Gunman Clive Review
Nintendo 3DSAlso available on Android, Nintendo Wii-U, PC, iPad and iPhone
Taking inspiration from shooters and platformers of the NES era, Gunman Clive delivers twenty levels of old west and space-scrolling action on the 3DS. But does it shimmer like gold in an abundance of retro-inspired platformers, or is it held back and confined by its own frontiers?
The story is simple: the mayor’s daughter has been kidnapped by a group of quarrelsome, villainous bandits and it’s up to you to save her. But this isn’t your average band of brainless no-gooders and in the year 18XX they’ve harnessed a future technology to stop you in your tracks. The mayor’s daughter is tied to something more alien than a cactus, so the adventure to rescue her takes you way beyond the desert into uncharted territory and beyond.
Gameplay is in many ways reminiscent of Super Mario, a whole host of platformers of the 80s and, of course, the Mega Man series. Give the little blue guy a colt and a cowboy hat and you’ll know pretty much what to expect. In Gunman Clive, however, you also have the ability to crouch, which turns out to be a core component in the game’s quick draw shooting mechanic.
Bullets travel in slow motion to give you time to jump, duck and manoeuvre your way around them. Crates provide cover for duels, as you time shots carefully and resign your lawless adversaries to the dust. Moving surfaces require platforming skill and accuracy to traverse and you’ll want to dance across them as quickly as possible to better your clear-time.
All of these elements are hugely satisfying and it does immense justice to the games that inspired it. Stages are short and never frustrating, and they have an arcade pick-up-and-play quality that’s paramount to the success of any handheld platformer.
But the most distinctive aspects of Gunman Clive’s design are its hand-drawn, sketch-like visuals and sparse use of colour. The sepia parchment tones pay homage to the simple graphics of the Game Boy and envelop the game in the atmosphere of the old west. Likewise, the music unfolds like a soundtrack to the setting sun and makes dispatching enemies feel like a hobby to be enjoyed on a lazy Sunday afternoon.
Gunman Clive may only cost a couple of pounds on the eShop but it’s certainly no dime-store platformer. It harnesses its references well whilst giving the genre a fresh lick of paint. It may only take an hour or so to complete the first time round, but there’s plenty to come back for with extra characters, difficulty settings and clear-times to beat.
The hand-drawn visuals and chilled out soundtrack give the game layers of charm, and while lighter on content than other big-hitters on the 3DS, like Shovel Knight and Mutant Mudds, Gunman Clive gambles on simplicity, precision and a robust theme. You’ll want to saddle up and ride towards sunset with this cowboy, as Gunman Clive has struck platforming gold.