The original Samurai Gunn was a surprising delight to play when it first came out in 2013. Up to four players would throw down in an array of arenas, equipped with a gun that held only three bullets, a sword for melee combat, and lightning-fast movement. It made for stylish duels full of skill, surprise, and the occasional shocker when your opponent deflected your well-placed shot back at your own face. Years later, Samurai Gunn 2 has entered the scene in early access and I took up the sword once more to get a feel for how it plays coming out of the gate.
The way of steel and gunpowder
Right off of the bat, Samurai Gunn 2 has more options to its playability than the previous game. Versus duels are still the core gameplay, again allowing up to four players to battle it out in various levels in a race to be the first to rack up 10 kills. On each spawn, you have three bullets, unlimited use of your sword, and can wall cling and jump to reach higher ground. A well-timed sword strike at a bullet can also deflect it back at the firing enemy. In this way, Samurai Gunn 2’s combat is as fast, fluid, and fun as ever. The levels range between wide open bamboo jungles, cavernous waterfall grottos, mountainous cliffsides, and mazelike forests you must cut through to reach your opponents, just to name a few.
The characters too have been fleshed out a bit more from their tiny little pixel selves in the first game. They’re still little pixelated sprites, but each of them has a profile picture and a bit more personal animation in their movement and attacks than in the first game. My favorite was Hayao, a dog samurai. It makes me feel terrible to hear them yelp when I lose, but Hayao also pants happily and audibly when in idle animation and has a derpy face when looking up. I love dueling with them.
There are also characters and stages from other indie games here. The hero from Minit and Ana from Spelunky 2 join the fray as selectable characters, each with their own melee and gun mechanics and a stage from each of their games. The Spelunky stage is just as treacherous as the Spelunky game, with arrow booby traps and spike pitfalls to watch for. It's really cool how for being in Samurai Gunn 2, it still keeps many of Spelunky's level design elements intact.
Versus is aided by the fact that you can finally go online and make parties with your friends list in Samurai Gunn 2. The first game had Steam Remote Play, but Samurai Gunn 2 makes it far easier to match up and play with your buddies and you can even throw caution to the wind and matchmake online against other random opponents. It’s a great feature to have when your friends aren’t around to fight against.
A journey to test your mettle
For those who want a more solitary Samurai Gunn 2 experience, the developers also included a single-player (or co-op) Adventure mode. You’ll enter into the Forbidden Forest where you take on landmarks that each represent a level. In each level, you’ll face a new terrain and be forced to duel and kill all opponents there. The early stages had what looked like Tengu demons running at me with swords. Later levels featured Tengus that carried guns and would shoot if you entered their attack paths up, down, left, or right of them. I eventually ran into a duel with a boss that protected itself with orbs, flew around, and threw boomerang blades. I also ran into some ninja turtles. Not the Ninja Turtles, but turtles that were ninjas, and liked to dance when not slashing or being slashed by me.
The current Adventure mode experience wasn’t incredibly long, but it did show quite some promise. Some paths I followed led to fox statues that gave me new weapons besides the sword with different capabilities. The cleaver had a very wide slash arc on it, capable of killing around corners, but the recovery on a swing was long and dangerous. There was also a knife that swings as fast as you can press the button, but the arc for killing strikes and bullet deflection was painfully short. You can only use these weapon power-ups in Adventure mode right now, but I hope they come to Versus too because they have enough strengths and drawbacks that it would be very fun to change up how your melee plays in PVP.
That aside, some deep exploration of the current Adventure mode also showed there are secret paths off the obvious trail that lead to interesting new discoveries, challenges, and power-ups. As short as the mode is right now, I’m more than interested to see where they go with it in further updates.
Bushido, blood, and bullets
Samurai Gunn is looking quite ambitious over its predecessor. Where Samurai Gunn 2 was an outstanding couch co-op brawler, Samurai Gunn 2 keeps that core intact, but also expands it with fleshed out characters and more wonderfully designed arenas, a promising Adventure mode, and even a comic if you want to delve deeper into the story of the Samurai Gunn world. The Adventure mode and comic are a little slim right now, but these are also the developer’s priority in expanding the game over coming updates beyond the initial early access launch. That said, if you want a great, fast-paced couch and online co-op game in which you can stylishly slash and shoot other pixelated warriors to ribbons, Samurai Gunn 2 looks like it will be the gift that keeps on giving through its early access cycle. If you'd like to see more of my raw reactions on the game, be sure to check out our Indie-licious episode featuring Samurai Gunn 2.
These early access impressions are based upon a PC Steam digital copy supplied by the publisher. Samurai Gunn 2 is available in early access on Steam now.