If you're going to ape an arcade classic, you could do a lot worse for source material than 1990's Smash TV, which is arguably one of the greatest arcade shooters of all time. Its premise of an ultraviolent game show in which contestants kill, kill, kill for cash and fabulous prizes was awesome, as was its combination of tough gameplay and fantastic, gory style. A great number of shooters have attempted to borrow the formula over the years, though few have borrowed so liberally, with such meager results, as Cash Guns Chaos. One of the first downloadable games available for the PlayStation 3, Cash Guns Chaos tries to take a funkier, more cartoony approach to the whole violent game show concept, and includes the exact same brand of "left stick moves, right stick shoots" gameplay found in Smash TV. The trouble is that the game's style isn't good. The cheesiness wears thin about three stages in, and the enemy designs are dull. On top of that, there are some bizarre issues with the shooting and stage design that make the game way more frustrating than it ought to be.
The basic setup for Cash Guns Chaos is that aliens, who have learned about our culture exclusively through TV shows of the '70s and '80s, have kidnapped you and are now forcing you to fight through a gauntlet of enemy-filled stages for their amusement. But all is not lost, because with each felled enemy and completed stage, tons of cash and fantastic prizes can be won. Bits and pieces of story are told through some still-shot cutscenes, but the story isn't relevant. It's just a foil to get you shooting lots and lots of bad guys as quickly as possible.
That's all well and good, except that the shooting isn't fun. On a basic level, the gameplay is functional. You move around the arena with the left analog stick, and shoot by pressing the right analog stick in the desired direction. All the while, you'll pick up upgraded weapons, cash and prize bonuses, and even a couple of scattered power-ups. That sounds fine, but the action is boring at best and frustrating at worst. The basic gun you're issued does a decent job of offing the baddies, and the bonus weapons are definitely more powerful, but they're not always any more effective than using the basic gun. Many of the more powerful single-shot weapons are tough to aim, and the rocket launcher is good only for big, honking enemies that don't move very quickly. A few weapons, like the chaingun, seem like legit upgrades, but even they aren't satisfying, simply because the enemies are dull as all get-out to shoot.
Like in any shooter of this sort, you'll run into a variety of bad guys that follow specific attack patterns. Some are bigger and stronger, some are smaller and faster, some fire projectiles, and some have instant-kill attacks (you can take up to three hits before dying in most instances). The real problem is that they aren't interestingly designed. Save for some of the bigger guys, most times you're not even sure what it is you're killing. Some enemies look like beach balls with mouths, or maybe they're just giant eyeballs. It's almost impossible to tell. At the end of each "season" (each of which consists of 15 stages), you fight a boss, which breaks up the monotony a bit. But considering how long it takes to get there, and that there are only three seasons total, there's still a lot of monotony to sift through.
What's more damning is how frustrating the game can get. Smash TV was a difficult, sometimes infuriating game in its day, but it wasn't tough because of a lousy camera or enemies inexplicably spawning right on top of you--problems that Cash Guns Chaos has in spades. The camera is bad simply because there are sections at the bottom of the screen that are almost always totally obscured by the walls of the 3D environment. If an enemy walks through there, odds are you'll run right into it without noticing--unless you're paying attention to the onscreen radar, which you shouldn't have to do. Enemies will also materialize practically right on top of you on a regular basis, some of which happen to be the instant-death enemy types. And if it's not enemies spawning on top of you, it's enemies blending into the backgrounds that you don't notice until it's too late. There's one series of stages where red mushrooms keep popping up out of the ground, frequently in spots where the blood stains of your fallen foes are painted all over the ground. The shades of red are just about identical, leaving you periodically unable to distinguish the enemy from the ground. That's not fun.
Though it's a downloadable game, Cash Guns Chaos still looks unimpressive, especially when you consider it's more than 300 megabytes in size. You play as what looks like a roadie for the Bay City Rollers from 1975, complete with cheeseball mustache, disco clothes, and all. The game is clearly trying to go for an ultra-goofy vibe, with gangly, jaunty-looking character models, excessive blood effects, and layer upon layer of cheese dripping from every stage. But cheesy as it is, it's not funny or amusing at all. Apart from the aforementioned issues with the enemy designs, the stages are mostly flat, square boxes to run around in with some basic theme-world textures swapped in and out, depending on what the theme of that area is supposed to be. It's a Western, so the floor's brown now, get it? The audio is a bit better, though not by a wide margin. The sound effects are the same gun blasts, squishy blood sounds, and explosions over and over again. The soundtrack is made up of a decent roster of punk rock songs from bands you've probably never heard of. And as you play, an announcer screeches over every single moment of the action. This guy sounds like a bad Bootsy Collins impersonator. Mostly he's just content to squeal with delight over how much he loves the big money, big prizes, and all that, but every once in a while he'll toss in some curse words too, clearly for extraneous extreme factor.
It'll take you at least a few hours to bust through Cash Guns Chaos, but you'll be bored to tears not long after you start. The shooting isn't very entertaining, due to the lack of unique or amusing enemies and the variety of gameplay flaws, and the fact that it's totally devoid of any multiplayer support makes it an even worse value, especially considering its $10 price point. It's all well and good to want to pay tribute to a great game like Smash TV, but little of what Cash Guns Chaos does plays like a tribute; it's more like a combo of lack of imagination and poor design.