Really Shooter and his mother Poor Mama are running a cleaning service business, with Really taking commando jobs on the side. One day, aliens invade (!) and Really doesn’t hesitate for one second, he heads over to their mother ship and begins to mow down the invading forces with his trusty machine-gun. And of course, as usual it is up to Mama to clean up the mess after him.
It would appear that while Marco Rossi is out toppling General Morden time again and again, his brother Really Shooter is stuck back at home helping his mother run her cleaning business. With a style strongly inspired by Nazca's Neo-Geo hit, Metal Slug, Ludosity Interactive's Mama & Son - Clean House is a silly yet surprisingly inspired take on the age old run-and-gun.
Mama & Son is a wonderful game which works best with two players since the game is entirely designed around the unique gameplay of Really Shooter and Poor Mama. Really is capable of shooting everything that moves with his gun, which expels ammunition at a startling rate. This is where Mama comes in, sweeping up after her son, pushing ammo with her broom into the recycle bin(s) found on each level. When the bin's meter is filled, it dispenses an ammo crate which will allow Really to reload. It is important that Mama help keep Really's weapon stocked with bullets, because his weapon is the sole means of her protection from the hordes of mechanical kangaroo aliens which flood each level. While Really has unlimited lives, Mama has but one to herself, and if she is allowed to take too many hits and perish, it's game over for the both of them. Thus, the two players must work as a team, with Really shooting down the alien marsupials for points but also to protect his mother, who in turn keeps him well fed with ammo and whose lifeline preserves her son's killing spree.
The dual distinctive roles make for a creative and fun dynamic. Each level is confined to a single screen, and the goal beyond simple progression is to score as many points as possible. This is second nature to Really, since he simply needs to do his job in blowing up all threats on a given level, but Mama has to scrub away the carbon explosion marks on the walls to get hers. Unfortunately for Mama, scrubbing puts her at risk as she must stand stationary in front of the filth to rub it out, a delayed process which leaves her vulnerable to any alien nearby coming her way. Though Mama herself is surprisingly tough and can take a number of hits, later stages pour more and pour kangaroos from their warp hole spawn points, making survival tougher as the game goes on. Clean House does lack a timer, so it is completely possible to have Really take out all but one of the threats and allow Mama to clean up at her leisure. I would have liked to have seen something to prevent such a tactic in the main "story" game -- it's a moot issue in the "survival" mode, as the threats are endless and the duo will never get such a break.
High scores in both modes of play are stored locally, but global leaderboards are available for survival. The game does well in notating if the score was accomplished in single player, two-player, or "hard core" more, but they're all lumped together regardless of the conditions, something I wish Ludosity Interactive would have avoided seeing how the game is geared for two-players. Single player mode allows players to alternate roles not unlike Treasure Treasure did, but Clean House needs an AI for the other inactive player given all of the enemies, and the computer doesn't exactly make the best of decisions. I found myself sticking with Mama most of my games to ensure her survival, something I could not rely on the AI to do. A challenging fix is found in the game's "hard core" mode which allows one controller to control both characters using the analog sticks, shoulder buttons, and triggers. Seeing as Mama only jumps and Really only jumps and shoots, it's a feasible control scheme but requires a split focus I and I suspect others just cannot handle. Mama & Son - Clean House really needs a proper on-line component, because as wonderful as the game certainly is, a lot of that magic is lost playing alone, encumbered by stiff and challenging single-player control schemes.
I suspect the Developer didn't bother with on-line play because the game is rather short. The "story" mode takes Mama and son through just ten levels. While this is fine for the style of arcade play and enjoyment to be had, it goes by so quickly. Having kangaroos be the sole enemy faced prior to the closing boss fight might deter others as well. It's a terrific looking game -- the animation of the cast is excellent, and the artwork is superb -- but it definitely would have been nice to see some variety in enemy types beyond palette swaps. With the game divided into three acts, there certainly seems to be room to have some diversity here. Even then, Ludosity has stumbled upon a successful formula here which needs to be played to be believed. Mama & Son - Clean House is a definite winner, because while it may not cater to everyone's interests, it succeeds beyond expectations in bringing something new to the genre everyone should experience and enjoy.