Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Richard Conway, Hat Fancier - Gunpoint

Originally I wasn't going to cover this game, it seemed somewhat popular, got a lot of good press, a number of my friends own it. It seemed to be doing well enough that my poking at it would be redundant. That was until I saw the developers post on Twitter: roughly 0% of Steam owners actually own Gunpoint. Granted, Gunpoint could still be pretty successful, Steam is REALLY big after all, but still at 0%? I figured no harm in poking at it, right?

Gunpoint is a very unique game, it's a 2D stealth/puzzle game, with hacking elements and heavy film noir influences. The game starts with you getting accidentally involved in a murder, and quickly grows from there. The story is actually very well written and certainly kept my interest throughout the game, thought it was maybe a little hard to follow. It doesn't take long for the game to start throwing twists at you and while the results can get kind of confusing, it certainly made for a fun ride.
Every mission starts with a briefing, and you can chose some of Conway's dialogue
The game is at it's core a stealth game in a 2d perspective. You make your way through buildings, avoiding guards to reach an objective, then make your escape. The game manages to keep this interesting through two major mechanics, the first is the Bullfrog trousers. On top of climbing and sneaking around, You're character has the ability to jump several stories high, and can readily smash through glass or tackle guards with a good pounce. It opens up a few options for how to handle problems: can't open the door? maybe you can jump through a window.

The other major feature of the game, is the Crosslink. Easily the game's biggest feature, the Crosslink allows you to remotely rewire things. Need a door open? Wire a light switch to it and flip that to open it. Can't get to a light switch? wire a motion detector to it and wait for the guard to pass through, you can even wire multiple things together so that triggering one object sets off several others. This is where the game get's a lot of it's challenge from as the game is less about sneaking around and more about finding a good way to wire the building up.
In Crosslink mode, you can you can readily rewire objects in the game.
On top of the Crosslink there's also several upgrades you can get, either with upgrade points or money earned by clearing missions. Several of the upgrades are fairly straightforward, such as allowing you to make silent landings or quietly break through glass, others allow for some new abilities though, such as the ability to rewire guards guns or wire electrical sockets to things to electrify them. it opens up some new options later in the game, though I admit I got through it with minimal use of them.

The game also comes with a level editor. I messed around with ti a little bit and out it's surprisingly easy to use, all you need to do is drag and drop things into place to build you level, the game will even wire things up properly for you: put a security panel near a door and it will automatically link the two. It's fairly easy to make a working level though there are a couple shortcomings, namely, everything in the editor comes at a fixed size, with no apparent way to resize things, there's no way I saw to set up things like pre-mission briefings, which would of been nice for making user campaigns. Still, what's there is easy to work with and more than enough to make some good levels, and thanks to the game having steam workshop support there's already plenty of user made levels readily available.
Conway is capable of making some very large jumps
Graphically, The game uses pixel art though it's not trying to be retro, or at least not advertising itself that way. Instead everything is nice and detailed despite how relatively small everything is, and the art style is clean overall. I can readily see what everything is even in the dark, and I saw nothing wrong with the graphics as a whole. At it's worst, this might not be the kind of game to praise for it's graphics, but there's nothing falt out bad about them.

The soundtrack to gunpoint is exactly what you'd expect: a moody, jazzy soundtrack that perfectly fits the Noir setting of the game. Each in-mission track comes with a slightly more electronic version that the game transitions to when you're in crosslink mode. it fits the game perfectly and is pretty nice to listen to on it's own. meanwhile the game's sound is somewhat minimal, mostly just gunshots form guards or the sound of breaking glass, but what little is there is well done.
Several upgrades are available in the in game store.
The game does however, have one major flaw. It's short. VERY short. While there's a ranking system and multiple ways to handle missions to encourage some reply, the main story is only about 3-4 hours long at most, The story manages to make the most of it and doesn't feel rushed, but it feels like there wanted to be more. for example, you do get to make a few choices throught the game that have at least some effect on the story, and it feels almost like the story is going to be fairly non-linear with all sorts of branching mission paths, but it's not. There's one set of missions, and that's it.

Overall, while the game is very short and feels like it wanted to be something bigger, it's still a very good game, the story is entertaining, even if it can be a bit confusing at times, and the crosslink is a very unique mechanic that's fun to mess around with. if you like stealth or puzzle games, consider picking this up.

Gunpoint was developed and published by Suspicious Developments. It is available on Steam. It's soundtrack is available on Bandcamp. it's homepage, including a demo can be found here.

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