Gunpoint at Gunpoint

Gunpoint is an indie stealth puzzle game in which you rewire levels to outfox your foes and, occasionally, hold people at gunpoint.

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Gunpoint is a very charming game and I wish I liked it better. There’s much to the game that appeals to me. The pixellated graphics and humorous writing bring to mind adventure games I enjoyed in the eighties and early nineties, and the soundtrack is excellent. The game allows a fair degree of freedom for the player: all dialogue can be skipped and, since the only thing that really counts on missions is the main objective, you are free to choose your approach. You have to love a game that gives you a gun and then encourages you to never fire it.

The creative approach to missions is where the game is designed to shine: you have an array of tools at your disposal to rewire electrical systems to get around the security measures in efficient, amusing or satisfying ways. This is also where the game falls short for me: the missions just aren’t that interesting.

There are often a number of ways to get around the passive security: you can rewire the electronics to gain access to areas you shouldn’t be allowed to, fool the security guards into doing it for you, or just crash in through a window. However, at the end of the day that is all you ever do, and no matter how complicated or clever your set up is there’s only so much sense of accomplishment in outsmarting a door.

The security guards offer more potential for creative prankery but that is also a limited well. The game rather encourages a non-violent approach with several clients preferring minimum violence on missions they offer, and many levels don’t really have that many guards to play with in the first place. The player is also at an incredible advantage compared to guards, which are pretty stupid even by video game standards. The player character can jump several stories high and land without injury, move along ceilings and walls, and bring down most guards with one punch. The player also sees the guards at all times and can manipulate their environment in various ways, luring them from their positions, knocking them out with doors or electric shocks, or sending them plummeting to their deaths through trap doors.

A player given to virtual sadism can no doubt dispatch the guards in various satisfying ways, but you can always just pounce them and punch their lights out. Personally I mostly tried to circumvent them without being seen, which not only felt more elegant to me but also added to the degree of difficulty. You can always go through; going around is generally much harder.

You can blast through the game in a couple of hours and there’s not much satisfaction in replaying. There are a few paths you can take through the story, but they have zero impact on the actual missions; they can’t have any, as the plot is skippable. The game invites you to comment on your choices, though, which is a neat idea. This kind of engagement with game narratives is something I’d like to see more of.

Gunpoint was fun the first time; it could have been more so. I’m not sure if it was worth ten bucks.