Review: Gunbrella is a violent and irreverent supernatural retro adventure 

gunbrella, review

Developed by Devolver Digital’s recently acquired doinksoft, Gunbrella puts you in the role of a lone man in search of vengeance. Armed with the titular weapon, which was used to murder your family, you’ll stop at nothing until you find the one responsible. And it doesn’t take long for things to get a little weird once you start dealing with a secret cult and their dealings with the supernatural. 

Given that your armament of choice is a mix of a gun and an umbrella, don’t be surprised by the sheer abundance of platforming mixed in with the gunplay during your adventure. Gunbrella is by all means a retro throwback in the vein of Duck Tales, where the gameplay hook more than characterizes the game, being far more than a mere gimmick.

The world that you get to explore in Gunbrella isn’t exactly big in terms of its map size. There’s only really a handful of train stations to stop at, but when out and about, the environments do tend to get somewhat intricate and sometimes a little easy to get lost, especially because there’s no map to speak of in the game.

gunbrella, review
You might be small, but the action is BIG in this game.

Then again, the overall progression in this is fairly straightforward, wherein you’ll get a few missions to look into along with the main quest to find your family’s murderer and it doesn’t take all that long to complete them along the way. Gunbrella is the sort of game that will take you a few hours to get through. Whether or not you’ll breeze through it will depend on how well you master the weapon and platforming tool combo you have at your disposal.

In a slightly more modern twist, you are given dialog options when interacting with other characters, and depending on your answers, the game’s progression can shift slightly to accommodate for the consequences of your actions. While nothing particularly huge in terms of your experience playing the game per se, it’s a neat little touch having other people acknowledge your actions, in similar fashion to last year’s Infernax.

Take a slight cue from Batman’s villain Penguin, the protagonist’s gun also happens to be an umbrella. With it, you’re able to deflect incoming bullets as well as guide through the air in order to reach far away ledges both vertically and horizontally. The initial gun is an infinite ammo shotgun with limited range, but you’re able to pick up or even buy other types of ammunition that change its firing rate, such as machine gun bullets and even grenades, not to mention saw blades that can ricochet off of walls and the ceiling of most rooms you’ll explore.

Since the main character and other sprites are relatively small in comparison to the large environments you’ll get to check out, more often than not you might find yourself losing track of your position, even more so when you’re quickling zipping around with the umbrella. Due to the quick pace of combat, that’s bound to result in a few accidental deaths, either from falling into pits or spikes, or by your enemies.

gunbrella, review
Things take a turn to the bizarre in Gunbrella.

By the time you get used to the controls, though, getting in and out of the way of hazards becomes second nature. You’ll need to learn it well and become proficient in mixing up movement and attacks because the screen-filling bosses require you to be very precise in avoiding and countering their attacks. In one case, you’ll also be required to mind the platform that you’re standing on as the battlefield shifts vertically while you all move up an elevator shaft.

These types of shake ups help keep the otherwise simple gameplay loop of the game relatively fresh. The comings and goings of the quests you’ll solve along the way will also give you some much needed cash that you can spend buying supplies, and by accruing bolts, you’re able to upgrade the gunbrella’s offensive capabilities, turning into a well-oiled killing machine.

Given doinksoft’s track record with developing retro-inspired games such as Gato Roboto, it’s no wonder Gunbrella looks and plays like an 8-bit Nintendo game, and I’m all for this presentation style as it works well in presenting contrasting backgrounds to the action taking place in the foreground. Characters animate as well as they possibly can given the limitations and you’re bound to get a kick out of their portraits whenever there’s dialog.

gunbrella, review
The umbrella is a very versatile tool. Be sure to master it.

While I wouldn’t exactly laud the game’s soundtrack since it’s relatively sparse and quiet, it does kick in at just the right time, when the action’s at its highest and the tension is just brimming. I do, however, like the little voices that doinksoft has given to some of the characters, especially the protagonist, which given the circumstances, it’s understandable that he’s steaming mad and grumbles a lot.

Devolver Digital has been on quite a run for years now and I don’t see that changing anytime soon, thanks to the excellent curation of their catalog. Gunbrella is a game that has been on my radar ever since it was announced a couple of not-E3’s ago, and now I’m glad that it was very well worth the wait. It’s the sort of game that doesn’t overstay its welcome and manages to deliver a satisfying six to eight hours of platforming/shooting goodness that anyone looking for a good retro game is bound to enjoy. 

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