Dummies vs Fun

I shouldn’t have let KGB: Episode One get my hopes up. ‘If one indie developer can make a decent first person shooter, surely others can too’, I said to myself. I may be right, but Mummies vs Gunn.S is not the game I was looking for.

This title has to be a typo. It has to be.

Really the title should have tipped me off, but I was delighted to see some form of b-movie undead monster that isn’t a zombie that I hurried to overlook the ridiculous ‘Gunn.S’ travesty, and ill omen that is ‘vs’. Very few things, games or otherwise, that feature ‘vs’ in the title have much chance at quality. Still, remembering the generally enjoyable Plants vs Zombies (two bad news  words in one title!) and Alien vs Predator (the games, not the tiresome films) I pressed on into the abyss.

In fairness, Mummies vs Gunn.S isn’t the worst XBL indie FPS. That honour is reserved for another, yet to be reviewed simply because I so desperately don’t want to play it again. Mummies seems to be well-intentioned at least in the beginning, but it makes very little effort to do anything distinctive and it shows signs of very sloppy design that cost it a lot of ground against its competition. This is a first person wave/horde survival game, and there are a few of those on the indie marketplace. They are still vastly outnumbered by identical twin-stick shooters that seem to be the same game in different skins (possibly programmed by the same guy in different hats) and grotesque, cynical mockeries of games that eagerly pander to the social ineptitude and girl-phobia of their thirteen year old boy target audience (Don’t Be Nervous  Talking to Girls? Ugh.) but the few first person shooters there are on here are mostly wave survival. The leader of this grubby pack is Nuclear Wasteland 2030, a competent (if solo only) Nazi Zombies-a-like from the developer of KGB.

The point is, if you’re going to attempt an Xbox indie FPS, making it a wave survival game puts you straight into direct competition with several others, so you need to make sure you pull something special out of the hat to set yourself apart. Unfortunately for Mummies vs Gunn.S, the thing it pulls out of its hat is a mouldy cheese sandwich stuck to a dead cat.

If I walked into an ancient pyramid and saw floating visions proclaiming 'total kills' and 'lapsed seconds', I'd poo myself.

Upon first playing MvG, I was pleased with the setting. It wasn’t particularly pretty, but I liked the gloominess of the mystery room, probably intended to be the inside of an ancient pyramid. A pleasant change. Within a couple of minutes, though, boredom had firmly taken hold. This gloomy pyramid interior is the only room in the game, at least for as long as I managed to force myself through it. You shoot mummies, more spawn, you shoot those too. Competent wave survival games add small features to keep things interesting – barricades, items, unlockable weapon depots. Just walking backwards around the room and shooting the zombies as they fall into line gets old very quickly. And yes, I said ‘zombies’. Title aside, there’s nothing to distinguish these ‘mummies’ from the lazily programmed zombies in various other sloppy FPSes.

But after another couple of minutes, boredom wasn’t such a problem anymore. Instead, boredom became something MvG could only aspire to in its better moments. You see, this is where lazy predicability gives way to shoddy, thoughtless design. It’s evident very quickly that the mummies are insanely resilient. At first this is a boredom-enhancing chore, but it really becomes a gruelling grind as their numbers begin to stack up. I don’t think I’ve seen a zombie (or zombie-type enemy, insert theatrical sigh here) soak up this much damage in any other game. The poor weapons only add a sandpaper caress to this open wound, presenting us with an eye-catching performance in the form of incongruous red flashes. Oh, and a bomb. What a treat.

Possibly the most grating design choice, though, is the way ammunition is handled. Firstly, it’s unlimited, revealing a willful refusal to grasp even the basics of providing tension in a survival game. Secondly, there’s no on-screen magazine indicator, which means you will always be oblivious to the imminent need to reload unless you count the shots (having first counted them already to determine the size of the mag). This just reeks of thoughtless design, implemented by someone who really doesn’t care about the game or how it plays. Mummies vs Gunn.S lacks the effort to even simply directly copy others in its field. It is too lazy to be lazy.

It's a zombie. Don't pretend it isn't.

One more niggle, though this one is more of a pet peeve and won’t annoy many people. Still, to me it’s an infuriating omission. There is no option to invert the y axis. Yes, I’m one of them. I know, you probably can’t grasp how I manage to play anything with inverted controls, but that’s beside the point. The way you feel about using inverted controls is the way I feel that way about using non-inverted controls. I’m sure you can imagine the layer of unpleasantness this smeared onto an already unsavoury experience.

Long story short: Mummies vs Gunn.S is rubbish. First person wave survival games are not generally great when executed in indie form, lacking the variety of settings and other things that make their big budget counterparts more enjoyable, but MvG can’t even be bothered to try. I suggest you return the favour.