Wildcat Gun Machine
Enter The Meowgeon
Before I begin talking about the roller coaster ride that is Wildcat Gun Machine, I'd like to give a special thanks to the devs and publishers for giving us a review key. Video games are like a box of firearms, you never know what enemies may come lurking around that corner. Fortunately, you are armed and nimble enough to evade hordes of bullets, dastardly traps, and the most grotesque enemies that somehow appear cute? Yeah, I couldn't put my finger on it but most of the enemy designs are rather adorable. The art direction and the marketing itself are rather charming too.
The release trailer, which I'll link below, shows various cuts of the protagonist shooting and avoiding a hailstorm of bullets. Acid pits and giant monsters spawned from Hell's pits are all featured. Explosions are massive, movement is precise, and cats are roaming about in all their glory--wait what? Turns out this was a huge part of Wildcat Gun Machine's marketing. Pair an adorable cat with gameplay footage of high-octane combat. The entire game's motif is centered around cats, while the gameplay itself takes cues from Enter The Gungeon, Hades, and DOOM to name a few.
Cats Have Nine Lives, You Don't.
There isn't much of a premise for Wildcat Gun Machine in that there isn't a deep narrative to be seen here. There's no witty dialogue, no character development, or any "world-building" so to speak. Everything in WGM is organic and all you're given is you're playing a character who is stuck in a "hell-like" zone and they must fight their way out. The protagonist isn't given a name and their features are purposefully androgynous, being the perfect "face" for the player. You are a white-haired gun-crazy adventurer (with an affinity towards cats) whose purpose is to survive the depth of the rabbit hole.
Despite the carnage that players will no doubt find themselves in, the visuals are cartoony with very little in the way of blood and gore. Enemies explode in a spectacular fashion, but it's tasteful enough for players of all ages to enjoy. The grotesque nature comes from the enemy's designs. From floating heads that barrel themselves towards the player to walking demons that shoot bullets in different patterns. While I can compare the game's isometric dungeon-crawling slog through Hell with Hades, Wildcat Gun Machine is not a roguelike. At least not in the traditional sense.
Death Is Like Falling On Your Feet
Wildcat Gun Machine begins with the player having a handgun with infinite ammo. While the damage isn't remarkable, it's enough to contend with the early threats in the game. As mentioned before, the game plays itself like a bullet hell, sort of like Enter The Gungeon. A neat trick with Wildcat is that the camera pans upward whenever there's an enemy encounter. This gives players a wide view while being able to react according to incoming bullets. This becomes a blessing during boss encounters and tens of enemies approaching the player.
The bullet patterns can get intense and rushing will lead to a quick death. Fortunately, death doesn't mean the player loses their progress. Every time the player reaches a checkpoint, their progress is saved, meaning they will respawn with their upgrades and currency intact. This ensures that saving is always a necessity as enemies do not respawn during your current life. The goal of each zone is to find keys to unlock gates, which lead to other keys, which lead to mini-bosses. Defeating the mini-bosses unseals the large door in the center of the zone, in which the player will fight the zone's main boss.
The High Octane Gameplay Is What Pulls You
The gameplay and premise are simple enough, but is Wildcat Gun Machine fun? It's most certainly a game where you can relax as a hailstorm of bullets come in all directions. You have just as much power as your enemies, especially when you activate your super meter. As you kill enemies, you'll gain access to the "gunmachine" power-up, which the player pilots a mecha. Not only does this make them invincible with increased speed, but the player absolutely melts enemies in their wake. There are also power-ups that help the player including increased damage and an invulnerability shield.
At times the game can get repetitive though. When I mentioned that the premise is entering rooms, shooting baddies, collecting keys, and repeating the process, that's the gist of the game. It's an "arcade experience" where the goal is to reach as far as you can and not necessarily the journey. Upgrading your character with increased speed, dash upgrades, and seeing what new powerful guns are available to you is always fun. It doesn't get to the point of "mundane," but it's a game meant to be played in quick bursts.
Wildcat Gun Machine Is A...Feline...Experience (Sorry)
Overall, Wildcat Gun Machine is a title that requires the patience and positioning of a shoot-em-up with the aggression of a dungeon crawler. The lack of a penalty system for dying, should the player take advantage of checkpoints, may deem the game "easy" in its early stages.
However, the intensity of the enemies coupled with the number of traps and hazards will keep the player in check. It's a fun time for those looking for an arcade pick-up-and-play experience. If you're looking for a fleshed-out narrative experience, it may be best to push those expectations to the side. Wildcat Gun Machine is successful at making a fun experience with no frills in between.
Wildcat Gun Machine is available for the PC, Nintendo Switch, and Sony PlayStation.