Gunpoint is a side-scrolling puzzle/stealth game developed by Tom Francis. The game doesn’t take itself too seriously, but packs some seriously interesting features. Having been released in 2013, it was buried by bigger games like GTA V and The Last of Us. Seven years later, let’s take a look at what this game holds.
Conway; Private Dick
In Gunpoint, the player will take on the role of Conway, a private detective who’s been framed for murder. After deleting some tapes proving his presence at the crime scene, Conway take on a variety of espionage contracts from different characters. The story is pretty linear, and the three main story arcs consist of doing jobs for different characters who may or may not be involved with the murder. The story is delivered through dialogues between Conway and other characters when accepting to do missions for them. Those dialogues fill the player in on what’s happening, while establishing the mission’s objective. The player can choose to say different lines, usually ranging between professional spy and professional jackass. Serious lines are straightforward, while the funnier ones allow some very welcome comedic relief. During these interactions with other characters, the player can also decide whether or not to divulge progress in their investigation, in order to prevent themselves or others to be incriminated. Characters are aware of each other, and will tell Conway off if the player plays behind their back. The game is pretty short, usually taking between 3-5 hours to complete. Just long enough to develop the relation between Conway and other characters, and short enough to not create unnecessary missions. The complexity level is also just right, allowing plot twists to happen and keeping the player engaged, while leaving the head-scratching to the actual puzzles.
Jumping through hoops, and out the window
Missions all play out in a similar way. You must retrieve an object or data from some facility, and escape vie the subway on the other side of the facility. The difficulty slowly ramps up throughout the game; enemies will become more dangerous, new puzzle elements are introduced, and levels require more and more planning. Two gadgets are introduced in the tutorial and are required to progress: Hypertrousers and Crosslink (more on this one later). Hypertrousers allow Conway to leap all over the map, negate all fall damage, and jump with enough force to break windows and neutralize unarmored guards. They take a small amount of time to charge up, and a trajectory arc is shown to see where the player will land. Using this gadget, the player can also scale walls, and suspend themselves on the ceiling, preying on unsuspecting guards. The feature can make for satisfying moments, like smashing through a window and taking out an enemy on the same jump. Other gadgets are available through money earned from missions, like removing the sound generated from breaking windows, and a gun, for, erm, gun related needs. Some characters will have special requests when completing their assignments, like having no witnesses, or not being violent. After every level, a rank is given depending on factors like noise level, number of witnesses, violence, and time required. Taking time to complete a mission is not necessarily penalizing, as long as other factors are low. This is a welcome feature, since planning is a must. Enemies have a fast reaction time, and a single bullet will kill. On a more negative note, the gameplay is sometimes halted by guards not always behaving the same way. All guards will investigate noises, but some will resume their routes, some will stick around. Some for a short time, some forever. This makes for frustrating moments, as an otherwise consistent gameplay will grind to a halt, as a guard may or may not stop right in front of an elevator.
Time to hack
Crosslink is the other required gadget, and it’s through crosslink that most puzzles will be solved. By scrolling the mouse wheel, the level will change. Instead of showing windows and camera angles, it will show all electronics in the level. By default, these are wired to deter the player, but by using Crosslink, Conway can rewire them to his advantage, from a distance. For example, a light switch can be rewired to an electrical socket, and using the switch will electrocute any enemy near the socket. Early in the game, as the difficulty increases, electronic systems of different colors will appear, forcing the player to enter rooms and hack terminals in order to gain access to those systems. The difficulty also increases with the addition of new components, like sound detectors which are triggered by sounds in their vicinity, and vault doors which only remain open for three seconds at a time. Most levels will have a straight forward way to the main objective and a more challenging side objective, which always consists of stealing a laptop. Main objectives leave some room for error, and the player can clear rooms one by one and rewire on the go, whereas stealing a laptop will often force the player to orchestrate a wild chain of events. Which may be a good thing, as it leads to the most memorable moments of the game, gliding through traps, avoiding enemies, and have doors open before you because an elevator made a sound halfway across the complex.
A game by Tom Francis
Overall, Gunpoint provides entertaining gameplay that challenges the player without leaving them feeling like an idiot. The story, despite its short length, is well put together with intertwining characters and missions, and is complemented by some comical relief by Conway. The visual presentation is nothing to write home about, but the game runs really well. The soundtrack is nice, mostly made out of environmental jazz tracks, reminding of old time detective movies. Gunpoint’s main flaw lies the guards’ inconsistent AI, which can lead to puzzling moments, but not in a good way.