Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Developer: doinksoft
Release Date: Sept. 13, 2023


As an Amazon Associate, we earn commission from qualifying purchases.

PC Review - 'Gunbrella'

by Cody Medellin on Sept. 26, 2023 @ 12:00 a.m. PDT

Gunbrella is a noir-punk action/adventure title set in a world dependent on a rapidly diminishing natural resource.

There are plenty of games that look like Gunbrella. Plenty of them are in the same genre, and with so many of them coming out at a steady rate, it can be easy for a game like this to get lost in the crowd. Gunbrella has one ace up its sleeve, and it is the game's titular weapon, which is intriguing enough to get people looking at the game. What they'll find with the finished product won't disappoint.

The game is set in a Steampunk-like world that's rife with pollution. You play the role of a man in the woods who's gathering some mushrooms for his family's dinner. He notices that his house is smoldering, so he runs back to find his wife dead and his baby daughter kidnapped. The only clue he has regarding the murderer is the weapon left behind: a gunbrella. With nothing else to go on, he goes on a journey to find his daughter and seek revenge.

The initial premise for the story is straightforward enough, and it remains the focus throughout, but it also goes to some interesting places. It doesn't take long for a blood cult to come into the picture, and with it comes the idea of souls and their purity. Environmentalism is also part of the story, as there's the idea of the world's power source coming from the remains of the dead. There's also some child trafficking, since the most well-to-do area of the world seemingly can't have kids of their own. It's quite unexpected for what is supposed to be just a simple revenge story, but it is welcome to see something so simple end up encompassing so much more. The game doesn't let these things paint an overly serious vibe. The side characters you meet have a wealth of personality and can crack a few jokes that don't seem out of place or in bad taste. You have recurring bystanders who provide some comic relief and balance the vibe by the time the credits roll.

When it comes to the weapon, the designers have made the gunbrella as versatile as possible. At its core, it is a simple shotgun with a decent spread and range, but it also hits quite hard. It isn't surprising that with one well-placed close shot, some enemies can go down in a splatter of blood with body parts torn asunder. You can outfit the gunbrella with different ammo types, like rifle ammo to increase its effective range, grenades, saw blades, fuel for a flamethrower, and sticky bombs. They're all great to use, but there is limited ammo for each; the ammo supply for the default shotgun is infinite.

The gunbrella is also a defensive weapon, which is rare in shooters. You can open the umbrella to act as your shield, and it prevents just about every type of attack from coming through, whether it's basic gunfire or missiles. You can also protect yourself from melee attacks and flames, but the heat meter means that you will get damaged from if the enemy flame is persistent. Time your block just right, and you can even deflect projectiles; the game simplifies this by ensuring you don't need to aim precisely, either. To balance things out, the game prevents you from shooting while the umbrella function is active, so you can't plow through levels virtually unscathed.

The gunbrella has a third trick: a mobility device. Since you have no double-jump, pointing your gunbrella straight up or diagonally causes you to get the equivalent of a jumping dash in that direction. This is essential if you're trying to do some wall-jumping. Open it while walking, and you perform a dash move; open it in the air while descending causes you to do a plummet or a slow descent, depending on where the gunbrella is pointed. The weapon can also latch on to hooks to let you swing from cables or ropes to let you zip by. The level design takes advantage of these abilities, as it creates some scenarios where you'll use it quite often. It doesn't go into precision platform territory, but there are plenty of large chasms to cross and ziplines to let you avoid the enemy or get the drop on them.

The developers consider this to be a Metroidvania game, but that's only partially true. You can return to areas that you've visited previously, but it isn't essential if you're going straight through the main story path. Revisiting old areas is available if you want to clean up some side-quests, but the game can simply cut off access to those areas or cancel some of the quests if you've gone too far in the story. The game is more linear, but it still retains some of the traits of the subgenre, like sectioning off levels into smaller rooms, having a finite number of enemies, or hiding passageways that lead to bonuses. It is refreshing to see a game like this not be another Metroidvania, but those hoping that this plays out like others in the subgenre will be disappointed.

There are two aspects of the game that are disappointing. The first is the upgrade system for the gunbrella. You can effectively upgrade both your shot strength and your reload speed, and while there are three levels to each, it never feels like any of the upgrades are significant. Hit an enemy with an indirect shot at level 3 shot power, and it feels just like it did at level 1. That lack of a tangible difference renders the upgrade system as optional, rather than something that feels necessary to beat the game.

The second disappointing aspect is the bosses. For the most part, every boss succumbs to the basic strategy of going up to their faces or limbs and unloading with your shotgun ammo. You can switch things up by switching the ammo you'll use, and you do that on the final boss because it makes the fight go by faster, but you're never compelled to try to learn any enemy patterns to take them down effectively. The only time you do more than this is during a boss fight in an elevator shaft, which forces you to move around quite a bit and use a good deal of the gunbrella's abilities to win. It's a testament to how good the core combat is that weak boss fights aren't enough to diminish the overall fun of the game, but more thoughtful fights wouldn't have hurt.

The presentation is both good and surprising. Graphically, Gunbrella has a modern interpretation of the 16-bit style, with a finer use of pixels to produce some good effects, especially in the gore department. Until the very last area, the colors paint a picture of bleakness, but it remains beautiful nonetheless. Prepare to be surprised when seeing your character's eyes bulge out when getting hit. On the audio front, the effects are fine, and the voice acting works since it's just mumbling with a few recognizable words here and there, but the soundtrack catches you off guard. Just about every genre type is used, from tunes that evoke a horror adventure to something more comedic and outright electronic music. There's no real cohesion, but it works for the moments when it pops up, so few will mind how much of a hodgepodge it is.

The game is already Steam Deck verified, and the performance falls in line with many indie games of the past year. From a full charge, you're getting an average of over four hours of playtime, and there aren't many options to change to extend that. The frame rate hits a solid 60fps at all times, and you aren't going to encounter any issues when it comes to having legible text. About the only thing people might change is the presence of film grain, as it can be too noisy on the device's small screen.

Gunbrella is a very solid game. It isn't perfect due to some easy boss fights, and it isn't quite a Metroidvania because of the game's linear nature. However, it does make good use of the titular weapon in performing some nice platforming tricks, and you'll enjoy some meaty combat with most of the enemies. If you don't mind the game's short playtime, you'll have some fun with Gunbrella.

Score: 8.0/10

More articles about Gunbrella
blog comments powered by Disqus