Gunman Clive HD Collection Switch Review by SwitchWatch

Developer: Hörberg Productions

Publisher: Hörberg Productions

Release Date: 17th January 2019

Price as of Article: $3.99, £3.59

Game code provided by Hörberg Productions

Introduction

While originally released on phones and PC back in 2012, Gunman Clive really shot to fame in 2013, when it arrived on the 3DS and became one of the standout indie titles thanks to its fun gameplay and incredibly affordable price. The sequel arrived 2 years later and retained that very same admiration. Eventually they were bundled together and put up in HD in a nice little collection, and that’s what we have here today.

Story

The story for this collection of two games is, thankfully, very simple to explain, considering the second game literally picks up from the ending of the first. The plot of the first game has Clive battling his way through nefarious bandits in rescue of the kidnapped Ms. Johnson. Now, major spoilers here – he succeeds! The second game then begins with Clive wanting to finish off the bandits once and for all and is in chase of their leader. There’s no spoken dialogue and cutscenes are barely even present, so if you’re desperately searching for a story-based platformer, you’re looking in the wrong direction. I’d suggest heading over to something like Iconoclasts instead.

Gameplay

At their core, the Gunman Clive games are uncomplicated, run-and-gun platformers. If I had to make a straight comparison, it would be to the early Mega Man games, yet even more simple than those. Using only two buttons (shoot and jump), you need to out-gun a plethora of bad guys as well as participate in some devious tests of your platforming skills. With only two buttons, you don’t get much simpler than this. Both games play exactly the same, although the second certainly feels a little more refined in a few aspects – your rate of fire is more consistent, for example. 

When it comes to gameplay, it is on the slower end. There’s no dashing or power sliding, just a gentle jog through the levels taking one platform and enemy at a time. It can feel a little meandering in comparison to some platformers out there, especially with the lack of a sprint button, but I for one, enjoyed its leisurely pace. There are moments when quick reactions are needed, especially as time goes on, so please don’t mislabel these two games as being ‘boring’.

There are three initial characters to choose from and a fourth available once completing the game. At least, I believe that’s the case. Maybe I did something extra special but I doubt it. I won’t spoil the unlockable character because it’s hilarious and well worth it. The three characters are Clive, who’s mechanics I just stated; Ms. Johnson, who plays very similarly, but is restricted in normal movement (I think), but can have a mini glide after jumping, just like Princess Peach in the Mario games. The third character is a Native American fella who plays very differently considering he doesn’t have a gun. Instead, he has a spear he needs to poke enemies with, so you’ll be getting up close and personal with his play through. The fourth character is even more different and completely changes up how you play the game, and I think it’s a nice challenge for those who enjoyed the game.

There are only a handful of power-ups in these games. Your pistol can be altered by picking up random item drops from enemies and, if you see one, you’re highly advised to pick them up because they can make a world of difference when it comes to making your life easier. The most common is the spread-shot which shoots three bullets at a time, shotgun-style. You’ll have a more explosive round which packs a fair punch, as well as a homing-style weapon and laser fire. That’s pretty much it. You’ll have to be careful though, because as soon as you get hit, any power-up you have will disappear and leave you with the base revolver. It’s pretty harsh, but I feel it balances the game’s difficulty out well.

Each game has three difficulties, and I personally played on the default normal difficulty and I felt I had a balanced challenge. Not too difficult, but not super easy either. The first few levels may give a false impression of it being overly easy, but once you’ve gotten into your stride, the platforming and enemy placements can give you some good test of your skills and, if you’re like me, you’ll end up dying a fair bit. Playing on normal can be fairly brutal too, since if you die, you have to start the level from scratch. Sure, they are short, but each one is packed with mini challenges.

The biggest challenge for some may be in the boss battles which occur at regular intervals. Big, beastly and not letting you rest for a second; you’ll definitely need a handful of tries before overcoming them after learning their attack patterns and how to deal with each.

While both games in this collection play almost identically, it’s worth noting that there is a significant feeling of change between the two. I obviously played the original game to completion first before moving on to the sequel and I really wasn’t prepared for the jump in calibre. The first game is a lot of fun, for sure, and includes some great level design. The sequel, however, makes the original feel more or less like a prototype or demo. That’s not to besmirch the first, but to praise Gunman Clive 2 because despite the mechanics being exactly the same, the ambition in level design, confidence, and personality is taken to another level. It feels like the designer really went to town with this one after getting comfortable with the first entry. Currently, it’s been over the same length of time between the first and second game. I’m hoping a third entry isn’t too far away, because I’m excited about what this developer can do next.

One thing I really enjoyed is that it doesn’t dwell on one line of thought for too long. Each level usually gives you a new challenge or novelty, and in couple of minutes it’s over. The game moves on. It never drags anything on for too long which is something you’ll always find in the most top notch of platformers, like in a Mario or Donkey Kong game. Each level concentrates on one new thing or challenge. Obviously, it’s not up to those heights, but it shows that the creator knows how to pace a game very well, even if it’s only an hour or two long. So often you’ll find even decent platformers don’t know when to quit with certain aspects of their game. I suspect Gunman Clive could easily have been twice or three times the length if the developer wanted to, but chose to go for quality over quantity and that is a commendable choice.

I think the major criticism of its initial release was that it was too short, but I think it’s perfect and all the better for it, especially considering the price which I’ll get to soon. The first game will take you about an hour or less and the sequel will be double that. It totally depends on how good you are because, as mentioned, there can be some tough bits in these games and I wouldn’t be surprised if you had to replay some parts a few times over.

As for my personal criticisms, I only really have one, I suppose. As stated, the game can be a bit of a challenge, and the main culprit of that during the standard levels is the often trial and error nature to it. You’ll find yourself getting undone by enemies or platform switches that you just can’t see coming until you’ve been foiled by one of them and have to make a mental note for the next time you get to this spot. That may not to be to everyone’s taste, but I feel the short nature of the game and compact nature of the levels make this far less of a nuisance than it would be in other titles. 

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Audio

The audio is very good. It’s the only thing not done by the game’s creator and I think that’s a choice for the best, as the person in charge of the music has done a fantastic job in capturing the essence of a western. I will criticise the sound effects for being a little weak but it’s a minor point in the grand scheme of things.

Visuals & Performance

For the visuals, they’ve gone for a faux hand-drawn look over what is just a very basic 3D game. The first game is rather uniform in its look. It’s mostly very monotone and unchanged throughout the play through, aside from a few striking enemies and bosses that really stick out. The second game is more adventurous with its colour palette, as each location shares a different colour scheme as you’d expect from travelling the globe. I’m not actually sure which game I prefer when it comes to the colour choices. The original is very strong and memorable, while the second does give a bit of variety, but can also be slightly distracting at times. Either way, I think it looks lovely for what is a simple, cheap game.

Value

For £3.59 or $3.99, I can’t complain at all. When actually handing over cash for an eShop game, you’re rarely going to find such lovely quality for such an affordable price unless there’s a massive sale on something. I pay more than this for a sea salt caramel latte, honestly, and I’ll get far more goodness from 3 hours with Gunman Clive, or more. I don’t normally feel like replaying games, especially as finite as platformers usually are, but because you can blast through this old-school style, I actually do feel compelled to go back to this one. The four different characters add to this too. I would say it’s definitely worth that hard earned cash of yours, don’t wait for a sale!

Pros

P

Well paced

P

Expertly designed levels

P

Fantastic value

Cons

P

Trial and error at times