I think everyone has imagined action scenes playing out to whatever tunes are playing on the radio. Sure, on the outside most may call AMVs or fan fiction cringy, but we all like to indulge once in a while, and music is a good way to facilitate that. If you’d like to get in on the music video action yourself, however, a few very good games have been dipping into rhythm based action. While most of those focus on close up action, Gun Jam lets you feel like John Wick by dual wielding firearms, dodging bullets, and shooting to the beat of the music.
Gun Jam doesn’t have any sort of story, instead two modes to play: Arcade and Free Play. Arcade is the main draw here, and has you go through four worlds containing several stages, while Free Play lets you replay any stage unlocked in Arcade. Each world takes you through a song, a single stage looping through a small part of it. If you’ve ever played light gun games like Time Crisis or House of the Dead, you’ll feel at home here. Levels have you stand in a fixed point as enemies appear in waves and try to kill you. There are multiple enemy types, such as normal grunts, snipers, robo dogs, and drones, but the basics remain the same: shoot them until they die and dodge their bullets. Defeat enough dudes and you move on to the next stage, fail and you need to repeat the level.
The rub comes in when you actually fire your gun. Much like Hi-Fi Rush, you’ve got a beat visualizer near the bottom of your vision and pressing the trigger to the beat will have your shots deal more damage. Your bullets color will also change depending on how close you are to being on beat, with gold shots being the most powerful. Enemies don’t shoot to the beat, however, so you need to constantly be on your toes to dodge their very large shots with your equally large hitbox.
Playing Gun Jam is quite the workout with all that dodging, though you’ll often get hit regardless. Different enemy types have different shot types, like an even bigger sphere, a bunch of small spheres, or two spheres connected by a line. There’s an OK amount of variety there, but since they’re not synced to the music and your hitbox is way too big, you’ll die pretty frequently, even if you feel like you’re doing well. Your health does regenerate, so most levels are a matter of getting just lucky enough to survive rather than entirely on skill.
As for your weapons, every level gives you two guns from its arsenal. Some are basic but powerful, like the revolver and grenade launcher, while others have more niche uses, like the shotgun or rifle. The simpler guns have a generous amount of auto aim, while things like the shotgun don’t. Aiming in VR is surprisingly hard, so I found the shotgun and rifle to be almost useless, which sucks because the shotgun is easily the most used gun in the game. On the flip side, sometimes the auto aim is TOO generous, causing me to repeatedly miss environmental targets like explosive barrels. As mentioned before, you need to constantly be moving so you don’t really have time to properly aim. It feels like the game asks you to just spray and pray, but punishes you for that at the same time.
While dodging, you’ll encounter some limitations, at least on the Quest 2. Since you need to move all over the place, you’ll be constantly brushing up against the edge of your defined playspace (if you’re not using roomscale). On Quest 2, this causes your actual surroundings to fade into view through the external cameras. This not only makes the frame rate dip significantly, possibly desyncing the music for a few seconds, but also prevents you from seeing bullets coming at you from that direction. I don’t know if there’s a way to disable that, but I shouldn’t have to dive into the system settings to make a game playable.
I’m not a fan of the music either. It’s not bad, just not to my taste as it’s mostly dubstep or heavy electronica. Still, this does make it very easy to discern the beat. Maybe if Gun Jam had more song variety or tighter mechanics (or opening logos that don’t feel like they’re going to give me a seizure) it would be more than a neat idea, but as it is there’s not much to do and you’re going to have a hard time actually doing it.
David is the kind of person to wear his heart on his sleeve. He can find positives in anything, like this is a person who loved Star Fox Zero to death. You’ll see him playing all kinds of games: AAAs, Indies, game jam games, games of all genres, and writing about them! Here. On this website. When not writing or playing games, you can find David making music, games, or enjoying a good book.
David’s favorite games include NieR: Automata, Mother 3, and Gravity Rush.
Gun Jam fails to capitalize on a novel idea through its unpolished and at odds mechanics. There’s not much content here and what is there isn’t particularly fun.