A dark night, a random phone call, and trousers that allow you to jump like a genetically enhanced grasshopper with its feet on fire – Gunpoint certainly starts with a bang. It follows up with a few more bangs and suddenly you are being hired for all sorts of stealth/jumping/trenchcoat tomfoolery, most of which involves falling out of windows and pestering guards with electrified light switches.
Oh, and it’s a bit good.
Film-noir-comedy-slapstick describes the first impression you feel as you step into those mighty trousers, and things just get sillier from there. Playing a hat wearing gumshoe tasked with doing various spy-like things – hacking computers, deleting video footage and the like in sand-boxy levels full of guards and security cameras. It’s 2D, and sports the kind of pixel-art graphics that makes you wonder sometimes what all the fuss is about the dimension known as “depth”. Night-clad cityscapes and some wonderful detail on the various installations you are tasked with breaking into, all shrouded with a kind of moody jazz that accents it all beautifully.
A few missions in, and you have enough cash to buy a few gadgets. Most importantly – the Crosslink. A genius stroke of a thing, the Crosslink allows you to see all the electrical circuits in the building, allowing you to juggle the wiring to your hearts content. That light switch turns on a light (duh), but if I connect it to the door over there it opens that instead. Suddenly Gunpoint has transmuted itself from a comical stealth-then-punch-em-up to a full blown puzzle game. Later on, you find yourself dealing with multiple circuits (denoted by different colours) as well as tougher guards and fiendishly placed windows and doors, which turns up the heat somewhat as you attempt to be quiet. And fail. A fair amount. Or is that just me?
Also of note is the convoluted and often hilarious plot. Gunpoint was penned and put together by PC Gamer’s own Tom Francis (the face that launched a thousand Galactic Civilisation games), and his style and pacing is immediately recognisable and instantly above what we would normally expect from an indie game. The humour is infectious, the characters clever – from the “txt-speek” Katie to the hyper-sweary Gessler, they all feel like they have an agenda and occasionally conflicting requests can make for some surprisingly tough choices.
You are allowed a certain freedom in what missions you choose to accept too, and all are re-playable at any point. There are even a number of typical bonus goals to accomplish too – a fast completion time, getting through without being seen etc. You can even go back and try earlier missions with more advanced gadgets and equipment you get later on, which can allow for insanely quick times if you are clever. And there are a number of gadgets available to purchase with the cash you get from being sinister too. From a simple gun (which you should never, EVER use), all the way up to boots that allow you to kick down doors. All of these are optional, and all they really do is give you more approaches to stages, however a few make things significantly easier. The one that allows you to break glass windows silently, for example, saved my keyboard from being smashed to hell once or twice.
It’s not all sunshine and lollipops, though. Gunpoint is quite short – a sentence that has me wincing as I write it, but it’s sadly true. The price is okay for its length of around three hours, but trust me when I say this – when it finishes, you will want more. There are also a few stages that took me a few full restarts before I understood the path through enough to avoid getting shot – this crops up more and more in later levels too. The layouts are often just too complex to have more than one obvious solution, yet only one or two really works without being seen or shot at, and when that happens it tends to fall down to luck.
Not that I care about any of that. The game is simply too much fun for a few restarts to even begin to irritate. Some of the design is simply magnificent – things that I won’t spoil here work when you least expect them to. The Crosslink system has “playground” written all over it, to the point where I didn’t want to knock guards out as I went, purely to see just how much I could mess with them once I had tapped all a stages circuit boxes. Gunpoint is a mighty achievement for a fledgeling developer, and I hope there is more to come from the twisted mind of Tom Francis.
“Did you just fall out of a window?”
He did, but at least he landed on his feet.
Verdict – Headshot
Platforms available – PC
Platform reviewed – PC
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