What is the concept? As a port of the last March’s iOS game, Rogue Rocket Games’ Gunpowder now tasks PC players with creating snaking trails of the eponymous explosive. Across a campaign that spans 125 stages, each level’s primary challenge is to blow open the safe, sending the coveted currencies billowing skyward. Also scattered across each of the single-screen brainteasers are three piggy banks which extend a second objective. Cracking these caches permits players to progress into Gunpowder’s successive chapters, eventually granted entry to a collection of bonus levels.
The transition from touchscreen to mouse-based control is seamless, as gamers paint paths of powder, allowing a flame to ignite power kegs and detonate canons. Later, as the game’s relaxed difficulty inches up, everything from simple chains reactions to elaborate Rube Goldberg-like mechanisms will be built with concussive blasts and incinerating objects putting elements like mine carts, chandeliers, and wagons into play. What’s novel about Gunpowder is its approach. Players will habitually start at the safe, using the limited amount of combustible to link in elements, before finally making contact with a fire pit. Conceive and execute a plan correctly, and the game’s delivers a breathtaking display of pyrotechnic marvel, as kegs rocket skyward, mine carts careen around tracks, and generally the screen comes alive with the splendor of conflagration.
What are the game’s strengths? Like any good puzzler, Gunpowder reveals its rules through participation and experimentation rather than through dry text-based tutorials. While the game’s early levels might seem like pushovers, Rogue Rocket Games’ is explaining the grammar of Gunpower, gradually showing how different elements function and work together. While the technique isn’t completely faultless, as we become briefly stymied when stone walls first started appearing in levels, it’s complemented by an advancement system that allows for level skipping. Being able to toggle the blast radius of each barrel and bundle of TNT is an adept touch, eliminating frustration from power-laying set-ups.
With an aesthetic that pays homage to both Disney’s Robin Hood and Looney Toons’ Wile E. Coyote and Roadrunner cartoons, Gunpower aims to be a visual charmer. Although the game’s narrative is largely limited to comic book-style illustrations and end-of-level animations, the game’s anthropomorphic characters make the assemblage of puzzles a bit more approachable. Players assume the role of Incendio, a friendly fox fixed on liberating the wealth of greedy wolf-baron, Boss Grimshaw. While it would have been nice to hear voice acting from the duo, the rendered expressions that complement Incendio’s jovial safecracking and Grimshaw’s infuriation are nearly as rewarding as the game’s pyrotechnics.
What are the game’s weaknesses: Occasionally, Gunpower’s early stages hold the hands of players too tightly, repeatedly revealing the exact position players should place power kegs. Ideally, the game would have extended a bit more confidence with its audience, only offering assistance once players fail the level. Inversely, once the game’s conundrum escalate in difficulty, a bit of additional guidance would likely be welcomed be gamers who are obsessed with perfecting each stage.
While the game provides a larger than average of levels, once a stage has been completed and triple-piggied, there’s little incentive to revisit, other than chasing for a spot on the game’s online leaderboard. It would have been great to see Rogue Rocket create an editing suite for the title, allowing players to make and share their own custom levels. Of course, that would have infringed on the firm’s plan for additional (presumably paid) stages, so this omission is somewhat understandable, if not disheartening.
Is it worth the money? At $9.99 USD, the PC port of Gunpower offers all of the content of the initial five-dollar iOS app, as well as the additional three-buck in-app purchase to unlock levels. Paying a bit extra to enjoy the game on an expansive monitor isn’t a burden, especially since the title is capably optimized. Pleasingly, Gunpower scales extremely well, offering high-resolution output on our low-end desktop and mid-ranged laptop, all without a sacrifice to the game’s signature explosions.
Gunpowder was played on the PC with review code provided by the publisher
Developer: Rogue Rocket Games
Publisher: Rogue Rocket Games
Release date: July 8th, 2015
Price: $9.99 via Steam