Stealth games, especially spy games, are a dime a dozen. The game XIII was based on a French comic, then there’s Deus Ex, James Bond, Splinter Cell, Alpha Protocol, Perfect Dark, Uplink and many others have taken the formula in multiple directions, and while Gunpoint doesn’t exactly break any new grounds, I’ve found this rather short adventure very enjoyable.
Gunpoint pits you as Conway, a freelance spy who inadvertently witnesses a murder and is thus fingered as a suspect. He’s then forced to take on jobs and find out who the killer is… or you could just do it all for the money and the opportunity to punch people in the face; this game has diversity in mind.
Beyond that, the game is pretty simple. As a spy, you’re given several tools to make the job easier or tackle puzzles in different ways. The game’s missions dole out different challenges as you try to make your way through to each objective, usually personal computer terminals you’ll need to break into, before dashing off to the subway. Secondary goals are scattered around most of the levels, taking the form of laptops which reveal tidbits of story. They don’t prove to add much of anything beyond that and can work towards the kind of rating you get.
As Conway, you’ll be given, at the start, a set of “Bullfrog Hypertrousers” which allow him to spring to great heights and allow him to survive any fall without damage. As a reward for completing a mission you’ll be given cash in most missions as well and an upgrade point to be spent on your equipment. The system is very shallow, feeling a bit tacked on, although there are some fun upgrades to be had. The most expensive is an ability to kick doors completely out of their frames, knocking any unfortunate souls out completely several yards away. Be sure to save up.
The core gameplay is based around a system called “Crosslinking” which lets you rewire the electrical systems inside each building or structure you infiltrate. If you want to wire a light switch then turns on light, calls an elevator to a certain floor and opens a locked door, the game won’t argue with you. It’s a neat system and provides some cool and interesting challenges. You’ll need this, as well as other tools of the trader, as you encounter armed guards who won’t hesitate to pop you one between the eyes the instant they see you. It can feel a bit unforgiving as you try to visually gauge a guard’s field of view while climbing around on the ceiling and walls.
That’s right. You can climb on the ceiling and walls, like some trenchcoat and fedora-wearing Spiderman. It’s quite useful, and though at times it feels like a cheap trick, later puzzles will demand you hang up above patrolling guards to make any kind of progress in a level. Of course, turning out the lights and locking them behind doors helps, too, but not all enemies are affected by low-light situations.
At some point you’ll afford to buy a gun, which can be used to keep guards that spot you at bay, as they slowly back off while you take a few steps forward in their direction, allowing you to keep control of the situation until such a time as you can escape their view. Again, don’t expect this to work on all guards, though.
The game’s 2D visuals work well, as I was able to identify everything easily on my 1920 x 1080 display. The graphics are simple, but colorful and add to the noir mood while the contemporary instrumental jazz playing in the background, both lending to a partially-cartoonish and dark atmosphere. Conway moves well enough, flying through the air, belly-flopping on the ground when he falls off a tall building, kicking down doors, or taking a door on the nose himself. We aren’t talking about complex motions, but what’s there works towards the game’s aesthetic.
The game’s main interface is Conway’s smartphone where you’ll save your game, buy and apply upgrades, and check over your previous missions while accepting new ones. Each mission is preceded and followed by a text-message style conversation between Conway and his clients. You’ll get missions from various companies and individuals, each with their own motives and agendas, looking to find out who the killer is before they disappear forever into the night. You’ll be given branching dialogue options here and there, between the quiet and morose, to the downright obnoxious and snarky, lending some decent comedy enjoyment when chatting up your clientele.
The game lasts around three hours, depending on your skill levels, and you may find yourself turned off by the simplicity of the offering. It feels very casual and independent at times and I really felt like the ratings you receive at the end of each mission could have led to something more potent than a final score. If I had to make a comparison, I’d look to freeware game, Art of Theft (created and written by Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw, of Zero Punctuation fame) as another game that does the same thing, but adds an even deeper challenge level, without sacrificing anything. Still, Gunpoint was fun, challenging, offered different venues of attacking a problem, and if nothing else, lets you punch the ever-loving daylights out of guards.
Oh, and the game comes with a level editor which exports to a text file you can give to your friends, if you wish to share your own self-made missions.
I’d give it a “light” recommendation, and hope to see more by this developer in the future.