Extra Punctuation

Extra Punctuation
Gunpoint Game Makes For Great Action Movie Moments

Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw | 18 Jun 2013 12:00
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I know I usually try to make my Extra Punctuation columns relate in some way to the game I was going on about in last week's Zero Punctuation, but frankly this time I can't be arsed. I resent Over Fuse Strike. Whatever, quite enough already of playing the interminable bloody snoozefest, without letting it occupy my headspace a week after the fact as well. I don't see why I have to keep restricting myself to boundaries that I built in the first place. I mean, Rhymedown Spectacular is ostensibly about videogames, but I did that one about the Sarlacc a few weeks back because I don't give a shit about your "rules", man. So fuck it, I'm gonna talk about Gunpoint. The revolution will be televised.

I've known about Gunpoint from its earliest online presence because a load of people immediately linked me to it saying "Hey, this solo-developed indie game looks kinda like that solo-developed indie game you made a while back". Meaning Trilby: The Art of Theft. Since both are 2D pixel-art mission-based stealth platformers in which the main character wears a hat. Well, I'm not about to start crying rip-off just because a game shares a few themes with something I made years ago.

Having said that, I did a little research between writing the first and second paragraph of this article and somehow this slipped me by at first: the game's by Tom Francis, of PC Gamer UK. A little digging through my email archives confirmed a small nagging memory: he interviewed me once (You can still read it here). Not only do my amateur game development exploits get mentioned, but he also name drops Art of Theft at one point. So maybe Art of Theft was an influence at least after all that, and if it was, I would be very chuffed, because Gunpoint's quite good.

But it's only by surface appearance that a comparison can be drawn, the two games have a distinctly different feel. Gunpoint combines innovative design with a very satisfying feel of movement and organic switching between gameplay styles. Perhaps most importantly it was made in Game Maker, rather than a program primarily designed for the creation of point and click adventure games. You play as Richard Conway, a "freelance spy" who is hired by various parties to embark upon thefts and infiltrations on their behalf. Richard's status as a freelancer works to the benefit of an increasingly complex story because he is free to do jobs for every person and company involved in the intrigue, with no expectation of loyalty, so he can understand every side of the matter. In theory. In practice, I still didn't have a firm grasp on what was going on by the end, mainly because most of the plot was dumped on me in between-mission text conversations.

Which is a shame, because the storytelling aspect starts off very strong in the introductory mission, when we are introduced to Conway as he is hurled through a top-floor window. And then, after dusting himself off, a potential client is murdered as he's making his way up to their office, all taking place within gameplay. After this strong opening it seems like I'm always having to wait until the between-mission text conversations to get an explanation of what I just did and how it's significant. The visual storytelling doesn't ramp back up until the very end, when Richard gets the ability to kick down doors and goes on a very cathartic rampage.

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