With the floodgates of indie games completely opened, it sometimes can be a bit difficult to catch the really interesting titles right when they first come out. So it was with the Gunman Clive series for me. It wasn’t until I borrowed a friend’s copy that I actually paid much attention to the game. Let’s see if the games are actually worth your money and precious gaming time!
Gunman Clive starts you off as the titular protagonist, trying to stop bandits from wrecking the peaceful countryside. It’s a pretty basic side scrolling action game, with a somewhat slow, deliberate jump, a normal shot that can have up to three bullets in the air, and the ability to grab or let go of ladders in the air. In short, the mechanics are a slightly floaty early Mega Man feel, with the jump feeling a bit more like Mega Man X. This is not a bad thing, as the game mechanics feel familiar enough to be immediately comfortable to anyone with any experience with the Mega Man series.
Occasionally you’ll come across temporary gun upgrades that can give you anything from a triple shot to a homing bullet, or even a large, explosive but slow moving shot. These are immediately lost upon taking a hit from anything in the game, so keeping a special weapon for any amount of time is a mark of skill. Occasionally, life is dropped in the form of slices of cake as well, but these are about as rare as life drops in a Sunsoft NES game; that is to say, very infrequent and at the mercy of a sulky random number generator.
The graphics are quite stylized, taking a sketchbook style and adding color to distinguish bullets, enemies, and the player character. They’re nothing to write home about, but the look is very fitting, the animations are smooth and fitting, and I can’t really complain about anything in the look.
Music is similarly fitting, with the compositions definitely fitting a wild west theme. The only real complaint here is that tracks are reused several times and begin to feel a little stale after the third or fourth time you’ve heard them.
Difficulty is where the two games falter a bit. While you have unlimited lives to try completing the stages with, the levels are full of some very difficult and sometimes even cheap enemy placement. The first game tends to ramp up the difficulty at least somewhat moderately, introducing mechanics and enemy types one by one, and many of them will get a nod of “Yeah, I recognize this. The designer obviously loved Mega Man.”
However, the stages love to place enemies in concert with checkpoint positioning to knock you back to the last checkpoint for one more try. Even worse, the platforming heavily relies on pixel perfect jumps combined with a physics engine that can have the stages moving around you.
The second game ramps up the difficulty even more sharply, turning the difficulty ramp into a difficulty cliff right from the beginning. If I had to declare a comparison, Gunman Clive 2 is The Lost Levels for the first game. It reuses most of the first game’s mechanics while adding a few new ones, while expecting you to already have the first game mastered. It also adds a few 3D behind-perspective stages, but those feel a little bit off to me.
Mastery has its rewards, however. Gunman Clive has three playable characters, one of which is only accessible after completion. Gunman Clive 2 adds a fourth, much more difficult character as well.
With the price of both games being less than a fast food lunch, I can wholeheartedly recommend the first game without reservation. The second one I’d reserve judgement on until you’ve finished the first game. If you’re looking for more challenge then, go for it. Otherwise, you may want to steer clear.
Gunman Clive: A-
Gunman Clive 2: C+