Gunbrella is Devolver Digital’s newest retro platformer from developer Doinksoft. It is a revenge tale about a gruff woodsman looking for owner of the elusive Gunbrella, said to been used to kill his wife and kidnap his daughter.
Devolver Digital is no stranger to stylized revenge stories, with Trek to Yomi being the most recent title that comes to mind. The difference between the two is that Gunbrella is told through the guise of the action-platformer that keeps pulling out surprises the further you progress through the game with its challenging combat and engaging narrative.
A Bloody Tale of Revenge
Gunbrella‘s narrative actually unfolds (heh) naturally starting from a simple premise of revenge using a silent protagonist as he traverses through a desolate wasteland where nothing is what it seems. It brings back some nostalgia of old-school 8-bit games where a sliver of story is told during the intro and as you complete levels, more of the story unfolds.
The difference with Gunbrella is as you complete levels, you’re rewarded with town interaction where you can complete side quests, upgrade your equipment, and progress with its narrative. It’s a simple premise that broadens the more your progress. It’s quite easy to dismiss it with its retro appearance and its unconventional controls, but as you get used to it, there’s more that meets the eye.
Gameplay-wise, you can traverse the wastelands as you would do in many action platforming sidescrollers. You can walk left and right, wall jump, and attack with your weapon: the gunbrella. It functions as a shotgun, and as you collect unique ammo, it varies on its damage output. In terms of traversal, the gunbrella allows you to glide, boost jump, dash, and rappel through hard-to-reach areas.
Combat-wise, the gunbrella also serves as defense as you can parry gunfire and block some attacks. It is a versatile weapon that it allows for the majority of your offense, defense, and traversal options. While you can collect gears to increase damage output and reload speed–you’ve received everything that you needed at the start of the game.
Most of your power ups are mostly healing items such as a bandages, which recover your health as well as food items that increase your max health. You can increase your drops and recovery with pills, but you also develop a dependency on them if too much has been taken. Ammo can be dropped by enemies or purchased in stores. With that, you can collect coins to pay for items.
Side quests allow you to both expand on the existing storylines and also be rewarded with items. I didn’t expect such a well-constructed world given its simple premise and gameplay, but the world design is fantastic and the quests maximize what the developers have created for their world.
The World is a Vampire
The world is divided by areas that run through its world spanning train route. There are five main train stations with each area separated by towns and combat areas. There are no fast travel zones within the towns, but the areas are wide and you could replenish your health and save when you rest on benches or in beds. They also serve as checkpoints where you can respawn after you die.
At the start of each level, the combat areas are spread out evenly where you can expect to rest up and then clear about 3-4 screens before a new rest areas. As you progress through the game, checkpoints become a lot more spread out and there are areas. Also the more you complete areas, you start to encounter invincible enemies that you can’t kill where it is best to run away from them providing an unnecessary challenge that slows down progression.
It adds a new level of challenge to the game, which can go either way with the players. As you can toggle difficulty, it presents a fair challenge even for the easiest difficulty level. More skilled players can increase difficulty as they see fit. Although the checkpoints become unevenly spread out, it becomes frustrating as it gets a lot more difficult.
The combat in Gunbrella is probably the best feature of the game where you met with challenging but entertaining boss fights. They’re not incredibly difficult that you can actually defeat them with all your default settings. The extra items will make the fights easier and faster, but the fights remain fair for the most part.
As you complete the game, I find that there are some side quest choices that unlock certain gameplay features depending on which story choice you went with. For example, there’s a quest where you can choose to give the gem to a different recipient. If you chose the merchant, you’ll receive a discount for their wares. If you chose the sewer dweller, you can take animal carcasses to cook into food items. There is no right or wrong choice, just different gameplay options with the same choice.
I feel that different difficulty levels unlock a different gameplay experience with each run through, which promotes replay value. Playing at higher difficulty levels really is the way Gunbrella is meant to be played, being able to utilize your offensive and defensive prowess to vanquish bosses. While there’s no penalty playing at a lower difficulty, the game really shines if you work for it.
Just like its gameplay, the narrative as it progresses really unfolds into something much greater and larger at the end of it all than when it began. It’s a nice surprise seeing how the game expands from such a simple premise and it keeps you motivated especially when the areas start to get quite challenging. It’s nice balance between gameplay and narrative, which is difficult balancing act for many titles. I’m glad Gunbrella got it right.
What We Liked
- Wonderful balance between narrative and gameplay elements that conspire to become a fantastic surprise indie title.
- Solid implementation of side quests and power-ups to keep the game balanced and interesting at the same time.
What We Didn’t Like
- Checkpoints become too spread out making the game needlessly challenging.
- Certain areas are difficult to traverse with how some enemies are designed.
Verdict: Buy It!
Gunbrella is another surprise hit for Devolver Digital and Doinksoft. It is an entertaining and challenging action platformer that’ll keep its players entertained for hours through its detailed gameplay and intriguing story. As the whole game unfolds, there are many surprises that lie in wait and as you complete the title, it completely becomes something else in the end.
Gunbrella is the right balance between its narrative and gameplay and both conspire to keep you engaged from its simple beginning to its rip roaring finale. There’s also more to discover long after you’ve completed the title allowing for more replay value in its already inexpensive package.
I highly recommend Gunbrella not only to indie aficionados, but also to those who enjoy action platformers. Don’t let its retro exterior fool you, it is a meaty title filled with surprises and a fun game to to boot.
*Gunbrella was reviewed on the Nintendo Switch with a review code from the publisher.