Play while reading review.
Really it shouldn’t surprise anyone that I was going to love this game. I was interested in Gunpoint back when it was just a single youtube video in 2011 and the developer was considering releasing it for free. Even a simple summary of the game is head-turning to a player like me: Pixel-art stealth game with a great sense of humour and punching.
Gunpoint is a 2D-scrolling puzzle game, where the main puzzle is trying to find ways your trenchcoat-and-hat clad freelance spy can avoid various gentlemen with guns while stealing things they don’t want stolen. It’s a stealth game. You have heard this song before, mostly in hearing people complain about how it gets fucked up. It’s been a bit of a golden age for the stealth game, with Dishonored executing on the mechanics in the triple A industry last year, along with other titles like Stealth Bastard and Mark of the Ninja refining and polishing existing stealth mechanics to a mirror shine. Where does Gunpoint fall, then? Is it closer to Stealth Bastard‘s flawed renovation on the concept, or Mark’s deep, sophisticated evasive techniques?
Gunpoint brings, rather than particularly sophisticated stealth mechanics, a new layer to the stealth field. In Gunpoint, you can manipulate elements of the level, light-switches, door switches, sound sensors, cameras, and make them interact in a variety of different ways. You can use this to progress through the levels, to manipulate guards, or even to set things up so guards will make your path easier for you.
So, stealth game, pretty good at that, and adds a big, new category of stuff. What’s the thematic that ties this all together? You’re a freelance spy with rubber trousers.
I’m not kidding!
When Gunpoint first released its video, I was enthralled listening to the developer talk about emergent properties, and the goofy fun he could have setting up clever solutions. That had me interested. When I finally got my hands on Gunpoint, I was expecting that, but what pushed the game from interesting to great is the way the thematics, the narrative, ties into the way the game plays, and how funny it is. I mean genuinely funny, not referential, not aping other styles of humour, not copying old jokes but genuinely, laugh-out-loud funny.
This is a game that has the achievment Acknowledged Ludnoarrative Dissonance.
If I had to criticize Gunpoint, and I do, it would be that the game has a really start strong and an equally strong finish, which use the in-game engine rather than cut-scenes. You only really have two of these moments, where unique entities in-map make you play through the story using the main game’s mechanics. On the other hand, losing these moments might mean losing the dialogue trees – which are where you can find a lot of that aforementioned humour.
Honestly, in this case, this guide for whether or not you should get Gunpoint is pointless. This game does everything games like it wants to do, and does it really well. Fun new mechanic, balanced approach, challenging difficulty curve, and it’s really funny and fun. If you think you might like it, you will, because it’s really good.
Buy it if:
- You enjoyed Mark of the Ninja or Dishonored for their patient, slow approach.
- You enjoyed The Incredible Machine and its genre of games for their clever, interacting pieces.
- You enjoyed The Art of Theft, period
- You’re interested in charming, funny dialogue.
Avoid it if:
- You’re an absolute perfectionist and will find the games’ inexact moments frustrating.
- You can’t manage WASD+Mouse, and find switching breaks flow.