Grand Theft Auto popularized a style of comedic edginess that a lot of other games want in on. Gangster Granny makes the effort by borrowing that GTA staple of killing cops and expanding it into an entire game. Also, you play as an old woman because that’s funny, right? The result is a short, basic, and fundamentally playable shooter that, on the surface, is competently designed and technically fine. However, on deeper consideration, Gangster Granny’s lackadaisical adherence to some of modern gaming’s worst conventions raises it to insulting heights.
The “story” is that this violent grandmother breaks out of prison and proceeds to make her way to a bank to pillage the vault. Along the way, she murders countless security guards, police officers, and SWAT team members. The game’s premise was clearly not meant to be heavily considered. The fact of the matter is that Granny’s behavior immediately crosses over the line from gangsterdom to psychopathy.
Regardless of plausibility, the best thing Gangster Granny has going for it is that it’s extremely playable. Considering how often games seem to struggle with how to properly utilize the touch screen, Granny effortlessly manages a competent third-person action control scheme. Swiping the left side of the screen moves up, down, and strafes. Swiping the right side looks. Tap an icon on the right to fire your weapon. The controls are smooth and take no time getting accustomed to.
The game also looks good. The graphics aren’t anything unique, but it’s all well-rendered, cartoony 3D characters and environments. Granny and the cops she murders are animated well enough (aside from the occasional glitches of a cop blinking in and out of existence or instances where, after a cop keels over, he gets stuck in the air briefly) and there’s even a creepy effect of dead bodies dissipating into red particles. Following Granny’s path from the prison to the outside world to the bank, each level introduces a new environment, with some nice details peppered throughout each, such as desks littered with paperwork at the bank or various shrouded corpses at a morgue.
The sound, at least on the music side of things, is high-quality stuff, too, sounding like the funk soundtrack to a ‘70s action flick. However, there are only four tracks and for the majority of the game you’ll only hear two of them. One is shockingly catchy, but it’s still easy to get tired of both. The sound effects are less good. Mostly you’ll be hearing gunfire and explosions, which is fine enough, but you’ll also get quips from Granny (who has an accent of unknown origin). She rattles these off more than regularly, so you’ll hear them all pretty quickly, after which they’re just annoying.
The truly obnoxious thing about Granny is that it’s got a perfectly solid engine and it does nothing of worth with it. You just spend nine levels running around murdering cops until you reach the exit. This is only varied up slightly by instances when you must avoid security lasers that result in instant death if tripped. Even the few bosses in the game require no strategy other than unloading tons of bullets into them.
A disease of modern gaming, Granny holds your hand throughout. Your gun auto-aims at enemies, health automatically refills, checkpoints are plentiful, an objective in the top-right constantly tells you what to do, and an icon shows you at all times where to go next. The levels are well-designed but exploring outside of your objectives is unnecessary. Usually, extra hallways just lead to areas that will unlock later, forcing you to backtrack to activate three emergency power switches to start an elevator or collect tanks of propane to blow through a wall. You occasionally find bags of money, but they seem to spawn randomly and you earn cash just by killing cops anyway.
The money is used to buy weapons from a store you can access at any time. This is where the IAPs show up. Weapons only unlock after a certain number of kills, but you can unlock them earlier with real money. You also lose all purchased weapons whenever you die, unless, again, you pay real money, in which case you can own weapons permanently. However, the game is so easy that, though it’s tedious, taking down the endless droves of cops with just the default pistol is pretty doable. And once you unlock the shotgun, you can just keep buying ammo for it and do more than fine.
Gangster Granny subtlety embodies many of the great evils of the current gaming generation. It’s a perfectly functional, but completely unambitious “edgy” distraction, shuttling you between objectives and tossing out waves of mindless, easily-dispatched enemies, all the while (half-heartedly) hoping you’ll give it more money. Though Granny is engaging to the extent that it worked fine and held my attention for its roughly two-hour running time, I’d take a more experimental game with greater flaws any day over this rote garbage. One of the lines Granny spouts the moment she’s at a standstill is “This is boring.” You said it, Grandma.