I want you all to know that I came prepared with a bunch of Enter the Gungeon ripoff jokes and now I feel like I owe the developers of this game a small apology.
Let’s be clear, Genetic Disaster owes a lot of itself to the likes of Enter the Gungeon, but equally it is missing (deliberately) some of the bigger roguelite elements that are typical of this genre. Unlike its predecessors, Genetic Disaster has no interest in making things more difficult for you by hiding mechanics. Everything is laid out for you at the start. It’s also much less of a bullet hell.
First things first though. Genetic Disaster is a procedurally generated, top-down, action co-op shooter from Team8 Studio. The co-op is up to four players (local co-op or online, both work fine) and adding a player adds to the difficulty and complexity of the game. The actual gameplay is exactly like Enter the Gungeon. There are four characters, each with its own style and special power (tank, sneak, berserker and panic). It has procedurally generated rooms with spawning enemies and things to break. Your job is to make it through the levels, gathering all the fun guns as you go along. There’s money to pick up and power ups to choose between levels. So far, so Gungeon.
The visuals are beautifully cartoony and character movement on the screen looks great, their gait is just so damn smooth. The design of the characters and areas reminded me quite a bit of Awesomenauts, so if you like that cartoon aesthetic, this will appeal to you.
On our first playthrough, I picked the berserker (because I like to watch the world burn) and the boyfriend picked the panic-er (because its head is a fish in a bowl). We… lasted about two levels before the mansion destroyed us and the screen went comically blank. While there is full support for both keyboard/mouse and controller, many of the prompts on the screen are for the controller. I had to have a quick look at the control settings a few times to get the right corresponding keyboard key. It is all there for you to look at though, so it wasn’t a massive deal. More annoyingly on the character select screen, there are arrows that behave like buttons but clicking on them didn’t do anything. You have to use the arrow keys on your keyboard to scroll through the characters (you’re welcome for that 2 minutes of your life back). Having tried both though, I like the controller just a bit more but it’s really up to personal preference. If you try one and don’t like it, each game it asks you to select what you’re using anyway. You can chop and change as much as you want and either way, the controls of this game are tight!
The big part where Genetic Disaster moves away from games like Enter the Gungeon is luck. While there is some small amount of randomness to the procedural generation, you will always end up with some guns and ammo and health to help you through. With Gungeon, there’s always that chance that you won’t get anything and that your run is failed from almost the get go. Losing in Genetic Disaster also pops you back to the very beginning, you don’t earn and keep guns or items for the next run. For someone who doesn’t really enjoy the time needed to sink into something like Enter the Gungeon, Genetic Disaster was a lighter, easier version to get into and have fun with. I don’t want you to think that this means the game itself is easy though. The removal of some of the more punishing aspects of other roguelites puts this game into more of a fun entry level roguelite shooter, they’re not trying to be (please don’t make me say it) the DARK SOULS OF ROGUELITES (I said it, are you happy?). Our playthroughs have provided plenty of deaths (so much death) and restarts. So while the gameplay mechanics are easier, the game itself still provides a decent challenge.
It was fun alone and it was very fun with friends. Multiplayer added new challenges like little puzzles that can only be navigated together and death was no longer necessarily the end as one of your partners can give up half of one of their heart healths to bring your little ghost back to life. I’m not going to lie, I spent a lot of time as a ghost quite literally badgering my partners character by repeatedly (and annoyingly) bumping into him until he rezzed me. Heh. I do wish they’d add some online matchmaking though. At the moment you must have friends to play with if you want the co-op experience.
Genetic Disaster is a fun little addition to this line of games (if not the actual genre of roguelite). It’s easy to get into and easy to have fun in with its comic visuals and reasonably challenging levels.