Now I want my own Gunbrella, ella-ella, ayy, ayy, ayy.
Doinksoft, makers of Gato Roboto, are back again with another Devolver published title in Gunbrella. You play a gruff, cloaked individual who totes the titular Gunbrella on a quest for revenge, after coming home to find his wife murdered in cold blood. The gritty, dark setting of the game works well for the detective noir-style story, and twists in the story make for a fairly exciting playthrough, even if the gunplay itself can be a little sparing. Solid gameplay overall, a variety of sidequests, and some humorous dialogue exchanges anchor the experience, but there are some frustrating softlock bugs that hinder enjoyment of the 6 to 8-hour playthrough.
As you pursue your wife’s killer, you’ll come across a cult, a group of scrappers, a variety of common folk, and a sect of religious zealots, all of whom function as friends or foes on your adventure. Many different people will offer you tasks to complete that can reward you with coins to spend on items, gears to upgrade your weapon, or even heart pieces to increase your health meter. The minute-to-minute gameplay blends adventure game trappings of completing sidequests while working towards the evolving main quest of learning more about the Gunbrella and discovering the culprit responsible for destroying your happy family. Dungeon-like spaces outside of the handful of towns offer platforming challenges and a smattering of minor enemies to blast into oblivions; on occasion, you’ll encounter tough boss fights that may require you to pull out different ammo types you can collect, such as rifle bullets and grenades, or quickly whip out consumable items like apples and bandages.
Movement in Gunbrella is a noticeable strength; in addition to walking and jumping, you can press the R button to open your Gunbrella for blocking projectiles or to perform a dash in any direction. The combination of wall jumping and dashing is used throughout the game to scale mine shafts, avoid acid pools, and leap from mountain ledge to mountain ledge. Throw in a dash of shooting at turrets, tentacles, and even supernatural entities, and you’ve got a recipe for a good time. That said, you shouldn’t expect Gunbrella (even with its title) to be heavy on the gunplay; there’s just as much talking to strangers and exploring 2D spaces as there are shotgun blasts. Fortunately, you have a lot of opportunities to make meaningful decisions; sparing someone’s life can lead to rewards down the road, so it’s best to think carefully before pulling the trigger with reckless abandon.
Speaking of 2D spaces, there’s a wonderful sense of layering to the backgrounds in Gunbrella, as you roam its dingy, almost post-apocalyptic environments, you’ll notice multiple elements in the background moving along with you. The detailed pixel art is attractive on its own, but the way in which foreground and back play off each other makes for a very pleasant aesthetic experience. The audio experience, on the other hand, is a bit lacking: the sound effects work well, but there’s almost nothing in the way of memorable music, unless you would classify foreboding and atmospheric silence as an earworm.
Unfortunately, my pre-launch playthrough was hampered by a variety of bugs. The worst among them was a softlock that occurred at the final boss, where its death animation never ended. I was happy to learn that a patch was released to fix this particular bug. Another such issue arose earlier on, but it was solved by simply restarting from my last save point, and thankfully there is a frequent auto-save in addition to a generous amount of manual, health-restoring rest points.
Having played both Gato Roboto and Gunbrella, I’d say that the former is the stronger overall experience, edging out the latter because of its progress-halting bugs (which may be mostly hammered out during the game's launch). The atmosphere and movement abilities of Gunbrella are excellent, but the lack of enemies and opportunities to use the titular weapon are a bit disappointing. If you prefer more of an adventure-game bent to your action-platformer, then Gunbrella is definitely worth a look, even if its rain-shielding, double-barreled frame could use a little more polish and a lot more target practice.