“Gunpoint” is the pet project of Tom Francis, an editor at PC Gamer UK and one of my favorite game journalists. After critiquing games for ages and having endless suggestions about how each one could be improved, he decided to try his hand at developing his own game. I’ve long known that Francis’ favorite game is “Deus Ex,” so I went into “Gunpoint” expecting multiple solutions to a level and more emergent gameplay you can shake a stick at. I wasn’t too far off.
In the words of its creator, “Gunpoint” is a “game about rewiring things and punching people.”
He’s right, really. At its most simple, it’s a stealth-’em-up in which you guide a trenchcoated hero and break into office compounds to steal data. Your character is equipped with “projectile trousers” that enable him to jump impossible distances and pounce onto guards. Pouncing onto unaware guards will let you punch them into oblivion, but jump towards them when they can see you and you’ll be dead before you hit the ground.
It might look like standard indie fare at first—a 2D platformer with pixel art—but “Gunpoint” is actually a devious puzzle game with one of the most original mechanics I’ve seen in any game. The core of the game is the Crosslink tool, which allows the player to remotely connect any two electronic objects to each other. In Crosslink mode, you can drag the mouse from, say, a light switch to a locked door. Hit the light switch and the door opens. An object can have multiple connections, both incoming and outgoing.
With Crosslink mode, it’s possible to create chain reactions or even infinite loops in order to distract guards or open up new areas. Say, for example, that a guard is patrolling the floor below you, watching over a locked door protecting a terminal. You can wire the elevator on the floor below you to the lights, then wire those lights to the door you need to unlock. Go down a floor in the elevator, and once the elevator opens, the lights turn off and the door opens. The guard, blind in the dark, will walk towards the nearest light switch, turning his back so that you can pounce him. From there, you’re free to stroll through the door you opened and hack a terminal.
That’s actually a rather hobbled example of the possibilities of Crosslink mode, but to explain more would require more words than I can spare. Suffice to say that it’s a clever mechanic that feels genuinely fresh, allowing you to make puzzles as simple or as laborious as you might like, sort of like the excellent “SpaceChem.”
“Gunpoint” also has a shop and upgrade system that allows you to purchase different gadgets, sell them back, and upgrade your jumping and bullet-dodging skills. Some missions have special objectives that must be met, such as leaving guards untouched. It also appears that there might be a “Hitman”-style rating awarded after missions. To round out the package, “Gunpoint” is brought to life by strikingly stylish neo-noir pixel art as well as amusing dialogue trees between missions that flesh out the story.
From what I’ve played of “Gunpoint,” it looks to be a fantastic stealth and puzzle game that will appeal to players who prefer their puzzles and missions open-ended. It’s currently slated for release after May, and it might very well be free. At the very least, I would expect it to launch at a reasonable price point and without DRM. Until then, you can sign up to test future builds at gunpointgame.com.