A playable Dril tweet

This wasn’t supposed to be this week’s piece. Until last Sunday I didn’t even know this game existed. But sometimes when you play something truly notable plans change. So it is with catlike reflexes and a complete disregard for our process, thin as it is already, that I present to you the best demonic indie game to be dropped on Steam since Helltaker.

OK, I’ll admit that comparison is a bit strained. Granted they’re both games about hell adventures featuring a buff protag and some sexy ladies, and they both cost a cool Free.99, but that’s where the similarities end. Where Helltaker is a solid puzzle game with witty character writing and designs carefully engineered to set the drawing tablets of online artists ablaze, Gun Devil is…oh god, how the fuck do I explain Gun Devil in a paragraph?

So the devil’s son, whose name is the Caramelized Dumbass for some reason, is learning magic from Gun Devil’s wife. He kidnaps her on account of his aforementioned dumbassery. You’re gonna save her, because Gun Devil is a proud card-carrying Wife Guy and we stan such dedication. There’s a bunch of other stuff that I could mention but I’m gonna be real with you, explaining every single bizarre detail jam-packed into Gun Devil‘s writing is a waste of time when you can just play it yourself. My point is that these characters like to talk, and every single one is as unhinged as they are funny.

So what are you actually in for? A lot, and very quickly. The game is a constant onslaught of bizarrely translated comedy, flashing lights, explosions, jammin’ music, and more stuff all over your screen than you’re ready for. It plays like some kind of unholy fusion of Metal Slug, Wario Land 4, and…well, Helltaker I guess, what with the demons and ladies and all. I swear I’ll stop mentioning Helltaker from here on out.

Gun Devil himself is ridiculously powerful. Armed with a ludicrous vertical leap, glide, slam attack, invulnerable dodge/kick combo, and a growing arsenal of weaponry, there’s nothing you can’t take on from the word Go. Problem is, he’s only got 3 hearts and there are no health pickups. As such you tear ass through each level with just a hint of trepidation in each demonic step. Levels feature 3 golden coins to collect but only 1 of them is in the stage proper. The others are awarded to you for killing every enemy and completing the level without taking a hit. The former is typically straightforward but the latter most definitely is not, with difficulty ranging from “makes you sit up a bit straighter in your chair” to “finally I am free, free of this horrid torture chamber’s gnarled grasp”. I of course collected everything without hesitation because I was having that good of a time, and also because my brain is broken and I crave pain.

All of this mechanical talk is boring and this isn’t a review so I’ll cut to the chase: this game is a fucking blast to play. Every sprite is packed with personality and the wildest facial expressions I’ve seen in ages, every level is an intricate obstacle course with fantastic potential for chaos, and everything, everything explodes. I legitimately think this game could kill epileptics within 15 feet, and the violent screenshake reminds me of Devolver back when they were indie. It’s action and spectacle and challenge and sheer unfiltered fun, and it’s such an effective thrill ride that I legitimately exclaimed “awwwwww!” when the game abruptly ended.

See, there’s a reason Gun Devil is free. Apparently it was a bit of a nightmare to work on. Agelvik is refreshingly open about this in the game’s postscript, talking about how he just needed to get it out in this 1-2 hour state to get his head straight and gauge potential player (and financial, take note publishers) interest before spending even more time on it. I absolutely see why this took 2 years of work, and the bitter cocktail of a creator’s passion and frustration made everything the game had thrown at me click into place. I understood Gun Devil before, but that was the moment where I truly appreciated it.

And yeah, I want more of this. Of course I do. It’s easy to say that when I’m going to go play something else tomorrow, and the next day, and so on. But none of those games will be Gun Devil. I’ll be trying out Agelvik’s ludography in the future, of that you can be sure, and some of those will likely find their way to this site. For now I want to put a few words of encouragement out there. To Agelvik, but also to indie devs in general.

The life of a creative is a hard one. You have so many ideas screaming to get out of your head and into whatever medium you use. Games are a particularly tricky one, I’d know, I can’t make them for shit (which is why I write) (Can confirm: writing is easier – Kyle). Every working dev I know is varying degrees of tired, and the thing is, shipping your game won’t fix that. It’ll be satisfying, sure! You might even make some money! But the strain you put yourself through, the effects it has on your physical and mental health, none of that magically heals when your game goes gold on Steam. This shit is hard. It’s even harder when people like me write mean words about your baby under the pretense of being some kind of critical arbiter. You already deal with enough on your own, now you gotta deal with people too? It sucks!

The thing is, it’s folks like you that make this space, this hobby, this pursuit, this craft, so exciting. Your ideas are novel. They’re hot. They’re good. Some are even best in class. We – I’m talking people who mostly just play stuff here – need games like this. It’s games like Gun Devil that remind people not only what a truly great game can look and feel like, but also why we play them to begin with. The experience of play, of player expression, and in this case of goofy cartoon violence is a special kind of completely uninhibited joy rarely experienced outside of our dreams. Games are a kind of magic, and you’re a fucking wizard.

I want to see this thing made, but not at the expense of anyone making it. The games industry is a meatgrinder. Devs, artists, QA, and all the roles I don’t have space to list are constantly chewed up and spit out, spent like literal human resources after crunching on something that they likely lost their love for halfway through, their enthusiasm sacrificed at the altar of productivity. If that’s what it would take to see Gun Devil made, don’t, for your sake. But if you can make this thing sustainably, pace the work, find the right publisher (if any), and not bleed yourself dry in the process? I think you’ll have made something that could make a lot of people happy. And even if you never touch this project again, know that you’ve already accomplished that as far as I’m concerned.

Shazam Alakazam, baby.