Gore is a strange thing in the world of entertainment. It has become an entire genre of its own, as anyone who has watched Tokyo Gore Patrol or SAW can tell you. Games are rife with the stuff, and these days it is even played off for comedic effect. The fact is that as time has gone by, we have become more and more desensitized to gore and viscera to the point where there are some games that base their entire core concept around the stuff. Enter Guts and Glory, a gore-fest of a comedy driving game with more red in it than a bull’s nightmare.
Guts and Glory is a 3D comedy driving game from HakJak games and was successfully kickstarted for PC back in late 2016. Now it’s finally making its way to console, and it’ll be interesting to see how their first game will fare in the world of mandatory controller use and a lack of creative tools. Guts and Glory was published by tinyBuild Games, the company famous for developing No Time to Explain and publishing a slue of indie games over the past 5 years.
Guts and Glory has a lot in common with the browser-based driving game Happy Wheels, for better or for worse. They both focus on a ton of obstacle-themed levels with a variety of different characters in different vehicles, and they both have user-created levels, at least on PC. This, in fact, is the first real issue with this console port, it has been completely castrated by the removal of user-based levels that added so much variety to the PC original.
That is not to say that the game is bad on console, just that it is decidedly more lacklustre than the PC version. There are a decent number of levels on display here, but as they were all produced by the developer, it loses some of the borderline insane things that the user base has spent the last 2 years coming up with. It is somewhat baffling that some console version of the level creator couldn’t be implemented, but perhaps the task of hosting all of the user levels for consoles was too great for the solo independent developer.
Most of the controls of the game are pretty obvious. You can accelerate and reverse (go figure), you have a turbo button, and because it’s a comedy game, you can rotate yourself in the air to fit between thin gaps and avoid some of the dangers on the tracks. You also have the infinite ability to turn on a temporary slow-mo mode, which can be useful in avoiding some obstacles. While this slow-mo mode is infinite, it doesn’t slow down the timer, so if you’re going for the best time possible, you might want to limit your use of it.
The main crux of the game is making it through the levels by passing all of the checkpoints on the track. In between each checkpoint, there is a variety of obstacles from ramps to buzz-saws, as well as a variety of turrets and cannons that constantly shoot at you as you go. For the most part, dealing with these buzz-saws and ramps simply requires fine control of the different vehicles, but the cannons are an exercise in frustration. They shoot cannonballs at you with such force that avoiding them in anything slower than the motorbike is basically dumb luck, and that wouldn’t be so bad if the motorbike was anywhere near controllable.
As you can probably tell, the vehicle types control very differently, and some of them only have the loosest interpretation of what ‘controls’ actually are. The couple of riders on a bike are probably the easiest to control, but their lack of speed makes certain levels difficult, and let’s not even talk about the pain of trying to control the other bike which has a trailer attached to its rear wheel, which might as well be a joke character. You also have access to a variety of different standard vehicles, like the sedan with a family in it, a red-neck driven quad and the pickup truck with 3 Mexican passengers.
The best, or at least most fun, characters are the hobo scientist in his flying lawn chair and the little kid riding a futuristic hoverboard. They both have flying controls, and because of this you can usually power through most of the levels they are available for. Unfortunately, most levels have them unavailable, possibly out of some misguided sense of fair play. It is easily the most enjoyable experience to send a small child careening across an open field, only to have him go flying into the sunset because he hit a slight bump in the path.
While succeeding in the levels is difficult, it is supposed to be just as fun to fail when you’re treated with your character’s limbs and internal fluids flying across the landscape. The main issue with this is that while it is at least mildly entertaining to watch a severed head fly directly into a fan blade, it only really draws a laugh the first 20 or so times you see it. You’re likely to see the same sort of death several hundred times on some of the harder levels, so get ready to be super fed up of hyper-violence more than you were forced to watch A Clockwork Orange on repeat for a full year.
Compounding the problem is the fact that the time it takes to reload after a death is a bit too long. It usually lasts only a few seconds, but in a game where you can die quite often, it starts to feel like an ice age. Take the competitor Happy Wheels, for instance. In that game you die just as often on the same levels, if not more, but because the reload times are practically instantaneous, it doesn’t feel like much of a roadblock. You can be straight back up on your Segway and ready to try the level again. In Guts and Glory, the time you end up having to wait for reality to pop back in turns each death into a massive hurdle to overcome. It doesn’t help that the game can glitch and get you killed as soon as you load back in at times.
The graphics in the game are nowhere near to high fidelity, but it hardly matters. Graphics do not make a game a good game (take note, Crytek), and the graphics are stylized enough to look pleasant, and the gore is cartoonish enough that any passing minors won’t be scarred for life. You also get some minor customisation in the form of hats you can equip your driver with, which I’m sure we can all agree is a much needed feature that hasn’t been pointlessly shoehorned into many games to their detriment over the past 10 years.
The final question of this review has to be: “Is Guts and Glory fun?” Well, at least it’s easy to decide that the answer is a solid “yes”. While the missing components and gameplay niggles in the console version do make it strictly worse than the PC version, the central gameplay is still a lot of fun. While you can easily get stuck on an annoying level, there is always the option to skip the level you’re struggling with, even if that will annoy those trying to get all of the achievements. At the end of the day, the game is a whole ton of cartoonishly gory fun, but for it to really shine on consoles, those user levels really need to be included in some way.
Developer: HakJak Productions
Publisher: tinyBuild Games
Platforms: PC, Xbox One, PS4, Switch
Release Date: 19th July 2018
Want more cartoonish fun? Check out our review of Sausage Sports Club here.
You can check out more information on Guts and Glory here.