Gunborg: Dark Matters – Review
Follow Genre: Action, Platformer
Developer: Rickard Paulsson
Publisher: ORBMIT Productions
Platforms: PC, Xbox One, PS4, Switch
Tested on: Switch

Gunborg: Dark Matters – Review

Site Score
7.0
Good: Good soundtrack, art and platforming mechanics
Bad: Excessive amounts of unpolished combat
User Score
8.0
(1 votes)
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VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 8.0/10 (1 vote cast)

A game’s control scheme is something that has to be carefully considered. While good ones usually go unnoticed, bad ones can turn an enjoyable experience into a pain to go through. Released earlier this month, Gunborg: Dark Matters proclaims its “unique” control scheme allows for both combat and platforming to merge seamlessly. However, the actual success of this system is rather debatable, here’s why.

Story

The game’s story is practically nonexistent aside from an intro cutscene and three boss-fight dialogues. What can be inferred from these is that Gunborg follows Valeria, some sort of bounty hunter working for a shady corporation set out to capture three of her former colleagues. Besides this minimal setup and hints at Valeria not being fully human, the game doesn’t provide much of a narrative.

Graphics

Gunborg’s graphics consist of quite good sci-fi pixel art, featuring a decent amount of enemy variety. However, this variety doesn’t really apply to the environments, due to the game taking place within a single ship. While some areas do stand out, more often than not players will see themselves in samey corridors with no distinct features.

Sound

The game’s sound design particularly stands out thanks to its synth-wave soundtrack matching the ambiance and theme. Featuring a decent amount of tracks, said soundtrack compliments and enhances the gameplay almost by itself. The SFX are serviceable but not special.

Gameplay

Describing itself as a combination between platformer and twin-stick shooter, Gunborg sees players going through a large spaceship while avoiding hazards and slaying hordes of enemies. In order to do so, Valeria’s basic abilities include a triple jump, an energy shield, and her trusty sword, with the most outstanding being the shield, capable of reflecting projectiles and damaging enemies.

Additionally, players will also be able to acquire new weapons by defeating enemies and equipping those they drop. However, these dropped weapons all have a limited amount of ammo. What this entails is that players will have to constantly swap weapons or stick to their sword. Luckily, more often than not, enemies and weapon boxes are plentiful enough that players won’t run out of them. Should several enemies die in a row, the player will also accrue a combo meter which, upon reaching its last stage, will confer their weapon’s powerful abilities. This powerup is only temporary though, since receiving a single hit or allowing the meter to run out will reset it, returning Valeria to normal.

Besides these mechanics, Gunborg doesn’t really add much more to the mix. Throughout the game, players will only have their basic kit and learn to utilize it to better traverse the areas. A good example of this progression would be utilizing the shield to “surf” spikes, being able to bounce up to three times before taking damage. By combining this mechanic with the lenient triple jump and wall grapple, Valeria becomes a highly mobile character with large amounts of air time. The only moments players will touch the ground later in the game will be to reset their jumps or shield duration.

While the game’s platforming is generally excellent, the same can’t be said about its combat. Most of the forced battle segments see the player swarmed by enemies, with some of the later ones taking increasingly long to kill. Featuring no real strategy, these sections are simply mind-numbing slogs, where the key to winning often relies on grabbing the strongest weapon and keeping the trigger button pressed.

This also rings true for the three bosses featured in the game. Each of their fights includes large amounts of waiting around for their attack cycle to end before they become vulnerable. The most egregious case of this is the final boss, who will be invulnerable for most of the fight while still being able to directly attack the player, only to be killed with three hits of her reflected ability.

The game’s main caveat comes with its control scheme, with most abilities being clumsily mapped to the right side of the controller. Although this normally wouldn’t be an issue, forcing the player to control their aim with the right joystick while using both thumb buttons on the same side leads to imprecise controls and cramping. Part of this is due to the small size of the Joy-Cons, which can be remedied by utilizing the holder. That said, this doesn’t perform any miracles, still making the experience uncomfortable at best.

Conclusion

Gunborg: Dark Matters is an entertaining platformer with serviceable but somewhat pointless combat. Those looking for something to kill an afternoon with will be able to find it here, as the game only has 15 levels. That being said, more polished and longer experiences are available elsewhere. Sold for $/€14,99/£13.49 and containing around four hours of gameplay for the normal difficulty, it is recommendable to wait for a sale.

Personal Opinion

“Although I didn’t particularly love Gunborg, I had some fun with it. The platforming feels rather good once you get used to the mechanics, and the quick respawns make deaths less punishing. However, as stated in the review, the prolonged combat sections quickly become miserable. The combat system is simply not developed enough to fit these sequences. Throwing a massive swarm of enemies at me while only providing three points of health and MAYBE a health pickup isn’t enjoyable. After a bit in each of the arenas, it is easy to go “I’ll grab this weapon, cheese the combo by letting single enemies come, and hope the upgrade will finish them off”. The bosses at least present some challenge, although it’s still rather unsatisfying having to stand around dodging until they feel like becoming vulnerable again. It simply makes the player feel impotent for a large part of the fight and any late deaths annoying.”

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 8.0/10 (1 vote cast)
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
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Gunborg: Dark Matters - Review, 8.0 out of 10 based on 1 rating

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