In Gunpoint you put your pants on just like any other person, one leg at a time. Only this time your patented ‘Bullfrog’ pants allow you to jump and or fall exceedingly far distances without shattering your bones. This noir-esque tale stars Richard Conway, a high-tech private investigator who must must penetrate single screen facilities and get away without leaving a trace. It’s a stealth game and a puzzle game, with a fresh perspective on both genres.
As the best spy for hire, Conway is hired by various shady characters through a PDA. Most of the tasks are simple. Get into a building by any means necessary, find an item or file of note, and make it out alive. We’ve seen 2D stealth done right with the likes of Mark of the Ninja, and Gunpoint nails the feeling of being sneaky and getting away with something you shouldn’t have.
Mechanically speaking, the options are pretty limited. The special pants allow Conway to leap into the air, smash through windows, and cling to surfaces with ease. The direction and power of jumps are controlled with the mouse and all other movement with the keyboard. Each jump in Gunpoint feels like a leap of faith, and you gap severy time you make it out of a tight situation or take down a guard without anyone noticing. Using jumping as the main method for locomotion as well as combat is a simple yet innovative design choice. As the Bullfrog pants level up with cash earned through completing missions, you witness the power as you can leap over/into/through tall buildings.
But Guinpoint ain’t no one trick pony. In addition to some cool pants, Conway has access to an interesting device called the Crosslink. The Crosslink is what hybridizes the puzzle into the stealth and is one of the most original ideas I have seen in a game in a while. With one keystroke a colorful wireframe of the building comes up, putting everything but the electronics into shadow.
Each device can be rewired and connected to one another, where activating one makes the another react. A lightswitch can be rewired to an impassible door, opening the door when the switch is used Conway or a guard. Traps can be set, pathways opened, and lures made to pull guards away from your goal.
The Crosslink system makes each level a set piece puzzle giving the player the power to tackle it in any way imaginable. The puzzles allow for much experimentation and even though a solution is obvious, it may be more fun to construct an elaborate series of events to achieve success. Even if things go horribly wrong, it is often humorous to see the effects of an ill-fated plan. Thankfully the checkpoint system is overly generous, with the game autosaving every second and gives five sequential options to choose from when the mission fails.
Of course players are rewarded for stealth and not disturbing the peace (read: punching dudes in the face). If things get a little hairy, gunplay is an option but it is not advised. Weird, seeing as the game is called Gunpoint. More rewards mean more cash to spend on Conway’s abilities, resulting in many more tools in the spy’s arsenal. Additional challenges are presented in the form of laptops hidden in each level. Because I wanted to be the super spy, I needed to suck the data from the hard drives in every level and many times the upgrades were necessary to complete all objectives.
It would be a disservice to Gunpoint without mentioning how well the soundtrack enhances the experience. The jazzy undertones mixed with a little electronica supplement the the witty and satirical writing throughout the game. Conversations between missions will leave you smiling, as Conway is one sarcastic bastard.
It may feel like each mission has the same objectives, but the level design paired with the freedom of the Crosslink make Gunpoint a spy playground. The execution of the mechanics are simple and solid, with ambience dripping from the pixelated crevices of this beautiful game. Beauty in simplicity will always prevail in my mind over huge triple A budgets, and Gunpoint is a reminder that you don’t need millions of dollars to make a masterpiece.