Fun Gun Awards: the laser gun from Lastronaut

title-screen

[~600 words]

The Fun Gun Award™, is an award given to video game guns that aren’t necessarily effective, don’t necessarily give a player any tactical advantage, but which have creative behavior, unique design, and are fun to use. These guns might suck, they might be overpower, they might be unbalanced, but they’re so fun that I want to use them over and over.

I remember playing a small mobile game a while back called Lastronaut (by Darrin Henein and Stephan Leroux) and there was one particular weapon that I really enjoyed using: the Multilaser (although I don’t believe any of the weapons have official names, you just pick them up and use them).

Lastronaut is a very small, simple game. Your character automatically runs across the screen and the only thing you have control over is jumping and shooting. Enemies, missiles, and mines fly at you from the right side of the screen and you have to shoot them or avoid them by jumping.

There’s only five weapons: the shotgun, the machine gun, the flamethrower, the homing missiles, and the multilaser gun.

missiles

The homing missiles are fun in and of themselves as they spin and spiral around the screen trying (but sometimes failing) to hit their target. I could probably give them a fun gun award as well, but I just feel like talking about the lasers today.

Basically, the lasergun simultaneously shoots every single item on the screen with multiple bright pink laser beams. Enemies, mines, fire hydrants, mailboxes, whatever, they all get blasted all at once.

double-lasers

What’s nice about this is that you don’t have to aim your attacks. Since other weapons all shoot straight forwards they require you to jump as a way to aim at incoming enemies. Even with the rockets their erratic homing mechanic means that the best way to hit your target is to jump and fire when you’re aligned with it. However, the lasers hit everything on the screen regardless of how you’ve positioned yourself or where those targets are. (Despite this, it is not the best gun in the game, which I’ll get to in a bit.)

With the lasers, positioning doesn’t matter, only timing matters. With the lasers you only have to be mindful of “when” not “where”.

Adding to this timing aspect of the laser’s game design is its overheating. Now, most guns in this game overheat if you fire them continuously. But, their cooldown is very short so even if you overheat you can quickly start shooting again. The downside with the laser is that it overheats after every shot, and its cooldown is slower than any other gun.

jumping

 

This makes timing even more important for the laser since you’re defenseless for a period of time. (Whereas with other guns you can perpetually be jumping and shooting and be relatively safe.)

All of this creates a different experience and rhythm compared to the other guns, but it is an experience that is nevertheless very satisfying. Visually it looks satisfying, and it also feels satisfying playing with it.

blows-up

(By the way, most play sessions last less than a minute, but getting a screenshot of the actual laser in action took half an hour because of how briefly it appears on the screen; I couldn’t even manage to get a good shot of more than two lasers on the screen at once.)

laser-hydrant

I often found myself avoiding weapon pickups when wielding the laser gun because I enjoyed it so much and didn’t want to lose it. You start each play session with a random weapon, and I would often quit and restart the game until I got the laser gun because I enjoyed it so much (my biggest complaint about the game is that you can’t choose which weapon to start with).

The multilaser is definitely not the best weapon in the game (that would be the flamethrower and the machine gun) and it may even be the worst (since you’re defenseless when it overheats), but it’s definitely the one I had the most fun with.

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