Surprisingly, it’s not the eyes that complain the loudest, despite being asked to gaze into a stereoscopic display inches away from our corneas. Nor is it the neck, which is bearing the weight of the Gear VR headset while the head jerks back and forth to line up enemy targets in our sight. No, the discomfort is in the right shoulder, the result of an extended play session tapping our right index finger to our temples. On the right side of the Gear VR hardware is a small touchpad. When pressed, it fires our guns; a backward swipe reloads, and a forward one deploys special weapon pickups. At first, we feel like Marvel’s Cyclops. A few hours later, we feel like his arthritic granddad.
Still, it’s intoxicating stuff, at least early on. Enemies arrive in waves, and must be dealt with quickly – take a hit and the score multiplier, which builds with consecutive kills up to a maximum of x10, will be reset to zero. Certain enemies fire homing missiles, which can be shot down, but the minute a regular bullet leaves an opponent’s craft, you can kiss goodbye to your multiplier. Take too many hits and it’s not game over; instead you can continue up to three times, though each one consumed will reduce the end-of-level payout.
Special weapons give quick boosts to the multiplier.
Smart bombs and homing missiles will quickly clear the screen for you; the large, spherical statis web slows enemies caught in its radius. The pick of the bunch is the artillery blast, which will catch an entire wave in the splash damage providing you can hit something with it. Knowing when to use them is key, of course, and Gunjack is built on the notion that you’ll want to replay each level multiple times, honing your performance.
It’s classic arcade-shooter design, but also the game’s downfall. As the difficulty builds, with cloaking and teleporting ships an almost constant threat, the appeal fades considerably as you realise that this is mostly a game of memory gained through repetition.
And while most mobile games use the three-star rating as an optional pursuit for the committed player, here it’s used as a roadblock to everyone. It drives the level unlock system, forcing you back to try to perfect the early stages before you can move on to the next. One mistake can ruin a run, and many of them won’t even be your own, the touchpad often interpreting a reload swipe as an instruction to fire an empty magazine, or ignore your request to fire a special weapon.
How would Wii sales have fared had Wii Sports tennis only been unlocked after you’d bowled a perfect game? This early in VR’s resurgence, games should only dare ask for perfection if they’re providing us the tools with which to reliably achieve it.
The hulking ships you face in boss battles are, oddly, less challenging than the fast, nimble drones that appear in the late game. Debris knocked loose mid-fight is hoovered up and attached to your craft to boost your defenses