It’s obvious from the moment you start Gynoug that this is another release from the same team that recently re-gifted the world Gleylancer, presenting players as it does with the same options using the same interface, just with a different Mega Drive shmup running underneath it all. This is great.
As we mentioned in our other review, the options in Ratalaika Games’ Mega Drive ports are broad, well-executed, and we wish their highly customisable CRT shaders were included as standard with all retro re-releases. Just like before, it’s easier than ever to tailor the game to your own preferences, with the original untouched experience always the default. Want to keep everything the same as always, just without the punishing power-up decay on death? Would infinite lives help you push past that one boss you’ve always struggled with, or do you just need to be able to rewind a few seconds and undo a silly mistake? How about full invincibility for those times you just want to blow things up and enjoy the pixel art? You can access all of these settings and more whenever you like, combining them in whatever way suits you best at the time, as well as turning them on and off as you please.
There’s no all-new remixed version of the game this time around, although as Gynoug doesn’t contain an obvious ‘Wouldn’t it be great if…’ avenue for light rearranging, we’re actually grateful they didn’t try to shoehorn in something new for the sake of it.
The game itself is a side-scrolling shmup well known for its brilliantly gruesome fleshy-industrial tone, with enemies just as likely to be a cluster of screaming faces as they are giant brains leaping on spindly legs or a rivet-covered train with a human face. It’s also famous for being hard in the way many of the very best classic shmups are, with death stripping you of some of your power and use of your limited number of credits unceremoniously dumping you back at the start of the stage. Attacks can and do come from all sides all the time, taking the form of anything from sneaky aquatic attacks from below to high-speed swarms rushing in at top speed.
What sets Gynoug apart is how well balanced it is; there are no ‘gotcha’ moments where death is inevitable because you happened to be at the top instead of the bottom of the screen before a hazard appeared, and bosses can be reliably taken down using nothing more than skill and reflexes. Unfortunately, becoming skilled at Gynoug will take most people a little longer than it used to as no instructions are included; something of a problem with this shmup in particular as there are nine different power-up related items (and that’s counting the eight different spell types — six offensive and two defensive — as one collectable) as well as two separate gauges sitting next to your current score, all unexplained. It’s not an insurmountable issue for anyone with access to Google, but it is an issue and it could have been avoided.
Gynoug hasn’t quite got that special extra spark that turns a great game into a spectacular one, but even so it’s still a unique and thoroughly enjoyable thirty-year-old shmup capable of standing proudly next to any other sold on the eShop, and yet another affordable retro re-release sitting in that perfect middle ground between modern convenience and hardcore authenticity.