So that’s what you get if you mix intergalactic pixies in chocolate lingerie with sexually deviant, pun-addicted squid.
Genre: Action, Anime
Developer: Idea Factory, SHADE
Publisher: PQube Limited
Release Date: 1 Nov, 2019
Originally a 2017 Japanese-only PS Vita release, I believe, and out now on Switch, Gun Gun Pixies will be available very soon on Steam for PC, from Idea Factory, SHADE, and PQube Limited. I was lucky enough to get my hands on a pre-release version a little early, so it’s entirely possible that some of the little niggles I mention in this review will be fixed by the time it’s released.
In Gun Gun Pixies, you play the rather enthusiastic Bee-tan and her partner, Kame-pon, pixies in the elite special forces unit, the Commandolls, from the planet Pandemo. Unique amongst their peers, these two pixies have formed a friendship with each other, while the rest of the inhabitants of Pandemo care only for themselves, and put no value on interpersonal relationships. Sent to Earth to collect data on our friendships and emotions, Pixie Team is Pandemo’s best hope for a brighter future.
It’s a Visual Novel
The story continues on its rather odd journey throughout the game, with Pixie Team ending up observing the inhabitants of a girl’s dormitory: initially sisters Misa and Kira, and their older friend Amayo, and later joined by four other students at different points in the story, including two very well-known characters from another of Idea Factory’s game series. As Bee-tan and Kame-pon learn more about the Earth and the girls of Lilypad Dorm, they encounter all sorts of weird goings-on, including happy bullets, a seemingly endless stream of Human-invisible pun-addicted squid, and a crime of galactic proportions!
That said, at times the story seems to lag, and I had to try hard to care about what was going on. I don’t know how many times I had to hear about Amayo’s diet gum, for example, and Kira’s obsession with gluttony competitions was similarly repetitive and largely uninteresting. I get that the developers were probably going for some interesting character development angles, but often I found it a bit boring.
All this is presented in Visual Novel style text sequences, with animated 2D paper-doll style sprites over fixed backgrounds. The script is fully spoken with professional-sounding Japanese voice acting, and the English translated text has obviously been written by someone with a good grasp of the nuances of both languages, though it is sprinkled liberally with grammatical errors and typos — many of which would be picked up by an automated grammar checker. I’m hoping there will be another English editing pass before release.
Backgrounds are well drawn, but due to the relatively small regional scope of the story, are often reused. Character sprites are animated — including some very noticeable and often hilarious jiggle — with multiple expressions and poses. The VN interface is a little bit wonky, and not as full-featured as most modern VN-only games, but it works well enough and it does look suitably “spacey”.
It’s an Action-Platformer
The VN story sequences are interspersed with three-dimensional action-platformer sections, each set in one of the three bedrooms in the dorm. Each room is different, providing more insight into the individual personalities of the girls. You’ll find furniture, toys, books, anime DVDs, computers, and the like, all much larger than life due to Bee-tan and Kame-pon’s diminutive size.
If one of the girls sees or hears you then it’s game over; you’ll have to go back to the start of the current mission stage and try again. If you get injured, either from a girl stepping on you, some part of her aura hitting you, or the squid-things attacking you, your clothes will tear. A second hit will remove them entirely, while a third will be game over. But each room contains multiple feng shui points at which you can repair your clothes, as well as gain a massive multiplier to the force of your happy bullets. Hooray!
Ultimately these sections involve a mixture of stealth, third-person shooting, and traditional platformer-style running and jumping. Goals include such things as shooting different body parts of the dorm girls in order to elicit some endorphin-fuelled thought or action, attacking the squid monsters, reaching certain parts of the rooms to uncover hidden areas or secrets, and collecting coins and the occasional discarded pair of panties.
These action sequences are played from a third-person camera in full 3D, though the rooms themselves are actually rather small — and very repetitive, given that they change very little throughout the game’s eight missions. For the most part, the rooms are well done, but they look a bit too sterile and square, as if not quite enough attention was paid to the models and textures. The same can’t be said of the great character models, though — both huge dorm girls and tiny pixies. These look great and are very well animated. Furthermore, each girl or pixie can be dressed up in a large array of unlockable costumes and lingerie options, including one set made of chocolate.
Mmmmm … chocolate lingerie.
It’s … BATH TIME!
At the end of each set of action sequences for each story mission there’s a pacification stage. This involves shooting the target girl as she works out — doing yoga, running on a treadmill, dancing, or even pole dancing — with the aim of trying to increase her endorphins through happy bullet overload, or something like that. Each body part can only be filled up a certain amount before you have to move on to the next. I suppose her left foot, face, or crotch can only take so much happiness before it becomes numb to the happy bullets?
Once you’ve shot the lucky girl enough she’ll suffer an endorphin explosion and you’ll complete the mission. But before you go on to the next one, Bee-tan will insist that you visit the bathroom and watch the target girl take a bath. Yay!
Once again your goal here is to shoot exposed body parts, only this time your ammo and time are strictly limited, and the body parts drop coins that you can collect. Shoot your girl enough and she’ll change pose, standing, kneeling, or sitting on the edge of the bath and exposing herself further. At this point your pixie can leap on and grab her; twirl the controller sticks and still more coins will fly out.
I admit it’s rather puerile, but also rather titillating — much like the rest of the game — and there’s definitely something to be said for titillation!
It’s not all Puns and Panties
The story mode took me approximately 13 hours to complete. That included one freeze where I had to redo a mission, four or five retries of various stages — some due to some scripting issues where a trigger failed to kick in, others due to me not being great at the game — and a fair bit of running around collecting coins before I realized that I could just redo the bathing scenes in freeplay and earn tens of thousands of coins in the same time it would take me to collect a few hundred during the action scenes. The end game unlocks extra costume and free-play options, but really it’s just more of the same. I can’t help thinking that I want more out of the game, though even at this relatively short length some of the scenes seemed rather long and drawn out. The repeated three bedrooms were a bit disappointing, too; the game could have done with a few more rooms for the 3D sections.
The PC port is currently a little flaky, too, though I expect that to improve by release. Steam Achievements are present but don’t work at all yet. The game starts up in keyboard and mouse mode even when a controller is plugged in, and I had a few issues getting my Xbox 360 wireless controller working at all — though once it was up and running it worked flawlessly. Keyboard and mouse controls are, frankly, terrible, though I believe you can reconfigure them if you can navigate the menu enough to select that option.
There are a few other quality of life issues that annoyed me throughout, too. First, the VN controls don’t seem to be described anywhere, so I had to fiddle about with controller buttons to work out how to auto-play scenes or fast-skip text I’d already seen. Second, there appears to be no way to reach the main menu (including the store and customization options) from many sections in the game. Most of the time when I wanted to quit I’d wait for a save point, then alt-tab and kill the game from the taskbar instead. The same goes for wanting to try out new outfits: it’s often quicker to kill the game and restart than wait for a long VN sequence to play through so I can get to the menu. And third, I noticed often that my pixie’s victory poses for pacification and bathing missions had her almost entirely off the bottom of the screen, with the camera controls frozen. While not a critical issue I did find it a bit disappointing to not be able to take screenshots of these at times.
Gun Gun Pixies is a work of crazy, crazy art and I’m glad I had the opportunity to play it. It’s not the best visual novel I’ve read, nor the best action platformer I’ve played, but it’s a pleasant enough mix of the two, with enough sexual tension to sink a boat and enough yuri innuendo to raise it again. I’d love to see more (oo-er!) of Bee-tan and Kame-pon, just with a bit more variation in what they have to do next time.