Developer: Shotgun Surgeons | Publisher: Shotgun Surgeons | Release Date: 2016 | Genre: Action / Platformer / Indie | Purchase: Steam
Rot Gut opens with what appears to be a murder followed by two thugs making off with the corpse of the poisoned victim. It is then revealed that the main character has witnessed everything going down and he sets off after the villains. Well, that’s our assumption as the game doesn’t’ feature any sort of speech or even dialog. According to the Steam page players take control of an agent who goes on a mission to fight the city’s underground during the 1920’s prohibition in America, but none of this really matters.
The budget price tag of Rot Gut should be the first clue that it is not some lavish triple-A product, but a rather short indie game. It takes the form of a platformer where the protagonist jumps through levels blasting everyone. There are only three levels in the game and on average these took us between three and five minutes to complete. Two bosses also make a halfhearted appearance, but they can be disposed of just as quickly and easily as their cronies. This results in a game that any halfway decent player should be able to complete in under 30 minutes without ever dying.
Visually, Rot Gut looks like a forgotten Gameboy game with its pixel art visuals and noir color palette. To break up the monotony of the black and white visuals there are a few splashes of color, such as the golden coins you can collect, the red blood that splatters when you shoot enemies, and the glowing tip of the cigar your character takes out of his mouth. The levels are spread across gloomy locations like docks and cellars while enemies appear to be standard goons who are all totting different types of weapons. If they manage to hit you enough times with these weapons to begin depleting your health bar, which is as long as the screen, by the way, you’ll also see a red vignette obscuring your vision. However, the game is not only easy but also so generous with health kits that this was a rare sight for us. There is no way to adjust any type of visual elements and the game has a square aspect ratio with black borders on the side when played on an HD monitor.
Completing a level in Rot Gut is as easy as finding the exit and killing everyone in the way is optional. Shooting enemies does reward you with coins, though, which can be spent on the vending machines that also dot the levels. These provide players with health kits or ammo, but players can also gamble on the “mystery” vending machines that spit out random rewards at lower costs. Sometimes you’ll get back a single coin for your five-coin investment, but most of the time they are quite generous with ammunition and health kits.
Players have access to three types of weapons, which range from a pistol with infinite ammo to a shotgun and machine gun. To be honest there’s not a lot of finesse involved in the shooting either. Enemies walk back and forth along platforms until players show up and put them out of their misery with a barrage of bullets. The actual shooting involves either jumping over enemy bullets while returning fire or just standing your ground and hoping your health bar depletes slower than theirs. The abundance of health kits makes either option viable and we completed the game without a single death using a combination of the two methods.
One of the highlights of Rot Gun is the soundtrack, which is filled with some jazzy sounding chiptunes. The sound effects are decent too, although the guns are a little loud compared to the other effects. Rather disappointing for a platformer is the fact that Rot Gut has no controller support. Instead, players can choose between using the arrow keys or WASD keys for moving the protagonist. There is also a dedicated key for shooting while jumping can be done via a separate button or by pressing “Up” or “W.” It is never explained why, but the protagonist can also perform a double jump by pressing the jump button twice. Finally, players can press “Down” or “S” to switch between the different weapons available.
Overall, Rot Gut reminded us of a Shareware title from the nineties, and even with the low price tag, it felt way too short. The lack of any type of options is also rather disappointing as the game doesn’t even have a “Quit” option. The gameplay is decent enough, even though we hated the fact that it is impossible to see what is below your character before jumping down a gap. If the game wasn’t so generous with its health bar it might have been a bigger issue, but it is still annoying. Rot Gut can also easily be completed in a single sitting and the only reward for doing so is the option to restart the game, but keep all the coins that you have amassed. With a few more levels, more bosses, and perhaps the option to select your difficulty Rot Gut could have been a good game. As it is, though, it is a mildly amusing distraction that we can only recommend to players looking for a short game with a small price-tag. Players looking for something with depth, challenge or replayability are better off elsewhere.