Review: Gunman Clive

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What I’ve learned over the years is that how a game feels is key to its success. People will put up with a stiff or janky game for all sorts of reasons, but you generally don’t have to coax them into sticking with a game that simply feels right. Gunman Clive is just such a game, one that is completely familiar and welcoming from the moment you start it. It’s such a fine fit, in fact, that you may be surprised at how much you miss it when it’s over.

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You play as the aforementioned Gunman Clive on a platforming quest to save his sweetheart… or vice-versa, if you’re feeling particularly progressive. Clive can take a few more hits but Ms. Johnson can float SMB2-princess-style, which is always a pleasure in a platformer. No matter the gender you’ll be armed with a trusty pistol that can lay down three shots on the screen at a time. Most enemies can be dispatched with one or two shots, and sometimes they’re nice enough to drop additional weapons like spread shots, explosive bullets, and piercing beams.

There are sixteen levels spread across four areas, with each level serving as a one- to two-minute scene. Some will take you some practice, especially once they start adding gimmicks like moving platforms, vanishing platforms, fans, zappers, and so on. The further in you get, the more the levels will remind you of classic Mega Man gauntlets, which seem to be the chief inspiration for the game. The music follows suit, a collection of gentle, twangy riffs on 8-bit-era tracks. The graphics are even more beautiful in motion, animated with a simple, sketchy flair more distinct than most platformers manage.

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Gunman Clive won’t last you too long on a single playthrough, but there’s a hilarious third character and a hard mode that lives up to its name to tackle once you beat it. Considering how charming, challenging, and just plain fun it is, you really can’t pass this one up. It’s Mega Man platforming with Contra weapons that looks great, sounds great, and controls like a dream. What’s not to love?

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