At weekendwarrio.rs, we’ve been patiently awaiting the arrival of Gunpoint since previews popped up a couple of years back. Jake even pledged to the game as part of a decidedly British Kickstarter (read: he met Tom Francis in a bar and gave him 20 quid and his email address).
Now that it’s here, does it live up to our expectations?
For anyone who hasn’t heard about the game – or played the demo – Gunpoint is a 2D stealth puzzler with uniquely clever gameplay mechanics, an interesting and well-written story, gorgeous pixel art and fantastic music.
You play as Richard Conway, a freelance private eye with a sharp wit, leaping bullfrog trousers and the ability to rewire and thus circumvent security systems. Conway can also fall from great heights and dive through plate glass windows without injury, but he is sadly not impervious to bullets.
What this means is that each mission you are tasked with could potentially be tackled in a number of different ways. Perhaps you could gain entry to the building by jumping through a plate glass window, or perhaps you could rewire the building’s systems to make one of the hapless guards open the door for you.
Possibly the best thing about Gunpoint is that it gives you real choice. For an inherently interactive medium, games can often be too preoccupied with themselves to actually give the player any real agency. In Gunpoint you get to choose how you wish to respond to your employers, with responses ranging from professional to incompetent to smart-arsed, you get to choose how you tackle each mission, with most of them giving you a number of different ways you could complete it. You can even choose to go through the whole game without killing anyone, or you can murder every person you get your leather-gloved hands on.
I’d seen preview videos, so I had a good idea of what to expect from Gunpoint in terms of gameplay – what I wasn’t expecting was for it to be so funny. Writing in games is very hit and miss, with as many overwrought, clichéd epics as unintelligible narrative messes, but humorous writing is even more problematic.
Meta-textual references are the red-headed step-children of comedic games writing, with the obvious issue being that your meta-commentary is rarely as clever as you think it is. The dialogue in Gunpoint is full of little meta nods, but for the first time in a long time it actually works. It’s genuinely funny and clever and doesn’t lazily rely on “meta-ness” for the laughs.
The music is a selection of noir-ish jazzy numbers that brilliantly take on an electronic, distorted edge when you switch over to Crosslink mode for some circuit bending. It’s a simple thing, and I wouldn’t be surprised if some players missed it altogether, but it’s an integral part of the machine that keeps the rest of it running smoothly.
Gunpoint is a smart, genuinely interesting game with style to spare and music to match. It considers its players to be co-conspirators rather than enemies and rewards them with clever dialogue and missions you can tackle however you choose.