In Guns, Gore & Cannoli, players fill the shoes of Vinnie Cannoli, an enforcer for the mob in the 1920s. When Vinnie is sent into Thugtown to locate a person of interest for his employer, he soon finds that circumstances are dire. Zombies and rival gang members are everywhere, and the city is in disarray. With an arsenal of weapons, the agenda is simple enough on paper: shoot everything that opposes you and keep moving forward. This 2D side-scrolling shooter is bloody and irreverent, poking fun at mobster movies – The Godfather in particular – and enduring mafia stereotypes. So does it contain enough action and humor to be worth dusting off your best trench coat and tommy gun, or should you send Guns, Gore & Cannoli off to sleep with the fishes?
You could refer to Guns, Gore & Cannoli as a run-and-gun game, but that doesn't seem like the most accurate way to put it. That's because the gameplay is a bit more stop-and-go than series like Contra and Metal Slug. Movements are somewhat slow and floaty, creating situations where it's challenging to line up your gunfire while avoiding incoming bullets and enemies crowding your personal space. There are other things that can hinder you in these scenarios, as well. Such as: too many weapons to cycle through in the heat of battle, not being able to kick during a jump, frequent weapon reloading, and questionable enemy hitboxes. So where other games of this type succeed by keeping things kinetic and mechanically simple, Guns, Gore & Cannoli has a few quirks working against it.
When you make the effort to adapt to these quirks, however, there is a moderately enjoyable time to be had. Even though we clearly have a handful of criticisms aimed at the core mechanics, that doesn't mean there's not a decent enough game here. In fact, despite a short length and a few steep difficulty spikes when playing alone, there's nothing massively wrong with the campaign. You can shoot in two directions, jump, throw grenades and molotov cocktails, duck, and knock back the enemies that get within biting range. There's nothing spectacular about the means of interaction, as we've just touched upon, but you are given the tools to get the job done.
Throughout the streets, rooftops, and sewers of Thugtown you'll find a variety of enemy types, some of which are only vulnerable in certain parts of their body. This doesn't equate to much more than alternating between standing and ducking while shooting, but it does ensure that you won't just be blasting away mindlessly. There's also a touch of platforming and verticality to endure, and outside of a rooftop area where cheaply falling to your death isn't uncommon, it's integrated in a sensible way that doesn't feel at odds with the mechanics. The only other distinct elements come in the form of boss battles. These aren't anything special, though they do serve as breaks from the norm.
The hand-drawn, cartoony art style helps to distinguish Guns, Gore & Cannoli from its contemporaries. While it would've been nice for there to be more drastic shifts in scenery, the environments are very detailed and generally look good. The character animations aren't as fluid as, say, Ori and the Blind Forest, but they work well with the game's cheesy tone. And that's the thing: the game doesn't take itself seriously. The story doesn't amount to anything memorable in the end, but the humor can occasionally be responsible for a eliciting a chuckle – that is, if you don't mind a bit of parody based on Italian/mobster stereotypes.
If the difficulty ever becomes too much for you, local co-op is the way to go. While the campaign supports up to four players on the same screen, we were only able to test this as a duo. We're happy to report that bringing a partner along for the ride made the game much more enjoyable. With twice the firepower, we were often able to keep the enemies from crowding and overwhelming us. This alleviated some of our aforementioned control gripes because there was less panic, resulting in less clumsiness due to less evasive maneuvering. If reloading didn't occur so frequently, and if the game didn't skip a beat when there's a lot happening on screen (which is often), there wouldn't really be anything too significant to complain about.
For anyone fond of competitive multiplayer antics, there's an arena-based versus mode worked into the mix. Despite not doing anything all that original, this mode can be a lot of fun. Up to four players can get in on the action locally – but if you don't have that many friends or controllers, or if you want to play alone, bots are an option. There are seven maps available, and the time limit, kill limit, weapon types, and AI difficulty can be customized. Regardless of which settings or environment you choose, these battles are chaotic and fast-paced. This mode isn't worth the price of admission alone, especially not with the smorgasbord of arena-based multiplayer games currently on the scene, but it does help to compensate for the brevity of the campaign.
Guns, Gore & Cannoli isn't a game that you need to play, but if you're a fan of side-scrolling shooters and have a few friends and extra Xbox One controllers in your vicinity, it's worth considering. Ultimately, we feel the short length of the campaign and a few mechanical grievances are what keep it from higher praise. It's not a bad game whatsoever, but it's far from being remarkable.