In the year 20XX, a former employee of Capcom shows his previous employers how to properly honor one of their own franchises as well as a truly great era of gaming, all while keeping the price tag under $2. Enter Gunman Clive.
Alright, well the game isn't ENTIRELY based around Mega Man style gameplay, more-so of its level design. The levels feel very reminiscent of Capcom's classic series, and were a joy to platform through; though there were a few levels that changed things up, such as a minecart level (Donkey Kong Country here) and a shooter level somewhat similar to that of Gradius. Otherwise, it sticks to the solid jumping and shooting formula of games past and executes it well. A couple mechanics here and there could have been explored further, such as the destructible bridges, which were only in one level. Also, the controls were also pretty responsive and translated well onto the keyboard, they are also rebindable.
Where the differences from Mega Man really appear are the weapons. The weapons operate on a system more akin to the Contra series, where you can find upgrades for your basic gun that give it a new ability. Examples would be the classic spread shot, a slow explosive shot, to even a wall-piercing laser as well as a few others; like Contra, these are lost upon taking a hit. One change to these is that how you get them is a little randomized; some are static within a level, some you can get by chance from killing an enemy. The enemies also vary from generic bandits, to ducks and seagulls, to even some strange otherworldly enemies. The bosses are also a little more similar to something like Contra rather than Mega Man, as you don't end up absorbing their abilities or anything of the like, and also aren't all exactly memorable.
Unlike Contra, however, you can take multiple hits without dying and have unlimited lives. The amount of hits you can take is dependent on the difficulty level selected. The hit detection in the game is pretty well done and I hardly ever felt I got any “cheap” deaths. There are also somewhat randomized cakes (similar to the random-ish weapons) that replenish your health. Speaking of health, one minor complaint is while the health UI is simple and non-intrusive, it only really gives you a general sense of how many hits you can take before death, rather than something more clear.
Also on the topic of UI, sadly, for you speedrunners and achievement hunters, there is no restart button on the pause menu; so if you know messed up on getting the "Star" time for that level or a "No Damage" run, you must either kill yourself (contributing to your death count) or exit the game and re-select that level. Another minor annoyance, but said speedrunning and achievements honestly kept my game time from being longer than about an hour.
One good thing for you guys is the helpful timer at the top of the screen for getting those pesky “Star” times. However, a nitpick as it may be, I wish there was an option to turn this off. This wish isn’t to benefit me or other achievement hunters, but to those who don’t care about those kinds of things and who just want to spend an hour to play through the game and not have to feel some sort of false pressure of a ticking clock. Otherwise it’s much more helpful than hurtful for replayability, it would just be nice to have the option to opt-out of it.
Speaking of replayability, there are two extra modes, one where you play as the damsel-in-distress herself, Ms. Johnson, with her ability to float (Super Mario Bros. 2 here); as well as a humorous Duck Mode in which you play a defenseless duck with the ability to fly upwards for a short bit. These feature a few more achievements on top of Clive's own No Death, Time-Trial, and No Damage ones. These alone probably increased my play time by four-fold and were pretty enjoyable.
To quote the game's trailer, the game features "Weird Artsy-Looking 3D Graphics", which is more or less true. As you can see, it has an interesting sketch-book like aesthetic on top of the dominant western theme. Personally, the lack of color was not an issue for me, due to the game's length; and towards the later levels, while the continued use of brown could be seen as lazy, I felt it made the levels a little more surreal. In general, the model quality and animations were done pretty well too.
As an added bonus to being on PC, we also get 1080p 60fps gameplay as well as some super-sampling, making this the definitive version in regards to graphics (unless you want the 3D effect of the 3DS.)
One very small detail used in the game's graphics was how objects that did have color bled a little color through the outlines or weren’t completely filled in, especially when the screen was moving. This was a cool trick to make the game bare resemblance to a water-painting, again re-emphasizing the whole "Artsy-Looking" theme. There were probably some other tricks used that even I didn't pick up on.
And an even smaller detail about the graphics (that may not even be on purpose), and I'm probably only one to make this comparison, but to me at least, sometimes when Clive dies or gets hit, the pose he makes bears some resemblance to the death screen of Zelda II. It could just be me, but as supportive evidence, you eventually fight what appears to be a "dark" version of Clive himself, much similar to the final boss of Zelda II. Ironically, he is very easy, unlike in the NES game.
The music more or less fits the western style of the game, and gives it a bit more atmosphere. The tracks generally range from "okay" to "pretty good" to easily sum them up. Also, toward the end levels, the music begins to become a bit more chiptune-like, similar to that of the games inspired by it. The music is also composed by the creator’s brother, so this is not an entirely one-man effort.
Clive himself is a man of few words, none at all actually. With a tagline like "In the year 18XX", you pretty much know what you're in for on a story level. Kill the bandits, shoot some ducks, save the girl, become a duck. It's simple and it works.
There is a possibility that there is a little more at play than what the story is on paper, such as how pretty much all of the stores are suspiciously owned by Mayor Johnson and named after him, but that could just be me trying to bring meaning to something meaningless.
Now to the biggest overall complaint about the game: the length. I myself finished my first run through on Normal at around an hour. Then my first run without dying was about 16 minutes. The game is not heavy on content, more-so on replayability, but what is there is well-crafted and polished.
And while its own trailer makes self-deprecating remarks such as "A Generic Old School Side-Scroller" with "Lots of Brown", this doesn't mean it is not well executed and that brown isn't put to damn good use.
PS: Be on the lookout for Gunman Clive 2 on Steam, which recently got greenlit on Steam Greenlight!http://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=399248248