The scene is set: bandits have overrun the town, absconded with your love, and left a trail of destruction and peril in their wake (not to mention a rampant duck infestation). As the only hope left in the rampant west, you must don your sharpshooter and set out to take back the hostage (and maybe score a kiss in the process)!
Clearly I could be talking of no other game than Gunman Clive, a western side-scrolling shooter with a stylish look and a budget price tag, originally released on the 3DS and now making its way to PC. It’s a simplistic game that could have easily felt at home on the NES, featuring many of the basic design philosophies common in that generation. You have a very limited range of moves, capable of jumping and shooting and little else, and are sent through short platforming levels with only spouts of variation therein, ending with a climactic boss fight that seems designed more to test who has the fastest trigger finger than anything else.
There are a few ways to look at a game of this nature. On one side, side-scrolling shooters have seen a great deal of innovation in recent years taking advantage of modern technologies to create games the likes of which could never have existed on the limited tech that started the genre, and making something like this seem a tad outdated in comparison.
On the other there’s absolutely nothing wrong with a simple, dare I say retro, simplicity which Gunman Clive so fully embraces. In some ways I enjoyed having such an uncluttered and uncomplicated direction that doesn’t require a great deal of thought to play, and is almost refreshing compared to more advanced titles of recent memory. All that said, what developer Bertil Horberg never managed or even attempted, was to outdo my expectations.
Every set piece, enemy encounter, and platform design felt like something I’d seen and played a hundred times over already, and eventually began to grate on me as scenes unfolded with so little originality. I can forgive a game to paying homage to others, but there’s something so...generic, about the way Gunman Clive plays, that I found it hard to be impressed after the initial awe of the fantastic visual style. The cheap deaths and lack of any checkpoints within levels also proved frustrating, for however short they may be.
Were it to cost anymore I might have a hard time recommending Gunman Clive in any great respect, but for $2 it’s a perfectly solid (if often unremarkable) experience, that most should have no trouble finding an hour or two of enjoyment in. I would have liked for the developer to have spent more time designing and fine tuning the levels and controls, as most of the budget and focus seems to have been spent on the visuals (which while great, can’t make up for average to mediocre gameplay), but all the same there are far worse things to spend $2 and an hour of your time, provided you know what you're getting.