There are two kinds of fun when it comes to multiplayer games: Regular and relationship-ruining. Gentlemen!, a same-screen, two-player title from UK-based developer Lucky Frame, falls so firmly into the latter category it’s hard to imagine playing the game with some friends. A well placed knife or bomb or attack bird (yes, attack bird) could easily incite a less-than-stable amigo into breaking your tablet, or worse, ripping it loose from your hands and chucking it at your head. If you don’t mind the headaches, confusion, and general pain of a concussion-by-smart-device, however, the end product is undoubtedly one of the finest local multiplayer games on the Play Store to date.
Indubitably enjoyable combat, good sir
The top-hatted, mustachioed murder machines in Gentlemen! may look like jolly old chaps, but they fight like something out of a John Woo-directed Spy vs. Spy movie. For those of you rolling your eyes at the overwrought analogy, I am very sorry. I’ve been very sick recently, and I’m quite rusty. If you aren’t familiar with John Woo’s movies, feel free to substitute The Matrix… if you’ve never seen Spy vs. Spy, well, I don’t know what to tell you.
Anyway, back to the point: Murder. There’s no single player gameplay to be had here, and the multiplayer experience is one-screen only, meaning you and your co-combatant must share the screen by holding it vertically between you. The simplistic controls (left, right, jump, and attack are the only four buttons on the screen) lend themselves perfectly with the format. Leaping doesn’t just send you up and back to the ground like some commoner’s game, either; instead, pressing the key causes your onscreen avatar to flip, reverse his personal gravity, and stick to the nearest ceiling available. It’s a cool mechanic used to great effect in a lot of other games, and it works very well here, even if there’s no way a real life gentleman of the era would flaunt his supernatural abilities so flagrantly. It just wouldn’t be becoming, after all. What can I say? I’m a sucker for realism.
Then we have the guns. Gentlemen!’s arsenal, packed with the above-mentioned bombs and birds, as well as knives, electric shocks, and other implements of civilized murder, takes a while to master: Single knives and bombs, for instance, travel in a straight line, while the dreaded multiknife (my personal favorite) sends blades of doom shooting from the four diagonals surrounding your character. It’s my opinion that the makers could have packed a few more arms into the game – I definitely had a “is this all?” moment when I realized I’d hit pretty much every item available – but the stuff Lucky Frame does provide is still great.
Care for some modes, old chap?
Gentlemen! packs three exciting modes for all your monocled violence needs: Duel, a standard first-to-four deathmatch; Chase, another first-to-four in which only one combatant can hold a weapon at a time; and Diamond Duel, which largely works the same as the previous two, but also allows the player to win by collecting four diamonds across the map before his opponent. My Certified Game Review Assistant (aka my wife) and I got the most playtime out of Chase, but all three modes are an absolute blast, with frantic, violent, and most importantly, refined combat sure to make even the best of friends shriek obscenities at one another in a matter of minutes. If you don’t have a friend you feel comfortable screaming curse words at, feel free to check a public transit waystation or the alley behind your favorite liquor store. As we all know, that’s where the real gents congregate, anyway.
Chin up, tut-tut
I have precisely two complaints about my Gentlemen! experience: The amount of content and the price I paid for it. For $3.03 US you get an insanely fun game that could be even better with just a little more stuff… as it sits, the limited number of modes, characters, and weapons can get pretty old after a few extended play sessions. That said, I’d much rather take it exactly as-is than see it packed full of ads and premium content, so it’s kind of a wash. At a buck-fifty or two bucks, it’d be an absolutely awesome deal. In its current state, it’s still pretty solid, but I couldn’t help but feel a little gypped.
Even with those minor complaints, however, Gentlemen! is a downright fun game with lots of friendship-killing potential. This is a title designed from the ground up for two-player fun, and it shows. If you don’t mind coughing up three bucks for a new game – man, smartphones have spoiled us – definitely check it out. Just make sure you have some cold compresses and aspirin on hand, especially if you have one of those friends. No matter how much fun you have, a tablet to the temple never feels good.