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Sunday, June 16, 2013

Gunpoint review

There's nothing new under the videogames sun, perhaps, but indie action/hacking game Gunpoint confidently proves that it is at least possible to shine a different light on familiar concepts.

Take hacking, for instance - usually in the vaguely irritating real of number-matching or maze-solving minigames. In this future-noir 2D game, it takes on far more prominence, and dispenses with complexity and tedium in favour of big results.

You, as a private investigator wearing super-powered trousers and wielding a gizmo able to remotely rewire almost any electrical item, get to make your way into and out of locked down guarded buildings by creating merry chaos. Set a locked door to open by pressing a nearby lightswitch, have a hand-scanner fell its users with a shock from a distant power socket, or devise arcane combinations such as a motion scanner triggering a lift to go to the next floor, where a sound sensor hears it and turns the lights off so you can creep around in safety.

While Gunpoint doesn't take this concept to especially involved levels, slamming to a somewhat abrupt halt before all its ideas and potential have had the chance to fully blossom, it deftly executes what it does have with panache and fluidity.

Rewiring a device is as simple as dragging a line from it to whatever you'd like it to connect to, and there's no need to be standing neither either part to do it, so building-wide carnage can be set up with a just a few mouse clicks. There's really no obstacle between devising and plan and executing it, and the option to rewind time by 1, 10 or 15-ish seconds upon (regular, and usually very silly) death means you won't feel punished for not getting it right first time either.

On top of this, the aforementioned super-trousers grant the ability to jump huge distances, fire yourself through plate glass windows or fall from enormous heights without taking a scratch. It's a joy just to control your trench coat-wearing hero as he grasshoppers about the place. He can also use his power-pounce to knock down and subdue or optionally kill enemies - or alternatively to miss them by a couple of inches and faceplant into the ground in front of them. This is a game in which both getting it right and getting it wrong usually has a comic pay-off.

Meanwhile, a consciously ridiculous plot about double-crossing corporations can be a little hard to follow, but is rich with gags and comedy immorality. You're unlikely to find yourself impatiently clicking past all the text here.

The only downside to it all, as already mentioned, is that it all feels over far too soon, even excusing the low price. It's not just that it's only three hours long - it's that you might feel you've mastered it even before then. Gunpoint seems to be sat on a goldmine of ideas and devious potential, but it could have done with digging just a little deeper into it. Even so, it's a joyful, frequently hilarious package of wit and wonder.

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