Monday, June 17, 2013

Review - Gunpoint

What's crackin' people, AngelikMayhem here. Welcome to another edition of Neverplayed, the video series where I show you a brand new video game title that I've never played before.

Today, I've played a copy of Gunpoint, which is a 2D noir-style, spy-themed, action/puzzle game where you play the roll of a spy lost in a cold war between two rival gun manufacturers.

Normally, this would be the time when I told you which development house birthed this baby, but as it turns out this title is the brainchild of one guy: Tom Francis -- a games-industry writer from the UK.

Tom spent three years working on this project in GameMaker and he has finally launched it on Steam. Was it worth the effort? Let's find out.


One word describes the story: intrigue. You play the roll of a spy who becomes embroiled in a web of lies, deception, and blackmail that revolves around infidelity and industrial espionage. At any time, you can fight for any one of the factions or play all the sides against each other to make some cash.

From the outset, you are being used by everyone which limits your options but also gives you an unexpected position of power.

The Game

The largest portion of the game is dedicated to the story mode, though I was able to play with the level editor a bit to try to create my own puzzles.

In single player, you follow the story and allow yourself to be hired by various people to break into one of about a half-dozen locations in the town. Sometimes you're working for the gun guys. Sometimes you're working for the other gun guys. Occasionally, you're working for the cops.

The twists and turns are very interesting. Just like you don't mind replaying a hole on a golf course weeks later because every time they move the pin it changes the strategy of the hole, in this game you never really care that you're seeing the same locations over and over again because each time they are slightly altered by the story to keep them fresh.

After solving the puzzles to grant yourself full access to the building, hacking all the laptops, and purloining your target, you can escape from the area via the subway.

You're graded on your smooth technique and stealthy ability. Alert too many guards, and it can effect your final grade -- which can effect how much money you make.


The first time you sit down to play the game, it begins strangely with a flat menu option of what resolution you'd like to play at and then launches you immediately into the game. While novel, I ultimately didn't enjoy this. In this case, it just felt like it needed a main menu.

If you save and come back later, then you finally get a main menu. The sound options are lacking and things like rain effects aren't controlled by the sliders you think they should be.

I have to say that the weakest part of the game is the user interface, which is awkward and missing some key elements like rekeybinding.


As a qualified games journalist, I noticed that the story doesn't necessarily gel with the mechanics. But they're fun nonetheless.

The chief game mechanic is your special pants. Hypertrousers allow you to survive falls from magnificent heights and launch yourself across a room. So your movements are based on clinging to walls, flinging yourself through closing doorways, and killing guards by tackling them out of windows.

The game allows you to play (and, in fact, grades you on playing) non-violently. You can punch out guards silently or avoid most of them all together by using distractions.

The game has upgrade features that allow you to change the rate at which your pants charge up and the distance that they will launch you.

You can also purchase additional spy toys that allow you to break through glass silently by pressing the left mouse button just before you crash through a window or -- if you're so inclined -- purchase a handgun if you don't mind getting your hands wet.

Finally, but most certainly not least, is the puzzling system. Throughout each level, there are doors that are locked and cameras that must be turned off. This game's defining mechanic is the rewiring system whereby you can reconnect the electronics of a building -- or multiple buildings -- to make switches on walls unlock doors and cameras in corners activate elevators. The changes you make to the building's wiring serve to distract guards and grant you access to areas that are otherwise off limits and the solutions you have to come up with are often challenging and intellectually rewarding. Without question, this part of the game is where the puzzling aspect comes into play and it is done well. Best part of the game.


The game is a 2D game based in a very low-budget pixel art style -- as you might expect from a one-man development team. However, there's never a moment when you feel the graphics are lacking.

Everything is muted and very stylized and because you're not looking at tons of gore or fighting with cameras and geometry colliders, as the user you can just sit back and focus on the story and enjoy the game for what it is.

Now, there was a problem with the game camera when you switch between regular mode and rewiring mode, but this was a very small problem.


The replayability of this game rests entirely on two things: your interest in replaying some of the levels to make different dialog and plot choices and the quality of the level editor which would allow you to build your own puzzles.

To the first, I would suggest that the story has many branching paths and replaying the game multiple times can be quite interesting. I finished the game in just under six hours, but had I spent time replaying the levels to unlock all the different options, I may well have spent double that amount of time to see it all.

In addition, the level editor theoretically allows you to build your own playable levels. However, in theory, how much fun can you have playing a level you know all about because you designed it. You'd have to play other people's levels. And there's not much there.

The game does record how long it takes you to finish each level, so you may want to try to beat your own times, but once you know the solution, beating your time is a hollow victory.

I would say that if you enjoy the story, you'll enjoy rooting out all the twists and turns and don't depend on the level editor for value.


  • Manipulating the environment with the rewiring mechanic is a ton of fun.
  • The puzzles are challenging and rewarding.
  • Six hours of fun for $10US is, in my opinion, well worth it.
  • The tutorial is built into the game, making me feel like I wasn't in a tutorial at all. Very smooth.
  • The game keeps a log of your interactions with each client so you don't lose track.
  • If you stand next to a door when it opens, you'll be knocked over. If you're not fast enough, it will hit you again when it closes.
  • Mechanics are limited by their color coding. Red items can only link to other red items, blue to blue, and so on. These limitations made the game sing.
  • My dialog options had just the right amount of snark and they made me want to replay it again just to see what changes were in store had I gone another route.
  • It's little, but when you switch modes, the music in the background switches. Such a little detail, but I really enjoyed that.
  • I beat the game without killing anyone. That is something too rare in video games.
  • The epic jazz-based soundtrack is phenomenal.


  • The level editor is very confusing and is very rigid in what it will allow. I found it to be frustrating and riddled with interface issues.
  • I disagree with the fact that you can hack a guard's handgun. Objects that are wired into the building make sense; handguns do not. I refused to use that mechanic and finished the game without it.
  • Moving the camera around using the arrow keys and then switching from regular mode to rewiring mode presented some minor annoyances. I had to fight the camera a little in the later levels, but nothing too awful.
  • Because you can alter your upgrades at will, I got three achievements just by maxing out each of the upgrade option settings one by one in turn in about ten seconds. That made the achievement system feel cheap.
  • No SFX volume controls.
  • As to the puzzles in the game, I would have preferred more silent stealth action. There were too many times where I had no choice but to punch a guy in the face.

Final Thoughts

To single-handedly put together a video game after three years is a monumental task and one that I'm sure Tom is quite proud of. As well he should be.

This game was a blast and the plot really had me on the edge of my seat at certain times. I had to weigh my options carefully and occasionally had to flat out take a break to decide which branching path was best.

The characters are fabulous and while I take issue with a few minor annoyances in terms of interface and camera controls, I would encourage all of you to have a look at this one. If you like puzzles combined with film-noir style detective/spy stories, you won't be disappointed.

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