App Reviewed on: iPhone XR
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Gun Rounds is a turn-based shooter that takes very clear inspiration from Downwell. Although it has its own unique gameplay, it sports the same dichromatic look, roguelite structure, and unlockable color palette system as Moppin's beloved vertical gunboot shooter. Underneath the game's appealing and stylish exterior though is a pretty simple and shallow reflex-based affair that can wear thin as you run out of new things to see.
Shoot, shield, repeat
Gun Rounds doesn't have much setup or story. It's essentially just a series of encounters that combine menu-driven, turn-based combat that you might find in a conventional role-playing game with some light action elements. Each turn, you pick an attack, aim, and fire at enemies on screen. Then, it's your enemies' turn, and you have to tap as attacks approach a bubble around your character to successfully block them.
Your goal is to successfully complete four worlds worth of these encounters, each of which is comprised of different enemies with unique attack patterns. On your journey, you come across ways to change up your attacks and give yourself other abilities that might give you the upper hand as the difficulty increases.
Faster than a speeding bullet
As with many roguelites, Gun Rounds is a pretty tough game. The timing window on blocking attacks is relatively small, and each foe has an arsenal of attacks that can come from different directions, move at varying speeds, or require you to block multiple projectiles. Until you memorize these patterns, Gun Rounds can feel pretty demoralizing, and this low feeling resurfaces every time you make it to a new world with new enemies that cut you down until you learn how to deal with them appropriately.
Of course, you might get lucky. Or, perhaps you just have really good reflexes. With both of those on your side, perhaps you'll find yourself getting through worlds in Gun Rounds after just a few tries. The items and powers you gather along the way can also be helpful, but balancing those with your limited ammo capacity can be tricky, and they can only do so much. At the end of the day, your proficiency in Gun Rounds depends on your ability to quickly identify and time blocks to attack patterns effectively.
Round and round
I was ok playing the beginning worlds in Gun Rounds over and over again so long as I was coming across new weapons and store items to use against enemies. That novelty eased the pain of having to replay similar levels repeatedly. Once I felt like I saw every item though, the prospect of mowing down bees and goblins in the Farmlands for the upteenth time lost a lot of its initial appeal.
Repetition is a key aspect of roguelites, but it only works in games that feel like they reward you for that repeated play. Gun Rounds technically does this in the form of unlockable color palettes that can change the visual appearance of the game, but that's not exactly what I'm talking about here. What I mean is that learning attack patterns doesn't impart some new strategic awareness or game knowledge that lets me play Gun Rounds more effectively or have more fun with it. It's just the thing the game demands you do to be able to see it through to the end. There isn't really another option.
The bottom line
Gun Rounds has an appealing concept and structure, but it needs a little more depth to make wading through its difficulty rewarding. Without that, the game loses its novelty quickly and feels more like an exercise in muscle memory training than something with satisfying tactical and strategic options.