You could throw a hell of a lotta buzzwords at Gun Rounds. It is, at once, an indie roguelike (roguelite) bullet-hell deck builder with permadeath mechanics and tactical blah blah blah. You get the picture. But in play, Blabberf's turn-based shooter brings all those disparate terms together with wonderfully tight gun puzzles, a potent mixture that easily squares up against its genre contemporaries.
Gun Rounds straddles a strange line, trading in Pokemon battles by way of Downwell's gunboots. Here's the deal - you've got a deck of different guns at your disposal, each with their own ammo cost to use. On your turn, you pick a spot to target and fire your bullet/sword/celestial beam/rocket of choice into a field packed with moving monsters.
Then, it's their turn to fire back. While your featureless wee shooter can't move freely like their foes, they can "block" incoming fire will a well-timed hit on the spacebar.
See, there's a wonderful economy of play at work in Gun Rounds. Not only does blocking save your health (if you're good at it, at least), but it'll often pay back in extra ammo for hits caught. That ammo feeds back into pulling larger attacks back into play. There's a more reliable "reload" function to bring back lost rounds. But if you're not shooting, you're risking more hits for a more packed screen.
Blocking those shots was never a sure thing, either. Early on, sure, you're hitting simple timing challenges - but as the biomes progress, new monsters arrive to mix things up. Jellyfish will send swarms of their children after you. Crabs might fake out with a pulled punch, or bring two heavy hits in from the side. Wasps shoot straight and fast, but if you nail that dodge, they'll take damage from their own hit.
It's a tightness of design that really does recall the likes of Downwell, down to even the more immediate visual cues. It even "borrows" the best part of Moppin's cave-diver - unlockable colour palettes that shift the game's two-tone look as you push further into its gun-puzzles.
If you'd told me Gun Rounds came out during that early 2010s indie explosion, I'd easily believe you. It captures that era-specific vibe of crunchy pixels, laser-focused design and egregious screen shake to a tee. Honestly, it's probably why this piece took 40 minutes longer than it should have to write - that style is like catnip for me, and Gun Rounds hit the sweet spot.
But as it happens, Gun Rounds came out last week, and is available on Itch.io for £4/$5.