Release Date: September 13, 2023
Reviewed On: Switch
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Genre: Action Platformer
In the past, indie action platformers have made up some of my fondest gaming memories. However, I wouldn’t say that the stories were as memorable as the gameplay. Developer Doinksoft has seemingly decided to go all in on unique systems by crafting a fast-action experience that is fueled by its story of revenge in Gunbrella. While some stumbles on this foundation make late-game scenarios feel rushed, nothing compares to the responsive controls and cathartic action this game provides.
Gunbrella could be described as a tragedy. You play as a woodsman who has just arrived home to discover his wife has been murdered and his kid kidnapped. The only clue he has is a Gunbrella left at the scene. So, he picks up the weapon and sets out to find who it belongs to, with the one goal to get his revenge. There are several large areas connected by a train that you’ll move through over the campaign. Each area introduces NPC characters who actually show growth across the narrative.
The introduction and many character interactions set up a compelling and immersive story-driven experience. You’ll learn quickly what plagues this region, which mainly stems from those in power doing whatever they can to stay in power. The narrative runs quite deep and brings to light a few compelling issues with your revenge quest. However, I feel that some moments come up short, and points that could have been expanded on are left for those who have played to discuss and ponder. I mean, the easy topic here revolves around the gunman killing hundreds of people to get to one person, and that’s on top of not really knowing who that person is.
It’s a remarkable journey all the same, with a straightforward plot that only becomes more complex if you invest yourself into talking to the many NPCs and following up on side-quests. The supporting cast introduces a few compelling story beats, and the developers weren’t even shy about bringing in late-game characters to emphasize important changes in the environement.
Story aside, exploration and combat nearly go hand in hand, as you use the titular Gunbrella to platform through areas and take out enemies. The use cases of the Gunbrella are vast, with the obvious being an extra jump and glide to reach high areas. However, this can also be used to repel bullets and push back enemies. As you become more acclimated with how to aim and control this movement, you’ll be using it on nearly every screen as it also offers a boost of speed.
Environments aren’t too tricky to navigate, but I would have loved a map. Throughout the campaign, you’ll receive quests that require you to meet with someone else who may give you an item. However, finding that person isn’t always straightforward, so I would simply talk to everyone until I interacted with the right person. While this does become a core system of gameplay, I would have probably saved an hour of my total 8-hour playtime if there were better navigation tips.
The explorable areas contain a few secrets, which mostly consist of gold and ammo, but the better rewards for completing certain missions are heart containers. However, sadly, more health changes the difficulty of the game dramatically. In the beginning, I was dying a lot. The first boss seems to act as a deterrent to players, as if to weed out those who don’t have the skills to progress. However, as you gain access to different types of ammo and gain more HP, the fights only get easier. I was even able to get through several late-game bosses without dying once.
I’d like to note that the default option when starting a new game was the hardest difficulty setting. I played on the Normal mode but found the highest option more suitable for my play style. Regardless, the normal enemies pack a punch, and boss encounters are rather meaningful. Interestingly, there was one character who I really wanted to fight but sadly never got the chance. I’m not even sure why the story arc was there, but I’m laughing at the idea of how it all played out. There are several instances of the developers just having fun with the player, with scenes and missions just acting as a way to make you smile while on a quest to find your wife’s murderer. No big deal.
The additional ammo in the game is pretty fun to use, but I didn’t like how you switched ammo. It’s pretty much Up and Down on the D-pad, but you have to cycle through each ammo type, which makes it tough to get to the one you want if you are trying to switch in a hurry. That being said, your default shotgun is more than capable of taking out every enemy in the game. There’s even a basic upgrade store to improve the reload time and power.
I adored the presentation of Gunbrella. From the grunts of the citizens talking to each other to the impressive 2D dungeon designs, there’s so much quality pixel work done here. The music is interesting because there are some really good tracks, but there are others that just sound like fancy distortion. I understand the reasoning behind the choice, as it kind of went with the area I was in, but it didn’t sound good. During my playthrough, there were several bugs that I encountered, but they were patched out before release.
Gunbrella delivers on tight and responsive bouts of action. Although it’s a challenging platformer, you can enjoy it from beginning to end across an evening as you hone your Gunbrella skills and get your revenge. What’s more enticing is the story and characters who bring up interesting topics that make you question certain aspects of your adventure. The price is definitely right for this game, and I’ll gladly jump back in because it is so damn fun.
This post may contain Amazon affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate Noisy Pixel earns from qualifying purchases.