Review: Gunman Clive (Nintendo 3DS)

Gunman Clive
Genre: Platformer
Developer: Horberg Productions
Publisher: Horberg Productions
Release Date: 01/03/13

Gunman Clive is a deceptive little game; it’s priced under two dollars, comes to us as a port from the smartphone gaming scene, features no plot beyond “save your captured beloved” to speak of, and looks for all the world like a fairly simplistic platformer. Once you get past the initial perception, however, the game is surprisingly interesting. While the game is most certainly a platformer in thought and deed, it’s one that took its lessons from the platformer glory days of the eighties, crossbreeding elements from Contra, Mega Man, Shinobi and Castlevania into a wild west themed platformer that’s full of style to boot. It’s certainly not the most robust game in the world, but for a two dollar game it makes a very strong argument to pick it up, as it’s stylish, well designed and a whole lot of fun, especially considering that the game, for all intents and purposes, looks to have been created by one guy in Bertil Horberg.

A big part of what makes Gunman Clive as interesting as it is are the visuals, which are surprisingly engaging despite their obvious simplicity. The game uses an interesting color palette, rendering the world itself, and Clive, in a light brown, while enemies appear in other uniform colors, so most bad guys are blue, animals are yellowish, Ms. Johnson is pink, and so on. The style has a very artistic feel to it as well, as the characters and environment look very wild west in their design; there’s a pencil drawn feel to the characters and environments, as everything purposely lacks in some details, giving the game kind of a washed out look that’s stylish in execution. The various characters and obstacles feature a good amount of animation, however, and the game also features excellent 3D effects when turned on, so the game is certainly technically interesting, and while it’s not hitting the 3DS heavily or anything, it looks fantastic due to its artistry rather than its technical merits. Aurally, there’s no voice work to speak of, though there a decent amount of sound effects, which basically sound like the sort of effects one would expect from an arcade title from back in the day. Weapons either make the standard “pew pew pew” noises one might jokingly make when pretending to fire a toy gun or over exaggerated explosive effects, as do the weapons of the enemies, which works thematically and makes it easy to distinguish what’s going on or when you make contact with enemies. The music is pure MIDI madness, featuring older sounding scores that harken back to the eight and sixteen bit days of gaming in a novel touch. Not only that, but the soundtrack is exceptionally well done, featuring tunes that are immediately evocative of that same time period while also calling up images of the wild west. One song even uses the opening bars of the Golden Axe theme to start it off before going in a different direction, which is pretty neat if nothing else.

There’s only one mode to the game proper: run across the screen, dealing with enemies, and get to the end of the level by whatever means are available. The game is purely interested in its platforming elements and, as such, there’s nothing else to do with the game outside of that. Playing the game is pretty simple: you can move your character with the D-Pad or analog stick, B jumps, and Y shoots your gun. That’s about the size of how the game works from a control standpoint, so you can figure it out in about ten seconds and go to work. You’re given the option to play as either Clive or Ms. Johnson, the mayor’s daughter (which, in fairness, you’d only know if you visited the game’s website), and whichever character you pick will be saving the other one from the evil bandits who abduct them. Aside from that difference, however, Clive and Ms. Johnson also play slightly differently from one another, as Clive can run faster through levels, while Ms. Johnson can float down after jumping; both characters are fully viable either way, and neither change is a big one, but it’s a cute addition at least. You can also unlock the ability to play as a duck once you beat the game; the duck cannot attack enemies so it’s a notably different experience, but the duck can boost its jumps up to six times to make evasion easier, and it’s a fully viable way to play if you’re interested.

Gunman Clive isn’t just a run of the mill platformer, however, as it’s learned many lessons from those games that have come before it, and makes great use of that knowledge of history to build a game that’s interesting in design. Clive or Ms. Johnson start off with a rapid firing hand pistol, but can pick up upgraded pistols from power-ups left in the environment or by dead enemies, including spread fire, large explosive bullets, bouncing shots, homing shots and more. Taking a hit makes them drop said gun, however, so you’ll only have said gun for as long as you can avoid damage. The level designs also ape several classic platformers in a lot of interesting and welcome ways. Enemies are placed in the worst possible positions to challenge you to be more attentive when moving forward, moving platforms pop up now and again, and there are many different types of enemies that attack in varied and sometimes confounding ways. You’ll also encounter fans that blow you backwards, timed traps, disappearing blocks, boulders and platforms that move based on what side you stand on, and all kinds of other play elements that immediately call back to older games while still feeling unique here. Hey, there’s even a minecart level and a shooter level where you fly around on a rocket! The game is basically a giant love letter to old-school platformers and it does a very good job of both emulating that style and making the mechanics feel like they belong here, and fans of the genre will love their time with the game.

The game is divided into twenty total stages across four zones, with each zone consisting of four regular stages and a boss stage to mark the end of the zone. The game offers three different difficulty levels, though these only seem to change how much health you start out each stage with, so the lower the difficulty level, the more health you get. You’re given an infinite amount of lives to progress with, but you’ll have to start the stage over should you die, so you’ll have to make use of power-ups and memory of sections to make progress, so the game isn’t absurdly challenging, but you’ll likely die a few times no matter what difficulty you play on until you get a section down. The game doesn’t noticeably change no matter what character you’re playing as or what difficulty you choose, sadly, and you’ll be able to get through it in about one to two hours, so it’s not an especially lengthy experience. There’s also no plot to speak of, as outside of the beginning scene where your beloved is kidnapped and the ending scene where you save them, the game has nothing to say about the plot at all. Relative to the asking price, though, this is hardly a big deal in the least, though it’s not likely going to be a game that’s going to call to players who don’t care for platformers.

As a five dollar game Gunman Clive would probably be a fun novelty, but for its two dollar asking price it’s basically a game that anyone who likes platformers even a little bit should download. Sure, it has no plot to speak of, it’s a little on the short side, and there’s not an exceptional amount of variety to the game. For two dollars, however, you get a game that is artistically interesting in both its audio and visuals, plays very well, and makes very good use of elements from other platformers in a way that feels both fresh and familiar. The game is an absolute blast to play through and always has new and different tricks to show you across its twenty levels, and with three different characters and difficulty levels to play around with, platformer fans will easily get their money’s worth from. Gunman Clive is a fun and inexpensive platformer with a lot of style and an excellent execution, and even the most casual of platformer fans should drop the two bucks (TWO BUCKS PEOPLE) on it, as it easily justifies its asking price and then some.

Short Attention Span Summary:
Gunman Clive is an interesting platformer that justifies its lack of plot and significant depth with an amazing presentation, some strong level design, a lot of charm and a very low asking price, making it easy to recommend. The game, in all fairness, lacks any sort of plot to speak of, can be completed in an hour or so, and isn’t terribly deep in the options it offers, but for two dollars this is generally forgivable. What the game does do is present itself in an artistically interesting fashion visually and aurally, play quite well, borrow elements from various eighties and nineties platformers in a way that makes them feel fresh and new again, and offer enough gameplay options to more than justify the asking price. Gunman Clive is a game that anyone who enjoys platformers should be downloading as soon as they get the chance, as it’s fun, pleasant to the eyes and ears, and incredibly inexpensive, all of which make it easy to recommend unless you hate platformers or something.



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One response to “Review: Gunman Clive (Nintendo 3DS)”

  1. […] and playable. If you really want a cheap platformer from the eShop, there are better options. Gunman Clive comes to mind. Still, this game might illicit a few happy moments. For two and a half bucks, it […]

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