To be born in a cloud of dust, to die in an explosion of blood - this is the way of the Samurai. Oh, and to do all of that very quickly, too. Samurai Gunn is a game about little else, really: you spawn, you fight, you fall, and then you spawn again - and fall again.
This is hectic and hilarious and exhausting, in other words, and it's also very clever with its focus. Each of four potential players in Teknopants' long-awaited 2D arena fighter gets thrown into battle with a sword and a gun. The sword takes care of close-up combat and you can swing it around as much as you like - strike back, forwards, up and down while you seek to thread steel through your enemy's flesh. The gun, though, comes with just three bullets. Fire them all and then it's click-click-click - a gorgeously animated puff of smoke accompanying the fall of a hammer on an empty chamber and the inevitable death that follows. Inevitable because you screwed up - because you forgot to keep count.
Throw in a jump and a wall-jump and a cluster of compact, platform-ridden stages complete with wraparound drops and you've got the basics of Samurai Gunn: kill everyone, or kill everyone who isn't on your team, and try to avoid getting killed in return. You can play local versus or local co-op against AI. You can even tackle the AI by yourself if you want single-player, but while it's quite good AI - skittery and convincingly human in its dithering, its lucky strikes - this is a multiplayer game at heart. It's a game about cleaving your friends in two, forcing them to waste their bullets, and popping from the woodwork when they least expect it - striking from the roof, from beneath the floor, lunging out of the bamboo and finishing everyone off without a movement wasted. It's a button masher on occasion, and a little of the frantic, haphazard brilliance of the mashing has entwined with the elegance of movement and death-dealing.