It took me a long time to work out how to deal with doors. And with corridors that had a kink in them. And with the elevator that lets me out on each floor, beckoning me to slaughter with a cheery ding. Bunker Punks looks and moves a lot like Doom, and it turns out that you have to remember what that means: you have to remember the Doom Jitterbug that sees you through, always dancing to the left, to the right, always aware that bullets so slow-moving you can actually back away from them can still do you in real nice.
This is Bunker Punks, and it’s as clever as Doom was too. No map, so you have to keep tabs on where you’ve been through the oily splatter left by the robotic corpses in your wake. A huge health bar that disappears in greedy gulps, so you have to balance your impulse to snag the fast-vanishing loot that foes drop – bullets, meds, a couple of kinds of credits – with the ravaging that moving too quickly into unknown territory will doubtless cause you. Running out of ammo is a big deal here. Being forced to drop your assault rifle for a shotgun is a big deal here. Within five minutes, I could tell you about every type of enemy robot I’d encountered – the get-in-close-and-zappers, the ground-drones, the get-in-close-and-exploders – and I could give you a basic strategy on how to deal with them. This is Bunker Punks, and it’s pretty brilliant so far.
It’s the future, of course – hence the robots – and you’re waging war against a corporate government. You do this by raiding facilities, smashing your way through waves of nasty electronic baddies, and making it from one elevator to the next. It strikes me that Bunker Punks, in this capacity at least, is the weird younger brother to Invisible, Inc. A wayward younger brother, all scrappy violence and no wasting time on tactics. But that’s not quite right. In Bunker Punks you do have time for tactics, you just have to decide on them before the elevator door opens and then stick with them no matter what.
In between raids you get to spend your credits, building out your bunker with rooms like infirmaries and shooting ranges. In truth, these amount to sets of perks and upgrades: infirmaries allow you to boost your ability to heal during combos, perhaps, or start out with more HP in the first place. Shooting ranges improve your damage rates with specific weapon types. It’s simple, but it’s very satisfying, as is the overworld map that links together sets of raids, leading you to a final confrontation. A bit of choice in the route, just enough to keep it interesting.
Even with this, Bunker Punks is a blur: a blur of upgrades, loot and unlockable characters, a blur of corridors, arenas, treasure chests and wobbling robots that can’t wait to do you in. Last time I went on a raid I found a new enemy – a sort of jet-black robotic hellhound who races straight at me and seemed to have a heck of a health bar. I’m working on a strategy for that guy right now. Hope to have it pinned down the next time I meet him. Or maybe the time after that.
Bunker Punks is launching on Steam Early Access on Wednesday. It’s a lot of fun but here’s a very useful tip: I could only exit each elevator if I brought up the options menu first, to allow my mouse cursor to start working again.