Sacred Guns: The Angel and the Mermaid iOS Review
In Sacred Guns, you play as archangel Mark Leung, a recurring protagonist from other Uglysoft games such as Mark Leung: Revenge of the Bitch, a parody RPG from 2011. In this new instalment, he has been tasked by God to use his divine powers to protect Noah’s Ark from any creatures deemed unworthy to be saved. From that I assumed dinosaurs, unicorns, dragons and many other mythical or lost creatures, but I was terribly mistaken. You’ll be taking on Hello Kittys and Angry Birds with rage faces, blobs with SpongeBob SquarePants faces, giant ugly Pikachus, Teletubbies with front butts and many, many more. Even as a parody, it’s impressive that this game survived Apple’s strict reviewing process.
The game plays very simply. Holding anywhere on the screen with one finger allows you to move your crosshair to aim or look around, whilst pressing anywhere with a second finger fires your current equipped weapon. There is no movement for your character – it’s like a classic arcade shooter where you must shoot down all approaching enemies and projectiles before they hit you. Enemies come in a number of different forms such as simple running enemies, some that fly, some that take a great many amount of hits to kill and enemies that just walk right past you, only attacking when they are provoked by being shot at. Of course, to get a good score and a three-star rating on a stage, you must minimise how many enemies escape, which can become quite difficult when you’re already overcrowded.
There’s a variety of weapons to use but only the first two are available straight away, with the other three being increasingly expensive. The basic weapon is a golden pistol that fires powerful single shots but can only hit one enemy at a time, and the second is more of a cannon that can hit a number of enemies in a group, doing huge damage at the cost of mana. The unlockable weapons consist of a rainbow katana that hits all enemies in a straight line; firegloves that summon a wall of fire, hitting enemies within a certain area of the attack; and finally, the rapid buster, which shoots a constant stream of bullets. All weapons besides the pistols cost mana to use and most of them can be charged. By not attacking, a charge weapon starts flashing and powering up, eventually unleashing a blast doing up to five times the original damage of the weapon and greatly increasing the effect area. Getting enemies out of your way to give you time to charge power shots is absolutely necessary, especially for larger enemies that can take a crazy amount of hits from even a fully-upgraded pistol. I stuck with the two basic weapons the whole game and got along fine as I didn’t want to spend my hard-earned coins on buying new weaponry, instead focusing on powering up what I already had.
The game has a total of 25 acts split into 5 chapters, with the 5th act always being a boss fight. Each boss is completely unique in it’s fighting style, but the first four are horrible distortions of many friendly McDonald’s mascots, with the final boss being a giant version of the evil Teletubbies you face. The boss battles always begin with an embarrassingly terrible, half-rhyming couplet argument between Mark and the boss, whether it’s Grimace as a stoner who blows smoke at you, or Birdie, who has contracted bird flu and coughs green blobs of disease at you. It’s not a pretty sight. Fighting the bosses isn’t anything special and they aren’t particularly difficult. I much preferred the more difficult normal missions where you are rushed down by a huge number of enemies, forcing you to make quick decisions on your choice of weapon and requiring the player to become increasingly proficient in the accuracy of their shots.
The rating system for each level is comprised of four categories: finishing the stage with a high amount of health, finishing with a high amount of mana, overall accuracy and letting as few monsters escape as possible. Each one of these sub-categories is rated out of thee stars, using the average as a total star rating. The higher the rating, the bigger the reward of coins (in-game currency) and the benefit of a random bonus upgrade for the first time you reach three stars on a level. Good use of the upgrade system is imperative when making your way through the game, as without faster and more powerful guns you wouldn’t be getting very far at all. You must spend your money wisely and play each level as best you can to make as much money as possible, whilst also trying to attain the three-star bonus upgrades. Of course the game still requires you to play the same levels several times to save up enough cash to progress, unless you want to buy in-game currency with real money, like many apps offer.
The game has a number of cutscenes made up of great-looking still images and decent voiceovers. There’s even a section of the main menu where you can go back and watch unlocked cutscenes, which I’ve never seen before in a mobile game. Unlocked at the beginning and end of chapters, they continue the story of Mark as he begins to fall in love with a mermaid, a creature that God has denied the right to be saved. As Mark is torn between his divine duties and love, he is forced to make a number of hard decisions and ultimately do what he thinks is right. Wanting to know what happens next in the short tale kept me playing onward, even when it did mean repeating levels to power up enough to make my way through the next chapter.
Overall, the game is entertaining and the rating system, upgradable weapons and charming story keep you playing to the end. The mechanics are incredibly simple but fun, with a very balanced difficulty curve that forces you to replay a few levels – a necessity for a freemium app. What ruins the experience is the constant barrage of annoying internet jokes and the overuse of outdated memes, with only Rick Astley’s ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’ being left out (if I hear “IMA FIRIN MAH LAZER” one more time…). The enemies themselves are unoriginal and are only used for cheap laughs, many of them simply being rehashed enemy models from Mark Leung: Revenge of the Bitch. Although the story is mostly original, I feel they could have created something pretty great if they’d focused their efforts into something new, creating a different array of interesting enemies and borrowing from myths and legends. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case and what you’re left with is a game that is overall enjoyable, but one that you are too embarrassed to recommend to friends. It shows that trying to attract players by using outdated internet jokes is nowhere near as efficient as simply creating a fun experience.