One of the best things about the indie game scene, which is positively booming at the moment, is the stories. Not the in-game narratives, although many of those are stellar, but the plots behind the games. In triple-A, the teams are so huge and so guarded that it’s almost impossible to get any sort of human interest out of these gargantuan products, but for a game like Gunpoint, PC Gamer’s Tom Francis has literally documented every part of its three year development on his personal blog.
This means his own fanbase has already lived every high and low of his game’s journey before its release, and it gives the project a sense of worth and humanity that can’t be said for the latest Assassin’s Creed or Halo. Not that it matters if you come to the game clean – Gunpoint is extremely simple to understand, despite appearing incredibly complicated.
You play as freelance spy Richard Conway, who can leap huge distances, can’t be injured by falls, and has the ability to hack into a building’s circuitry and fiddle about with it. With as simple roll of the mouse wheel, you enter Crosslink mode, which turns the side-on view of the game’s level into a crisscross of wires and connected devices.
At its most basic, you can disconnect a light from its switch, and connect it to a separate switch elsewhere in the level. Conway hits the second switch, the light goes off, and a confused guard can’t work out why his own lightswitch no longer works. This causes him to walk about in the dark, letting you climb the stairs behind or run up and knock him out. Lovely.
Soon, though, the potential for puzzling mischief ramps up, and you can really start toying with the world and its inhabitants. It’s ostensibly a stealth game, where each mission asks you to break into a building and hack a terminal, but the possibilities the Crosslink constantly throws up makes the whole thing a hotbed for experimentation.
This is compounded by Gunpoint’s approach to failure. Being spotted means a guard will fire – and kill – on sight, but you an instantly reload to one of three times in the past (usually two, six or ten seconds, or thereabouts) meaning you’re never out of the action for long. This frees you up to enjoy Gunpoint’s genuinely original systems rather than battling against them.
It’s a lean game – clocking in at no more than three hours – but there’s no fat, and Francis’ sharp eye lends the between-level test message banter a classic Lucasarts feel. Gunpoint is a stylish, clever and highly concentrated bit of fun, then, and comes highly recommended. And that’s the story that matters the most.