Everyone knows gadgets make the spy, and oh how true that is in Gunpoint. The adventure begins as freelance spy Richard Conway tries on his new pair of “Bullfrog” hypertrousers, launches himself out his apartment, crashes through the skylight of the building across the street and stealthily lands face first in the lobby. Luckily that building is the office of an advanced weapons manufacturer who was planning on calling you in for some work anyway. Not so luckily, on your way upstairs to get the details your future client is is murdered and your face is all over the security cameras as the only other person in the building. Hey, we can’t all be James Bond.
You’re given the chance to wipe out the evidence against you, pick up a few more jobs and track down the real killer. The rest of the game is just sneaking in to buildings to hack some computers and get out without being shot. If that sounds boring to you, well everyone is entitled to their own opinion. That opinion just happens to be fucking wrong.
It’s essentially a puzzle game with a stealth layer on top. Each level has you entering a building to reach an objective and make your exit. Guards shoot on site and one shot kills. That means you really need to take a minute to get your bearings and plot the best approach. No charging out guns blazing when you get spotted here. You fuck up, you die. Not all is lost though. Upon taking a bullet to the brain pan you have the option of restarting the mission entirely or jumping back in at a recent auto save to try that risky maneuver again.
Where the puzzle aspect really comes in is with the Crosslink tool. This lets you pretty much rewire the electrical system of the building. Wire a light switch on the first floor to turn off a light on the third so when the guard on that floor goes to see what the problem is you’re clear to sneak on up and grab your objective. The puzzles start off easy but get pretty intricate as the game progresses and some are down right brutal. You can buy new gadgets between missions to make things a bit easier. Of course along with the more complex puzzles the guards get tougher too so even with your fancy spy tools it’s still no cake walk.
The basic guards can be jumped from behind and knocked out with a quick punch. Unless that guard really pissed you off in which case a few dozen more jabs to the face hole is perfectly acceptable… and good lord is it satisfying.
The story and dialogue are witty and will keep you reading text boxes while chuckling to yourself. The 2D retro pixel art is stylized perfectly for the setting. Tons of indie games are really bringing about a resurgence of the old 8 and 16 bit graphics, which seems backwards considering what modern graphics are capable of. Can’t blame them since it does keep costs down while bringing a sense of nostalgia to us folk who grew up with the old consoles. When executed well, as is the case here, the style just works. Chunky sprites and all.
Gunpoint is a bit on the short side which is really my only complaint. The whole story can be completed in a few hours. It’s not all bad though since each mission can be beat in plenty of different ways. Do you smash through the window and beat the guards senseless, or take the full stealth approach to get in an out as quick as possible without making a sound? On completion missions are scored based on how you played it so that adds some replay value in itself.
But wait, there’s more… a built in level editor lets you create your own missions to fulfill your stealthy/face punching needs. Plus there are already a ton of custom levels out there to download and keep the face punching going. I may have developed an unhealthy obsession with face punching. Perhaps I should see someone about that.