When folks in the media attend a show like PAX East, a lot of time before the show is spent fielding emails about making appointments. And with a distinct lack of huge AAA publishers at the 2022 edition, tons of room was left to make new discoveries. For my first PAX I took on way more appointments than I should’ve, but if I hadn’t done that I wouldn’t have seen games like Uragun. From Polish studio Kool2Play, Uragun is a twin-stick shooter that looked basic from a distance but infested my brain with worms the moment I played it.
I took the Uragun appointment mostly because the “you’re a gun” gag hit me in my dad bones the right way. But the actual premise is neat! You control a mech that operates on AI software, but still had a pilot. But as the game starts the human race is nowhere to be seen, causing our hero much concern (especially since killer machines are still rampaging). So as the player you have to refit the mech with all its equipment, then go on a globetrotting tour of destruction while investigating the mystery of “where humans go?” Mechs as extensions of the body or emotionally weaved into humanity is always a cool theme and Uragun seems to have a lot of heart.
This game is in Early Access, and during my stay at PAX not only did I have a great time with Uragun on the show floor I went back to my room and ran through the entire rest of the available build. I don’t usually do that kind of thing, you know? But I was hooked, and a big part of that is because of how purely good Uragun feels to play. When a game, especially an action game, manages to all but erase the bridge between your brain and controller you know you’re having a good time.
Uragun comprises a mix of weapon upgrades, meter management and motion bursts that was constantly changing throughout my two-ish hours of overall time. Your mech gets two main weapons, and two “Heat” moves that consume a meter built by dealing damage. There’s a cooldown-driven dash move and a self-heal that takes the same “heat” meter. There are also some passive abilities you can equip, such as making the dash deflect bullets or giving you a speed boost at low health.
As a developer introduced me to Uragun he described the combat flow as a “dance,” and I have to say that’s actually accurate. Because of the way the dash works, the cooldown on your weapons and the way your other abilities impact motion it felt like I was constantly moving. And not just moving haphazardly, but often reacting to enemies charging in groups which usually took on a circular pattern. My job was to stay one step ahead, boosting over gaps and through enemy fire while keeping tabs on my heat meter and creating my own openings to punish.
This all sounds like an arcade-style experience on paper, but it really doesn’t feel that way. The levels are small, but deliberately designed with scenarios that let you take your time to manage. There are a few hidden collectibles in each stage, and replaying is more about filling those out than score-chasing. The whole experience felt like a fairly linear narrative, and I was always more interested in seeing what’s next instead of perfecting individual stage runs.
Uragun looks like a videogame in kind of a textbook sense, as an isometric robot shooter with lots of noise and weapon upgrades. But it’s way more thoughtful and intricate than that, and seems to have its own story to tell on top. I was legitimately bummed out when I hit the end of the Early Access build, and am definitely on the edge of my seat waiting for more Uragun. Despite being one of the biggest question marks on my calendar, Uragun ended up being the surprise banger of PAX East 2022.