Sometimes all you need is two buttons. Just ask 1985 Mario, or 1987 Mega Man, and they’ll tell you that a well-designed platformer can be really enjoyable with just two actions, jump and shoot. Bertil Hörberg, the developer behind one of this week’s eShop releases, Gunman Clive, must have been a student of the NES, as it seems like he learned a long time ago that all you need is two buttons. That’s all he used, and his game turned out pretty good.
The evolution of a homebrew Wii project, as well as an upgraded port of a smartphone release (for both iOS and Android), Gunman Clive is a straightforward, 2D platformer, that wears its old school influences on its dusty sleeve. Set in the Wild West in the year 18XX, players have the option of playing as Clive as he goes off to save his kidnapped girlfriend, or vice versa. Clive will run, jump and shoot his way through 20 different levels of bad guys and bosses that take him on the journey of a lifetime.
Instantly, the most striking thing about Gunman Clive is the visuals, which look like they have been hand drawn in an artist’s sketchbook. The background, the foreground, and even the characters and enemies are brought to life through this sketch effect, that resembles the classic Ah-Ha video, “Take On Me,” but uses brown as its core tone. Simply put, the art style is amazing, and a welcome break from the more traditional graphics of countless games in the marketplace. As an added bonus, Gunman Clive actually looks better in 3D, which is something that can’t be said about every 3DS game that has included that functionality. The minimalism, mixed with the 2D gameplay, and the sketchy style all work together beautifully when you flip the switch for 3D.
Gunman Clive also makes a big deal of showcasing its roots, and does so without really calling attention to what it’s doing. Whereas games like Retro City Rampage go out of their way to pay homage to the forefathers of gaming, Gunman Clive does it subtly. So much so that it may take two or three playthroughs to catch the awesome A Boy And His Blob reference, but that’s what makes this game standout. There are lots of nods to the past, everything from Clive’s girlfriend wearing a pink dress which allows her to “float” a bit more when she jumps, to a boss that has a grappling hook for a hand, and whether or not you know these are references to Super Mario Bros. 2 and Bionic Commando, Gunman Clive is still good. The game manages to stand up on its own merits, and not solely on the shoulders of its predecessors.
If there’s one problem that players are going to have with Gunman Clive, it’s that it’s short, like really short. Each of the twenty levels can be completed in less than three minutes, and most levels find themselves clocking in at under the minute mark, if you don’t die (each death resets the clock and puts you back at the beginning of the level). Fortunately, there are different characters to play with, as well as adjustable difficulty settings that allow for multiple experiences, but the game is still pretty short. However, there is something to be said for leaving people wanting more, and that’s just what Gunman Clive does.
With a price tag of just $1.99, Gunman Clive is a steal, and should be a must buy for anyone that is looking for a nice quick diversion on their 3DS. Even if you don’t have a 3DS, it’s still worth checking out on your smartphone, but the controls probably won’t be as crisp, and you won’t be able to enjoy the 3D effects. While some of gameplay elements may throw you for a loop (watch out for the ducks and bunnies), and the story may end up being a bit out of this world, Gunman Clive is a truly enjoyable, yet simple platformer that will put a smile on the face of anyone that plays it, whether you’re an old school gamer, or just a fan of the Wild West.