Frag With Friends on Gun Bros for iPhone

Each time we look at Apple’s top app ranking, we see more developers making visible use of Apple’s Game Center. The latest application we’ve found to make strong use of these social elements is Gun Bros, top-down, shoot-em-up style game from Glu.

Similar to a recently reviewed app from Half Brick, Age of Zombies, Gun Bros is a digital spoof on 1980s action flicks. Filled with mindlessly entertaining gun-and-run mechanics, coupled with asynchronous social play, it’s a fun time to be had for the all-encompassing price of $0. Of course, as a free app, it relies both on virtual currency and advertisement, which, while it attempts to be unobtrusive, got itself in the way of play rather often.

Players control one of the two gun brothers as part of F.R.A.G.G.E.D., or the Freakishly Rugged Advanced Galactic Enforcement Division, as they gun down wave after wave of cybernetic-looking baddies. Controlled via two digital analog sticks, the game feels fairly fluid, with lack of tactile feedback becoming a problem only rarely.

As players take down enemies — with the help of their non-player Gun Bro — increasingly difficult waves will begin to appear ranging from boss style enemies, to gun touting troopers, to self-repairing robots. Additionally, with a pair of planets available (and more being added over time) and unlockable stages of difficulty called “Revolutions” there is a respectable amount of challenge that helps to mitigate game play stagnation.

In addition to enemies, different levels also incorporate various environmental aspects to help the user out when things get tough. Sometimes, these can be simple objects such as exploding barrels (which take a surprising amount of damage to trigger) to area of effect weaponry that can slow down all enemies on screen.

What makes the game more interesting, is that as players complete waves, they receive multipliers that augment the amount of income they receive. This “income” is dubbed “Xplodium”, and can be converted to in-game currency after the player has died. This currency has its own mechanic, as players can convert it instantly, or purchase (for either in-game coin or the virtual currency War Bucks) Xplodium refineries that will take anywhere from five minutes to 24 hours to convert the resource with a higher coin exchange rate (e.g. the 24 hour refinery has a 500% return).

This is particularly useful, as players utilize this income to purchase and upgrade their character’s armor and defense with snazzy new threads that augment speed, defense, or attack power, as well as every weapon under the rainbow, from simple machine guns to oversized ordinance like the “WTF7000.”

Also available for purchase are in-game power-ups that can be activated mid-mission to bail the player out of tight spots. These include dramatic defense, health, and damage boosts.

The real gem of Gun Bros, however, is the social element called the “Brotherhood.” When users are logged into the Game Center, they can access the Bros of any of their friends, regardless of their level. From here, they can play through the various waves with their friends’ characters and make use of their arsenals to help progress faster. Additionally, whenever a friends makes use of one’s avatar, that avatar will also earn a small amount of experience and bonus rewards (though such rewards are only earned once per day). Unfortunately, since the Game Center doesn’t play nice with older generation iPhones, — which can’t support iOS 4.1 — not everyone will be able to make use of this feature.

As for the style of this game, everything feels like a spoof of 1980s action movies (e.g. Rambo), and is tailored specifically for the male demographic. From ridiculously huge guns, to hyperbolically worded instructions, to buxom, bikini clad women holding missiles, it’s a game that knows who it’s targeting.

The biggest problem with Gun Bros is the ubiquitous advertising. On a number of occasions, these bugged out from their little banner spot and into the middle of the menu screens, effectively obscuring half the screen.

Nevertheless, when Gun Bros is working properly, it’s a good bit of fun. Of course, without an iPhone that can support iOS 4.1, the Game Center features can’t be utilized and the game’s full potential can never be reached. All the same, it is a free app and a good amount of fun for guys looking for something social to do other than farming. It may not be Call of Duty, but it’s a good time killer all the same.