Stylized like the classic vertical shoot 'em ups I used to play as a kid, I have to say that Rival Megagun is an incredibly fun, but short, experience. Set in what seems like the future (that I can't tell, but the aliens initially attacked in 2000), the world decides to turn our salvation into a reality show pitting contestants against not only each other but the alien menace. A double whammy version of The Running Man meets Independence Day, I guess? The basis of the game has you choosing a character from the roster, each with their own ship, attack style, and background story as you dive in and compete to win it all in classic shoot 'em up fashion.
Rival Megagun is split into three game modes: story, versus, and online battle. The story itself has you play out the hero's story of taking on the Harvester threat while also fighting against your opponents. Versus will let you play against another human, the CPU, or watch an all-out CPU vs. CPU fight if you desire, and lastly, the online battles operate in a similar fashion same as the versus mode. The story mode, albeit only a handful of levels, is still fun as you work your way through the entire roster before reaching an endgame mode that's essentially one classic shoot 'em up boss fight. The story mode has some fun twists and gameplay to keep you engaged. Both the local and online competitive options have their appeal, but there's only so much ass whuppin' you might be able to dish out (or take in some cases) before you're willing to drop it and move on entirely. For those intent on really getting into the online experience, it is possible to customize your character's loadout and give yourself different attacks.
Now, going back to the mashup aspect of the game - it is your standard affair shoot 'em up where enemies swarm the screen, and it's your job to take them down. But you also need to kill your opponent on their side of the match, but technically you can't shoot them directly. As you eliminate things, you'll chain your attacks and cause little swirly balls to appear on your enemies side. Once your chain ends, all of those swirly balls will turn into additional enemies that spawn against your opponent. While you're destroying enemies, you'll start to charge up power that can be used to trigger a special attack (depends on what you've got selected). Once fully powered, you can transform into a mega gunship that spawns on the opponent's side of the map. That's the only chance you'll get to attack them directly with your super-powered ship.
Do not, for any reason, play this game on a keyboard, especially if you plan to play local multiplayer. The keyboard is virtually split down the middle, with one player handling the left side using the traditional WASD keys, and the second player uses the arrows on the right side. I don't even want to imagine how hard this would be to play with two people on a keyboard, so I recommend sticking to controllers. I used my Xbox One controller and immediately went from "I can't play this well" to finishing several levels rather quickly. It's a night and day difference to have a controller layout over the keyboard.
The look and feel of the game itself reminded me of the over the top 90s shooters where I'd be piloting some crazy ship just blasting everything on-screen. It's got the same frenetic energy with a hundred things occurring at once; your ship maneuvering around, enemies and their projectiles whizzing by, and a crazy background you can just barely make sense of within the maelstrom. And that's only on a little less than half of the screen! The game, from the times I could stop and enjoy what I was watching, just looked great with the retro stylization and pixel animations. There's something to that animation style and the craziness on-screen that seem to make everything mesh perfectly along with the fast-paced, arcade era music.
Rival Megagun, as I said, is a fun experience. For those that played a lot of these types of titles back in the day, it'll draw some serious nostalgia. Even now listening to the music while writing this, it sounds very reminiscent of the 16-bit era. My only major concerns with the game are the keyboard controls (easily fixed by using a controller) and the shortness of it. Like I mentioned earlier, the story mode is excellent, but once you've run through the handful of levels with multiple characters, it loses some of its charm. Sure you can play on harder difficulties, but that's mostly in the form of challenge only so you can collect some more cards. Expect to win some and lose some while playing online, which I hope will continue to have some legs. I was able to find matches quickly, but it's hard to judge what the community will look like in 6 months to a year.Note: Rival Megagun was reviewed on PC. A digital copy of the game provided by the publisher.