The rhythm shooter has quite suddenly become a live prospect, an interesting ecological niche in the chaotic jungle of the indie FPS. Fronted mainly by BPM: Bullets Per Minute and Metal: Hellsinger, this sub-genre fuses the workhorse classic of a shooter with the hectic beat-matching of rhythm games. Gun Jam is a new challenger in this space, one which replaces grimdark hellishness with a bright, sci-fi aesthetic. Unfortunately, it is fatally undercooked and becomes tiresome very quickly.
Developed and self-published by Jaw Drop Games, Gun Jam is a very slender product. It has no campaign to speak of, but is instead a pure arena shooter that recalls Ziggurat and Impaler. There are three arenas: one each for the easy, medium, and hard difficulty modes. There is also a single checkpoint stage, which requires rooms to be cleared within a time limit. Each stage has a small safe zone at the start; once the player leaves this, the chosen song begins and so too does the battle.
The main fatal flaw of Gun Jam is that the gunplay is deeply underwhelming. The handful of weapons each correspond to a specific cue that rises towards the aiming reticle. This means that the shotgun, rifle, machine-gun, and grenade launcher can only be fired when the correct cue appears. This is problematic, because switching weapons is a large part of what makes shooters interesting, and Gun Jam eliminates this decision entirely. Being forced to use the shotgun, for example, while all the current enemies are far away, gets old really quickly.
The weapons and enemies alike are very bland. The dayglo foes mostly lumber around slowly, and offer little challenge or interest to gun down. Worse, there are often lengthy lulls in the action, even at times when a song’s intensity is high. When using the included soundtrack, the rhythm element of the action can be mildly engaging, but Gun Jam struggles to link up correctly with imported custom tracks. Often, there is barely any connection between a chosen song and the on-screen shooting cues. When Gun Jam doesn’t work correctly as a rhythm game, all that is left is a totally underwhelming arena shooter.
Gun Jam feels desperately unfinished. Other games have proven that rhythm shooters can work, but as it stands Jaw Drop Games offer nothing here that hasn’t been done to a far superior level elsewhere.