Brandon Boyer

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I’m not one given easily to bold hyperbole, but I’m about to let loose here: Samurai Gunn, the latest game from Beau ‘Teknopants‘ Blyth, is easily the best local-multiplayer game I’ve played since those halcyon days of our youth huddled around a Nintendo 64.

Like Fernando Ramallo and David Kanaga’s Panoramical, Gunn became an instant, unofficial favorite at this year’s Fantastic Arcade, brought to town and urgently pressed upon us by JW & Rami of Vlambeer, who ended up convincing Arcade coordinators to host the world’s first official tournament of the game.

0Space, Blyth’s freeware arena shooter (still available for download & purchase here) was met with similar high praise from most indie devs I came across in 2011, but it’d never fully clicked with me — something about its plodding zero-grav pace (admittedly key to keeping its battles more cerebral) left me slightly too impatient.

All that’s gone with Gunn, whose 2-4 player matches are as quick, clean and concise as the centuries of sword-play mastery that inspired it, as you can see for yourself in video of the tournament winning match below, between indie devs Evan Balster and Terry Cavanagh (be sure to switch to 720 or 1080p mode to better pick out pixel precision).

The gist is simply this: each player has a sword and (as you might’ve guessed) a gun, loaded with only three bullets per life. Bullets can be deflected with well-timed swings of the sword, and sword-strikes themselves can be parried, suddenly (and deeply satisfyingly) throwing both players quickly backwards. The rounds are battles to 10 kills, and any non-winning players who have a kill-count near 10 will trigger a lightning-round-type & gloriously-staged swords-only sunset showdown to determine the true victor.

Stages range from thick bamboo forests, all of which can be chopped down to reveal the rocky outcropping beneath and provide platforms for attack, to pure, barren, vertically-looping chasms of stone, all that of which can be sharpened with sword strikes to create sharp traps to catch and wound careless players.

And careful play is Samurai Gunn at its best: unlike Smash Bros‘ frenzied free-for-all brawls, the most memorable matches in Gunn are the ones where players more or less role-play as the Kurosawa characters that have defined what we think of as samurai — still, silent, allowing opponents to move in for the kill before throwing perfectly timed, razor-sharp moves that slice them down before they know what hit them.

Gunn is still a good distance out from final release, and thus far has only been publicly shown a very small handful of times, but keep a keen lookout for it as it draws nearer — it’s perfectly placed to go down as one of indie games’ greatest.

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