I’ve owned this game for ages. I’d heard such great things about it, but due to an increasingly-large backlog of games that I haven’t touched, this one got shelved and I honestly forgot about it for a long time.
Big mistake. Gunpoint
is one of the most unique and enjoyable indie games I’ve played this year. The innovative gameplay style, the storyline, the dialogue, music and aesthetic all came together to create a very nifty little package.
You play as Richard Conway, a trenchcoat-wearing freelance spy. Immediately after donning your newly-received Bullfrog Hypertrousers (high-tech pants that allows you to make massive
leaps), you’ll be summoned by Selena Delgado, an employee for gun manufacturer Rooke. Unfortunately, by the time you ascend the elevators to see her, you find that Selena has been shot. Even worse is the fact that security cameras in the building indicate that you
were in the building at the time of the murder, thereby making you the prime suspect. You're then tasked with clearing your name and finding the true murderer. Throughout the game, you quickly discover that there’s a huge rivalry in the city between two weapons manufacturers, Rooke and Intex, and the murder of Selena Delgado fits somewhere in between this. There are several twists and turns in the story as the mystery surrounding the murder is slowly brought to light.
It’s not the most original or innovative story ever told, but the game breathes extra life into the story to life by giving the main character so much personality
. Much of the narrative is told in the form of text messages between you and the people giving you missions to fulfil. During these text-based conversations, you’ll often be given a conversation tree, allowing you to pick your response. Whilst the majority of choices don’t affect the direction of the storyline, many of the lines are incredibly humorous and witty. If you want your version of Richard Conway to be a complete smartass, you’re in luck. It’s been a while since a game has made me laugh out loud like this one.
Despite looking somewhat like a 2D-platformer, Gunpoint
is a puzzle game at heart. It plays like a 2D version of Portal
in many ways. Rather than using the portal gun, you're instead given two other major abilities that you'll use to complete objectives.
The first of these is your epic super jump, which allows you to jump massive distances and with force great enough to break glass windows. You aim your jump with your left mouse button (which will draw an arc) and release it to make the jump. For whatever reason, you’re also able to climb walls like Spiderman, but we’ll leave that alone for now. The other major ability comes from your "Crosslink", a device that allows you to rewire circuits. It sounds complicated, so perhaps it’s best illustrated with examples. Whilst anyone can flick a light switch, only the roaming security guards have the ability to activate the switch to open the security doors. To work around this, you can use your crosslink to hack the light switch so that the switch that usually turns on the light instead activates the door-switch, which opens the security door for you. A more complicated scenario would involve you hacking a motion detector, which upon activation will cause an elevator to move down to a certain level, which subsequently activates the sound detector (which hears the “ding” of the elevator), which then opens the vault door containing the computer that you have to hack to complete the objective.
The game becomes far more complicated in later levels due to the addition of extra circuits, represented by a separate colours. Only objects of the same colour can be connected, and activating these additional circuits in the first place requires you to access a point to “wirejack”. It adds an extra layer of challenge and forces you to be more creative in your approach.
Aside from the main objective, each level also includes several optional objectives, which usually boils down to either minimising violence, ensuring no witnesses are alive, or hacking a laptop that’s placed in the level. Performing these optional objectives rewards you with a higher grade that’s given to you at the end of the level, although getting higher grades doesn’t appear to reward you in any way (other than, well, bragging rights I guess).
Upon completing each level, you’re rewarded with a certain amount of cash, which can be used in between levels to purchase several tools that’ll make your life a bit easier. The Hushcracker, for example, allows you to go flying through windows without making a sound. Whilst I would question the realism of such a device in the real world, the point is that it works, and it helps you navigate around the security guards like a ninja.
Whilst there’s probably an ideal
way to complete each level, the game gives you a butt-tonne of freedom in order to find your own way through. The game encourages trial-and-error, and is very
forgiving when you make a mistake due to the fact that it kindly autosaves every few seconds. Upon dying, the game gives you a choice as to where you’d like to restart. Since there’s nothing in the world that frustrates me more than re-doing simple segments of a game over and over again, this is stupendously appreciated. Tom Francis, you’re doing God’s work here.
If there’s any gripe with the game that I have, it would have to be the short length. Sadly, you’ll reach the end of Gunpoint
before the 3-hour mark. Clever and humorous achievements (probably the best I've seen in a long time) might extend the time a little, but overall you’ll likely be so enamoured with the game that you can’t help but wish there was just a little more of it to go around. Luckily, the game features a level editor and Steam Workshop integration, which allows you to both create, share and download levels from other people.
The game takes place in a very simple pixelated 2-D art style found so commonly in the indie industry. It looks absolutely fine in its own right, but playing at the higher resolutions make certain objects or switches just a tad too small to see. Furthermore, the game looks a bit dark, which can make certain security personnel (notably the all-in-black Professionals) a bit difficult to discern at first. Other than that, you’ll hear no more complaints from me about the aesthetics.
Also included is a very jazzy soundtrack that appropriately accompanies and builds on the dark, crime-filled motif that makes up the games setting.
Despite all the hype surrounding the game on release and all the wonderful reviews that the game had, I really wasn’t expecting much from it. Needless to say, this short journey that ended way too soon completely blew my expectations and more. The beauty of the game is embedded in the simplicity and addictiveness of the game mechanics and the humorous, tongue-in-cheek writing that complements the dark tale.
Do yourself a favour and buy this game.