Screenshot: Mothergunship (Grip Digital)

Every Friday, A.V. Club staffers kick off our weekly open thread for the discussion of gaming plans and recent gaming glories, but of course, the real action is down in the comments, where we invite you to answer our eternal question: What Are You Playing This Weekend?


Mothergunship

During the roguelike rush of the last decade, a handful of games has taken a stab at applying that framework (randomly assembled levels, complex upgrade systems, runs that only end in success or permanent death, etc.) to the simplicity and blazing speed of classic first-person shooters. Terrible Posture Games’ Tower Of Guns was a notable early attempt, a tense gauntlet of shooting galleries filled with merciless robots, turrets, and giant bullets. Its cavernous, industrial rooms quickly filled with threats that came straight at you, forcing you to use every bit of real estate and agility your nimble soldier had at their disposal. That speed helped make it compulsively playable, but it was also tough as nails and without a deeper hook to really keep you coming back.

Mothergunship is Terrible Posture’s follow-up, and it creates a fantastic hook to fill that void. You still run through rooms—both tensely claustrophobic and confusingly labyrinthine—dodging dense waves of fire and tearing through robots. This time, though, you’re not just unlocking or uncovering new guns; you’re building ridiculous, hand-crafted firearms of your own. You’ll start each level with a handful of pieces and buy more along the way, screwing together sockets and connectors and oversized barrels into cartoonish death machines. You want a laser, a buzzsaw launcher, and a grenade launcher all on the same gun? Go for it. You want to dual-wield shotguns that also fire bouncing fireballs? Sure. As long as you have the parts and you can puzzle out a way to fit them together, you can make it happen. Just be warned that you’ll only get a few shots out of your quad-barreled rocket launcher before it’s out of energy and you’re left running around without it.

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When you really think about it, the gun-building gimmick is just a way of taking the skill trees and random upgrades these roguelikes force you to cobble together and turning it into something physically present in the game. There’s a ton of flexibility and you’ll generally be able to build your guns the way you want—I prefer to run with inaccurate bullet hoses on the right and precision firing or grenades on the left—but you’ll always still be at the mercy of the algorithm. You can try and keep your guns tidy, but at a certain point, function wins out over form, and if you want to get by, you’ll be better off stitching them into sprawling Frankenstein’s monsters, the ugly literalization of the lemonade you’re always forced to make with the weird, misshapen lemons these games offer up. It’s a great gimmick that injects a bit of Lego-like puzzling into all the shooting. And in a very smart move from the developers, you can get a taste of it via the game’s free demo on PC, PS4, and Xbox One.