Friday, October 11, 2013

The Friday Review: Gunpoint (PC)

The relationship between a man and his pants is a special one. Especially when those pants are electric pants. Like, leap over tall buildings in a single bound electric pants. Hurl a man out of a fourth story window and walk away unscathed electric pants. Yes, these pants are very special indeed. And they belong to one Richard Conway, a freelance agent who gets wrapped up in a good old fashioned mystery when his most recent contact is immediately murdered. The player, as Conway, must get to the bottom of her murder through a series of side-scrolling stealth puzzle jobs utilizing an array of fancy gadgets.

The meat of Gunpoint lies in solving puzzles using Crosslink, an overlay that allows Conway to rewire almost every device in each of the building cross-sections that make up the game’s levels. As long as the player can access the correct circuit, Conway can make a light switch open a door, make a camera cause an outlet surge, or even make a sound detector discharge a guard’s gun.

One of the chief delights Gunpoint offers is the unexpected behavior that emerges as a result of player tinkering in Crosslink. In one particularly interesting serendipity, my linking caused trap doors to open on two floors simultaneously, which promptly dumped two guards to their death. Of course, I was only trying to rig the circuits so that I could jump through the trapdoors when no one was looking. Thankfully, I am not the sort of person to look a gift horse in the mouth.

The other major gameplay element is leaping around in the aforementioned Bullfrog electric pants. They give Conway the ability to spring vast distances, leap to the ceiling, and survive ludicrous falls. These pants give you a fantastic toolkit to tackle (sometimes literally) every obstacle your electrical jiggery pokery does not solve. There is a trick to the pants, though. The aiming and power of your jumps can be a bit hard to master at first. After the first couple of outings though, you feel right at home in your bionic trousers.

The physical element of the Bullfrog device and the cerebral planning stage of Crosslink work well together, creating a satisfying flow between thoughtful manipulation and twitchy execution. Gunpoint gives players a variety of ways to approach each level, though certain upgrades are required to complete some missions. I felt like I often detected a “correct” way to solve the level, but never felt punished for avoiding it. I also never felt locked into a particular approach to the game as a whole. On some levels I would kick down doors and throw guards out of windows, while in others I would silently bypass all challenges without alerting security to my presence at all.

While I am thrilled overall by my experience with Gunpoint, there are a couple of criticisms I have for the game. There wasn’t enough of it. In one sense, that isn’t really a criticism at all. I clearly enjoyed the game and wanted more. But I feel like I didn’t have enough puzzles to throw myself at. Maybe five more missions would have rounded it out, I don’t know. But it was over too quickly. The second isn’t much more severe. After each mission, your employer evaluates you based on your performance. They have criteria which they emphasize. On some missions it wasn’t very clear what my optional objective was until I reached that evaluation screen. A touch more clarity might have rounded things out nicely. These are barely nitpicks, however, and do not detract for a fantastic core experience.

Final Thoughts

I wholehearted recommend Gunpoint to anyone who is a fan of puzzles, platformers, clever writing, detective stories… pretty much everyone. If you haven’t already picked it up, I would advise doing so. The trip may be short, but it is fantastic. The same might be said of a majestic fourth-floor leap in electric pants, and I can hardly think of a more ringing endorsement than that.

1 comment:

Jeremy said...

One other thing that might be worth mentioning: The game does contain some strong language. If that's something you are trying to avoid, or if you are thinking of sharing the game with someone you don't want to expose to f-bombs, this might not be the game to pick up.