Freelance spying is a tough job, but somebody’s got to do it.
I recently got my gloved, thieving paws on an early build of Gunpoint, a sneaky experience which puts you in the unassuming trench coat of a purported master of espionage, subterfuge and, well, nicking stuff. Over the course of multiple levels I hacked computers, stole valuable information, and seriously messed around with the inner-wiring of various buildings, all in the name of making a quick buck. Read on to learn what it’s all about, and hear some thoughts about the work-in-progress title.
First and foremost, Gunpoint is a game about using the tools available to you to complete a series of mission objectives all given with some additional layer of criteria, be that a client’s desire that no guard on duty is harmed during a theft or simply ensuring no valuable data is left unlifted before making your silent escape.
The game is steeped in charm. The delicious pixelated styling conveys exactly the element of “sleek n’ sneak” that Gunpoint needs, without feeling tired or cliche. Environments feel detailed while remaining clear and easily readable, while animations are smooth and unintrusive. Rather than opting for a serious tone, Gunpoint is tastefully goofy: throwing yourself from a window without an upgrade which silences your fall results in the player landing face first, flat on the ground. It’s a quirky, simple animation that underlines a philosophy that Gunpoint seems to exude — be a fun game before all else.
And fun it is. Far from being all about the packaging, Gunpoint succeeds in being delightful on the merit of its gameplay alone. Even in an early test build with flickering resolutions and no music, the game’s strict focus on what it is you must achieve and the methods used to do it were immediately engaging and remained so throughout.
So what exactly is the game play? The game takes place from a side scrolling perspective, where rudimentary platforming allows you to scale buildings in an attempt to infiltrate them and access computer systems which are often protected by security guards and electronically secure doors. Guards can be leaped on and served a swift punch to the face, while the security doors require slightly more finesse: using a device dubbed the “Crosslink”, you can rewire buildings to aid you in your robbery. Light switches can be made to open doors. Security cameras can activate elevators rather than alarms. All manner of strange scenarios can be devised by the player, and then set into motion by an unwitting guard who flicks a switch when the lights suddenly go out. It’s fast, fluid, and feels amazing when the heist is pulled off perfectly.
Even when a robbery doesn’t go to plan, it’s no great feat to reload the level. Level loads and reloads occur instantaneously, which sounds like a small point to note but long loading times can be the bane of any clumsy operative. Gunpoint lets you select from a few options upon failure, ranging from reloading to a point mere seconds from where you messed up to simply starting the level fresh.
Much in the vain of notoriously difficult platformer Super Meat Boy, the ability to immediately retry a level with virtually no downtime in between gives great incentive to carry on trying until the job is done. Unlike Super Meat Boy, however, Gunpoint’s open nature means there are innumerate ways to solve any particular level, often meaning you can adjust “the plan” on the fly and leave reloading to more serious foul ups. You know, like being shot in the back.
A multitude of unlockable upgrades are available in the form of both new gadgets and more passive enhancements to the player’s abilities, such as reducing the time required for a fully charged leap, or increasing the likelihood of a guard’s gunfire missing its mark. Upgrades are acquired by spending upgrade points which are earned alongside money for successful mission completion.
Purchasing new gadgets with your ill-gotten gains will make more missions available, which specifically utilise the piece of equipment you just bought.
It’s rare for a game to be so playable in an early build, and even rarer for it to feel polished, but the brief time spent with Gunpoint had me puzzling, chuckling, and eager for more. You can read more about the game and follow development progress through it’s official website, as well as sign up to be a tester or just be notified when the finished product is available for purchase.