Gunpoint is one of those titles indie gaming fans live for. It's a short stealth-puzzler that oozes charm. Made singlehandedly by Tom Francis, this 2D side-scroller came out in 2013 but most people don't keep up with indie releases so it fell through the cracks. Today, we check out this underrated masterpiece and discuss why it is a must-play for any stealth aficionado.
In Gunpoint you step into the shoes of Richard Conway: a fedora-wearing, trenchcoat-sporting freelance spy. You follow his story as he is falsely accused of murder and sets out on a quest to clear his name. Along the way, he learns about a bigger plot that builds up to a pretty satisfying climax with multiple endings based on your choices. One of the best things about the story is the writing. In the mission briefings you get to talk with the different characters, and it is in these dialogue choices that the wit and humor in the writing really shine. The characters have distinct personalities, and the interactions will almost always draw out a chuckle. The story itself is a light-hearted take on generic noir tales and while not revolutionary, it doesn't fail to entertain through the runtime. The art style is pretty neat for a 2D game, featuring dark, gloomy backgrounds and contrasting bright, detailed environments inside the buildings. The soundtrack also fits nicely with beautiful jazz pieces to match the noir setting.
In the game levels your goal is usually to enter some secure building, access a terminal to retrieve sensitive information, and get out, all while avoiding guards, cameras and traps. The twist is in how you go about doing it. Conway has special spy clothing with which he leaps great distances, climbs walls and ceilings and suffers no fall damage. Besides this, he can also tackle guards down and either knock them unconscious with a single punch or bludgeon them to death with his fists.
The most important game mechanic is the Crosslink — this device allows you to manipulate the electrical and security features of a building for your own benefit. Using it you could connect a light switch to a locked door, thus unlocking new parts of the building with the flick of a switch. Or you could rewire things so that when a guard walks through a metal detector a trapdoor activates and sends someone plummeting to their death while simultaneously another guard tries to shoot you with his gun only to end up turning off the lights and calling up an electronically secured elevator leading to the server rooms in the basement.
The puzzles in the game are only moderately difficult, and don't hold up the gameplay too much so the progression through the levels is very smooth.
With such a diverse set of tools (including many unlockable gadgets) there are always entertaining ways of completing a level, and you have the option to play it how you want- sneaking through a level unseen and unheard, or going serial killer and leaving a bloody trail of security guard corpses in your wake.
Once you start playing it's easy to get hooked and soon you'll keep passing level after level without realizing it, trying to get to the end of the story. And you will, all too soon. That is the main problem with the game. Clocking in at around 4 hours, it ends much sooner than you would want. But maybe it's for the best: the game doesn't overstay its welcome, and during the whole playthrough none of the features get repetitive.
Gunpoint is an entertaining burst of originality in an often-stagnant genre, so do yourself a big favor and buy it right now.
Wasique Hasan is at war with his evil twin, Hasique Wasan. Tell him to stop making up fictional siblings at facebook.com/hasique.wasan