As someone who actually saw numerous R-rated ’80s action flicks on their opening weekends, it’s funny to now see them influencing video games that are enjoyed by people who not only weren’t old enough to see this movies in theaters back then, but neither were there parents. The latest of these is Gunslugs II, a side-scrolling shooter from Orangepixel that’s available for PCs, Mac, iOS, Android, and Ouya. Though in talking to Pascal Bestebroer, the one-man mastermind behind Orangepixel, it’s clear this game isn’t just a trip down memory lane.
For those who haven’t played this or the original Gunslugs, what kind of games are they and how do you play them?
I like to call it a “chaotic run and gun” game. And you play them with two thumbs, not included. So basically you are the hero — or better: one of the characters picked from a group of heroes — and you fight your way through levels, buildings, tanks, and spaceships, all to save the world from the evil Black Duck army.
Where did the idea for the original one come from?
Rambo, Commando, ’80s cartoons, over-the-top action movies, The Expendables, all that “no story required just watch” explosiveness influenced the Gunslugs series. It’s all not very serious, just big explosions, stuff crumbling down around you, and you being the hero who doesn’t die from one or two bullets.
Given that you mentioned both Rambo and The Expendables, did you ever try to get Sylvester Stallone, who starred in both movies, to be the voice of the hero in Gunslugs? Or the bad guy?
I thought about it, but decided probably nobody would understand his words and I’d have to add subtitles anyway.
Ha! When you were deciding on an art style for the first Gunslugs, why did you go with pixel art instead of something more modern or comic book-ish?
I’ve been doing mobile games for over ten years now, and pixel art is my art style of choice for all my games. I also grew up with games of the early ’80s, and I just love the playful nature that games with pixel art have. You know it’s a game, not something that wants to be taken too serious. It’s fun, entertainment, and then you shoot some guys out of a tank.
When you started to work on Gunslugs II, what were the things that you really wanted to add, change, or improve from the original, and why did you think they needed to be added, changed, or improved?
My main change was adding more “level” to the game. In the game, you have to take out signal towers. And in the first game, you just go through the door, stand on the roof, and it goes down. But in Gunslugs II, you go through the door, and there is a building full of hazards, enemies, and problems that you have to shoot your way through before reaching the top of the building and seeing it collapse in explosions, smoke, and noise.
I also wanted the sequel to have a more linear story. Where the first game just had various locations to unlock and play, this one actually takes you through the game step by step with save points and a “story” that could have been written by the cousin of the guy who knows a guy who was in the room with the script writers of The Expendables.
What about the fans of the first one, what were the most common things that they suggested that you change?
The story/progress of the game was something that most people didn’t like. Many people never completed the first game, and a large group even got stuck in the 2nd world. So the game progress is made easier, more linear, and hopefully more people will complete this one.
So why isn’t the game called Gunslugs II: Electric Boogaloo?
Subtitles tend to confuse me. And besides, my musician — the talented Gavin Harrison — would probably refuse to create break dancing tunes!
Speaking of Mr. Harrison, he is not the Gavin Harrison who played drums for King Crimson and Porcupine Tree. At what point in the process did you realize, “Oh, crap, I hired the wrong Gavin Harrison!”?
Just now…what? Explains the lack of drum solos, I guess.
Gunslugs II is available on PCs, Mac, iOS, Android, and Ouya. Is there any difference between them?
All versions are identical, which saved me a lot of time. Though I do think the Ouya version is the easiest to get a two-player coop game going. Just hook up both controllers, and grab a friend.
Has there been any talk of bring Gunslugs II to Xbox One, PlayStation 4, or any other consoles?
Maybe behind closed doors, somewhere, people might have talked about it, but I have not been involved in those talks yet. Which makes it a bit strange if you think about it.
But I’m open for it. We’ll see what happens.
Finally, if someone really liked Gunslugs II and wanted to play another of your games, which would you recommend they play next and why?
The first Gunslugs would be the first idea here, but Heroes Of Loot is certainly the big one you have to play.