Two beefy bros exchange ham-hock high fives as the overhead timer counts down, jump-ramps illuminating the sides of the arena in a neon yellow glow. “You ready for this, bud?” bro #1 says after spitting out a well-worn cigar. “Hell yea, I was born ready, bro.” Both beefcakes ready their favorite toys – a massive chain gun for #1 and dual pistols for bro #2 – as the timer hits zero. With a stylish nod, the bros spin around and unleash a fury of bullets on the advancing wave of aliens. The game is on.
Gun Bros 2 is, at its core, a frantic and shiny twin-stick shooter reminiscent of Smash TV; one d-pad moves while the other shoots. Whether you decide to tackle the single-player campaign or jump straight into “Endless Challenge” mode, you’ll find yourself (and your “bro”) surrounded by waves upon waves of bizarre and hostile alien mobs. Gameplay in any given match wavers between delivering high-caliber justice through the power of an endless clip and making hasty (yet temporary) retreats via one of the many jump-platforms dotting the map. Each map is essentially an arena in which you’ll find a smattering of helpful features – namely exploding barrels, a hover-ship that you can maul your enemies with, and random air-dropped treasure chests. If you survive a few enemy onslaughts, you’ll be rewarded with experience (your bro levels), Explodium (money), and loot. If you die… Meh. Get over it.
Just You And Me, Bro.
While Gun Bros suffers from an unfortunately adolescent title, the “bro” mechanic deserves some attention. In each single-player fight, you’ll always have a bro at your side (A.I. controlled). You begin with a default bro that starts, like yourself, at level 1. However, you’re allowed to hire more advanced bros in the form of actual players’ characters – again, A.I. controlled. Hiring a player-character’s bro gives you an enormous advantage in that they’re usually several levels more powerful than yourself, but each PC bro comes with a delay-timer preventing you from re-hiring him too soon after the last fight. While I’ve yet to figure out how to customize my default bro, you can invite Facebook and Gamespy friends to your “Brotherhood” for an expanded arsenal. Bronus.
Man-Up Your Gear
Once you and said bro have slaughtered half-a-billion enemy mobs and collected a good stash of Explodium, you’ll start fiddling with weapons and armor. Aside from the rare gun-drop, you’re left to purchase new guns – pistols, shotguns, rifles, and chain guns alike. Each gun behaves slightly differently, has a different power rating, comes with slots for “mods” – extra add-ons that give your gun more punch – and can be upgraded via “Glu coins”; something that’s mostly unobtainable outside of real-world purchase via the game store. The scarcity of Glu coins is a frustrating limiting-factor in Gun Bros 2, but is entirely by design in order to encourage people to spend their hard-earned ca$h. The fact is, you can most certainly bypass this part of the game via a little extra grinding on the earlier missions.
In addition to guns, you’ll quickly start collecting different pieces of armor – helmets, chest, and leggings. Armor isn’t available for purchase, but instead is a carrot that you’ll constantly pursue in order to complete “collections” – sets of similarly named items that collectively give you permanent stat bonuses (usually HP). Collect the Divebomb armor set, for example, and you’ll net an additional +6 HP on top of each individual piece’s bonus. Once you pick-up a piece of armor and/or complete a set, the bonuses are permanently attached to your bro and you’re free to sell them for more Explodium. Armor seems to be merely for decorative effect in Gun Bros 2 once the bonus has been applied, so feel free to sell pieces you don’t like in order to save for a new gun. Mods and armor are assigned a “class” based on rarity and power (“C” being the worst and “X” being the best) – something that’s not clearly explained in-game unless you’re paying attention when the random hint-screen appears.
Bro-Down With Strangers
Clearly, Gun Bros 2 is as much about blasting your enemies as it is customization, and it’s a combo that keeps you playing and playing some more. Even re-playing missions you’ve already beaten will net you more loot and you’ll never even notice having had been there a dozen times before. To add to the single-player campaign and Endless Challenge modes, there’s a live multiplayer Endless Challenge mode where you actually get to play with a brother-from-another-mother… I.e. Another player-controlled bro on the network. Multiplayer is fun, when you can find players, and provides a nice break from the single-player grind. It’s rare that any Android game sports live multiplayer these days, let alone real-time action multiplayer, but the combination of another player and the intense, non-stop action of Gun Bros makes for a rockin’ good time. What’s more, you’ll net the most loot and experience from these types of multiplayer matches. Get on it.
Fumbling Through The Slaughter
Mechanics-wise, Gun Bros 2 has an assortment of pluses and minuses. The graphics are very pretty, and the between-game UI flips seamlessly between menus of guns and armor with a simple swipe. However, it’s not always intuitive how to navigate between the different screens and categories of screens resulting in some annoying delays as you make your way back to where you were trying to go. While the combat is fast-and-furious with zero noticeable lag (Nexus 7), the load-times between matches is a bit on the slow side (30sec wait to get in and 15sec to get out = 45sec delay) making for some annoying delays between bouts of gratuitous violence. The dual-stick d-pads function decently within the combat missions, but it’s easy for your left-hand thumb to slide outside of the detection range… resulting in a bro-no-go (gawd, I’m killin’ myself here). I’ve also found myself regularly getting stuck on the edges of stairways and ledges, trying to figure out how to navigate while in the midst of a heated firefight. It can be a bit tricky to tell which staircases go up and which staircases aren’t staircases at all; a brief pause like this usually results in death.
Gun Bros 2 is a surprisingly slick dual-stick shooter that will keep you coming back for more. Despite the 30sec delay between sessions, the promise of random item-drops and the urge to upgrade entices even the most skeptical gamer and this game is no exception. While it does suck that you have to pay money for Glu credits to upgrade your guns, you’ll still slowly accumulate them via normal gameplay. Be patient, flex your muscles, and prepare for some solid guns-blazing entertainment. Since you’ll pay exactly zero dollars for this title, I’d say if you have the equipment… put it on display. Bro.