Gunpoint puts you in the role of a freelance spy, performing jobs for the highest bidder. Joining elements of Taito classic Elevator Action and puzzle-based hacking sims, it's a one-man heist experience complete with guns, gadgets, and carefully-laid plans. Everything can fall apart at any moment.
Since an early alpha-stage walkthrough, described by developer Tom Francis as “an ugly, awkwardly voiced video”, I've desperately wanted to play. Francis, a writer for PC Gamer UK, isn’t a programmer by trade. Looking at Gunpoint, you wouldn’t know it: the user-friendly GameMaker development environment and a call for artists and musicians helped bring it from idea to reality within months.
In a nearly-overwhelming tide of submissions, Francis favored the pixel-heavy modernist style offered by artists John Roberts and Fabian van Dommelen, whose work now embellishes his prototype graphics with near-future neo-noir. Songs from Francisco Cerda and John Robert Matz, and dynamic music from Ryan Ike, add a bass-driven spy flick soundtrack.
At its core a puzzler, Gunpoint's primary objective is to steal data from computers found throughout each level. Your goal is to enter at the left, hack in, then exit right. You have a number of gadgets to use toward this end, but the most unique and useful is the Crosslink.
With a spin of the mouse wheel, the Crosslink allows you to see and manipulate the cause-and-effect connections between electric devices in the building. Bypass palm scanners by rewiring security doors to light switches. Lure guards from their posts by remotely turning their lights out. Solutions to puzzles can be as elegant or kludgy as you need them to be. That’s a lot of the appeal of Gunpoint; there’s rarely a single solution and you are free to do things your way.
The titular threat of your pistol forces guards into a standoff, but actually firing it triggers a 20-second countdown. Upon completion, a sniper makes your exit practically impossible. Gunpoint wants you to use brains, not bullets.
The build I played isn’t quite finished; the story elements aren’t in place, the mission progression hasn’t been finalized and the final complement of purchasable and upgradeable gadgets remains unsettled.
Even without all of the missions, gadgets, and storyline, however, the core gameplay mechanics shine. That’s what’s exciting about it: the gameplay not only informs the rest of the development process, but makes it worth watching.
Gunpoint currently has a release date of “later than May 2012” for Windows. A Mac port is under consideration. Pricing is currently open to suggestions.
Brian Easton gets to play new video games before you do.