By Dan Moren
November 28, 2016 2:43 AM PT
Go Play: Gunpoint
Note: This story has not been updated for several years.
I’m not quite sure how to describe Gunpoint. Wikipedia calls the indie game by Tom Francis a “stealth-based puzzle-platform” title, which I guess is accurate, even if it does sound a bit like “everything but the kitchen sink.” I’ll just call it a lot of fun.
The game’s a bit on the old side, since it came out for Windows back in 2013, but it’s been on sale for $5 on Steam, so I picked it up in advance of my travels, and found it a delightful way to spend a few hours. (Fortunately it ran like a charm on my 2014 MacBook Air.)
The basic premise is this: you’re a freelance spy1 who becomes embroiled in a murder case involving rival companies. You get hired to do jobs that involve breaking into secured buildings and stealing information. At the start, your only tool is a pair of Bullfrog hypertrousers that let you jump really high, and then fall from the same height without hurting yourself.
As the game goes on, you get hired to do additional jobs in brief text message conversations where you can choose your (often hilarious) responses from a menu. Gunpoint handles its entire plot with a wry tone that both embraces the noir tropes while poking plenty of fun at the hard-boiled narrative.
Much of the game involves you sneaking between rooms and figuring out how to avoid guards and get to your end goal, and that’s where the puzzle mechanic comes into play. By pressing a key, you switch into the “Crosslink” mode that shows the building as a schematic, detailing all the devices installed in it. From there, you can point and click to rewire elements in the buildings, everything from light switches to motion sensors. So instead of having a camera set off an alarm, you can instead have it open a door. Sometimes you just use this to get into a room, other times it’s a handy way to distract guards so you can sneak around them.2
There are plenty of options to be had as you figure out how to rewire the electronics to best serve your mission, and Gunpoint has more than a few of those satisfying “ah-ha” moments when you discover a particularly clever approach, or realize something you hadn’t thought of before.
At the end of each mission, you’ll get a report card saying how well you did (how many casualties you inflicted if any, how loud you were, how much time you took, etc.), as well as a payout of money and upgrade points, which can be used to acquire new gear—the ability to jump through glass windows silently, or rewire bad guys’ guns—as time goes on.
One minor complaint I had about the game is that since it requires using both the keyboard and cursor for the interface, it can occasionally be a little confusing as you switch between them. (In particular panning around the map, which uses the arrow keys in “normal” mode, but follows the mouse cursor in Crosslink mode.) It takes a little time to get used to, but it’s hardly a showstopper.
Gunpoint’s not a particularly deep game—as I said, you can probably finish it off in a few hours—but it’s a lot of fun, from the snarky writing to the slick score. If you’re a fan of puzzle games and/or hard-boiled detective novels, it’s definitely worth your time and the $5 it’ll cost you.
[Dan Moren is the East Coast Bureau Chief of Six Colors. You can find him on Twitter at @dmoren or reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. The latest novel in his Galactic Cold War series of sci-fi space adventures, The Nova Incident, is available now.]
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