Platformers are ubiquitous among video games, and many new games of this genre riding on the coattails of the classic games of yesteryear. For a modern platformer to stand out, there has to be a new angle to hook players that are bored with an oversaturated market of generic Mario lookalikes.
Gunman Clive, an iOS game that has recently made the move to Mac, combines tight, challenging gameplay with gorgeous, stylish graphics, elevating it above copycat platformers. But are cool graphics and smooth moves enough to make a good game or is Gunman Clive just shooting his mouth off?
An Old School Platformer
You start playing as Clive, a taciturn gunslinger who sets out to rescue the mayor’s daughter. She’s been captured by an army of bandits, and in a familiar save-the-princess storyline, it’s up to you to bring her to safety. Armed with only your six-shooter, you set off to rescue the damsel in distress.
The game begins in a desert town bristling with banditos, who lean out of windows and pop out of trapdoors. Their aim is to put Clive in an early grave. In a control scheme reminscent of such action-platformers such as Mega Man or Contra, Clive can jump, shoot, collect power-ups and shoot some more. The keyboard controls are not as tight as an actual controller, but the enemies move slowly and it’s certainly possible to avoid their volleys of bullets with a little finesse.
There are a variety of power-ups, including a Contra-style “spread gun” which shoots multiple rounds at once, and a homing bullet that seeks out hard to reach baddies. These items are scattered throughout the levels, usually as rewards for getting those hard to reach platforms or occasionally dropped by enemies.
Clive’s health meter is a red column on the left that decreases as our gunman gets repeatedly shot, stabbed, or blown up by a myriad hazards. He is revived by cake, which possesses mysterious cowboy-healing properties. There’s no game over, per se, so if Clive does meet his doom, he just returns to the beginning of the level.
50 Shades of Brown
This first thing you notice about Gunman Clive is the detailed, sepia-toned artwork. The entire game looks like a sketch of the Wild West come to life. The animations are smooth, and the graphics haven’t suffered a bit in the transition from iOS to the Mac. Clive doesn’t just shoot, he fans his revolver as emptied shell casings fly through the air. Enemies fall over realistically into crumpled ragdolls when they die. Bombs dropped by evil pelicans blow up bridges in massive clouds of dust and smoke. Gunman Clive certainly has sense of style that is memorable and fresh, while still feeling nostalgic.
The environments are varied and the bosses are huge and menacing. Clive hoofs it through a whole range of Old West locales, including a steam train and a rickety minecart ride. The bosses, such as a hulking gang leader armed with a pompadour and a minigun, are well-designed and have a silly, absurd style that definitely keep the visuals interesting.
Gunman Clive’s difficulty ramps up significantly in later levels, as the game begins to throw in buzzsaws, dynamite, and tinier platforms to navigate. And while Clive is blessed with infinite lives, the checkpoints are a bit too few and far between. Maybe I’m a bit spoiled by the generous checkpoints in modern games, but dying repeatedly on the same hazard just to get to the next section and die again, having to repeat the whole sequence, can be frustrating and loses that “fun” factor quickly.
Games on mobile devices don’t necessarily have to have complicated stories or tell tales of great heroes; when played for a few minutes at a time, you’re looking for diversion, not depth. Gunman Clive is essentially an arcade platformer/shooter with not a whole lot of gameplay variety, which is fine in short bursts on your iPhone but not so great for an hour stretch on your Mac. It turns out desktop and console games, which are usually played at a longer stretch, can require a bit more characterization and plot to make the game fun to play.
You jump and shoot and occasionally climb a ladder or ride in a minecart. There are a few power-ups, but these really only augment further button mashing. While this is all well and good when I’m messing around on my iPhone, I can’t see myself booting up my Mac just to play this game. Beyond the flashy graphics, which are admittedly pretty fantastic, there really isn’t more to it than your standard platformer.
Gunman Clive flawlessly blends classic platforming with a fresh, interesting art direction; there’s nothing out there that looks quite like it. The beautiful visuals are varied and interesting throughout the game.
However, the difficulty combined with a lack of frequent checkpoints and the shallow gameplay all may turn off players, casual and hardcore alike. For fans of platformers, it’s worth trying, especially to get a look at the great visuals. If interest wanes quickly, though, graphics may not be enough to save it.