder whether bringing the pixel art up a notch to more of a 16bit look would have helped with the definition of the main character and also the obstacles you faced. The problems didn’t stop there and sadly, in my opinion, ‘Gunpowder On The Teeth’ also falls down on the gameplay. It has two key things which I think mark it down quite a bit. These are level design and lag. Fairly or not, with ‘Celeste’ in my mind I am comparing this to a very high calibre platformer.
Levels are typically 1-2 minutes in length and are side scrolling, revealing more of the level as you progress. Too many times in a level, something like a platform was just out of shot. This resulted in me having to remember the course (after falling to my doom at least once), rather than test my reflexes and skills. I get this can be put in sometimes, but I think this was overused.
A mechanic used soon into the game is dissolving blocks. Touch or walk over them and they’re gone, but for good from the level. On more than one occasion I found myself not being able to get to complete the level after touching the block. In one level, I was unable to destroy one of the radar dishes meaning a jump to my doom on purpose. That’s ok on a screen based design like ‘Celeste’. But when you’re a minute into the level, aren’t sure you’ve hit the halfway save point (to this day, I still haven’t figured out what it is in the level) and had to remember with pinpoint accuracy where the invisible mines are to just get that far, let me tell you, you get miffed, big time.
The further into the game I got, the more I was struggling with the controls. Although the controls are simple and well mapped, it felt like everything I did lagged behind my button presses. They just weren’t responsive enough. This felt especially true when I was using another button, such as sprint. It resulted in me having to chose not to sprint, not because a jump needed accuracy, but because I would have more chance of the jump being performed at all. I’ve recorded some clips of me failing miserably, so you can see some real world gameplay. I don’t profess to be the worlds greatest platformer player, but perhaps you can take from it where I struggled to get the character to do what I wanted.
So I’ve come down it seems pretty hard on ‘Gunpowder On The Teeth’, so you’re likely expecting a pretty low score right? To an extent, yes. Every day of the week I would recommend saving money for another platformer. In the £10 – £20 mark you have so many great platformers on the Switch, from every genre. But for a game to lose a few hours on, at around the price of a pint, there is some joy to be had there. I’d give this a score of 4.5/10 and one you won’t feel bad about giving a miss to.