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  • Writer's pictureOle Gamer Joe

Gunbrella Review - Under My Gunbrella-ella-ella


From developer Doinksoft of Gato Roboto fame and publisher Devolver Digital comes action-adventure title Gunbrella! But does it come out guns blazing or am I about to rain on your parade? Let's find out in our full review!


Gunbrella has been an eagerly anticipated indie title this year, and for good reason. Publisher Devolver Digital seems nearly invincible within the indie scene, backing one outstanding project after another. With a talented developer like Doinksoft at the helm, it's easy to see why so many gamers have been excited to explore the dark world of Gunbrella. While I had my frustrations throughout this 8–10-hour campaign, Gunbrella manages to deliver an interesting narrative, bleak atmosphere, and oddly, a fascinating weapon that makes for a unique indie gaming experience to say the least.


Gunbrella screenshot: this game is very brown
Gunbrella comes to us from well-loved developer Doinksoft and equally beloved publisher Devolver

In a depressed world slathered in various shades of brown, you'll play as a mysterious middle-aged man whose name I won't spoil here. He seeks to find his missing daughter who has been kidnapped and to learn more about the mysterious weapon he brandishes known as the Gunbrella. He's a compelling enough lead with an interesting backstory, and the same can be said for quite a few of the characters you'll encounter throughout the game. In fact, I was surprised at the sheer amount of dialogue Gunbrella presents. There are tons of conversations scattered about the various areas you'll traverse, with a few impactful choices throughout the campaign that do, indeed, have consequences within the story.


Gunbrella's writing ranges from serious in tone to comical. I generally liked the dialogue, and while I think this revenge tale can get a bit messy at times (even taking a few bizarre twists that weren't necessarily my cup of tea) it is mostly entertaining. This is a script that delves into murder, betrayal, love, and even religion. Sure, there are some head-scratching moments, and perhaps the pacing felt uneven at times, but overall, the story does enough to keep players invested-- warts and all.


As for playing Gunbrella, the control scheme is a bit unconventional in some ways, but easily mastered after a short adjustment period. Most of your learning will come from getting a feel for the Gunbrella itself, a weapon that not only attacks foes offensively, but can shield you from enemy fire, float across gaps and latch onto hooks in some of the game's platforming sections.


If playing on an Xbox controller as I was, you'll aim with the right stick and ammo is fired off by either using the Right Trigger or X button. Wall clinging and jumping is a huge part of the gameplay, as players will need to hop up and between a variety of platforms and landscapes. Thankfully, this mechanic works pretty well the majority of times. The Gunbrella is opened with the right bumper, and also allows for players to dash forward quickly. With your Gunbrella unfurled you'll be able to float about freely so long as you keep the button firmly pressed down. This mechanic took me some time to get accustomed to, but is an original concept that I can appreciate, and did make for some pretty cool gameplay moments. I liked the versatility of the weapon. Whether it was utilized for traveling down treacherous cliffs or as a shield from enemy fire, the Gunbrella is a welcome mechanic.


Gunbrella screenshot: this guy really likes fish
Charming narrative in surprising quantities for an action-adventure game

That said, when it comes to battling enemies, I wish the Gunbrella's abilities had been implemented as well as they are when traversing areas. While you'll unlock an assortment of ammunition types ranging from machine gun bullets to a flamethrower add-on, it wasn't until near the end of the game where I even felt the need to use them. This is because my unlimited shotgun blast, which is what you start the game with, felt perfectly adequate and, honestly, a bit overpowered.


Enemy AI is also quite disappointing in Gunbrella, as most enemies can easily be manipulated into basic patterns and will go down in a blast or two. This includes boss encounters. These gnarly looking monsters offer up little in the way of challenge, save for the last area of the game where the obligatory last boss stands in your path. His pattern took me a while to figure out, but I ended up defeating this foe a good five times, as the game would glitch upon defeating him. Oddly, on that fifth time I happened to try on Steam Deck, and that was the only time I could get the credits to roll. I'm confident this will be patched out in short order and may not even be an issue on launch day, but it was frustrating to say the least, especially considering this was the only technical hurdle I encountered. All told, Gunbrella's enemy patterns leave much to be desired, making the combat feel forgettable at times, almost like a missed opportunity. Sure, deflecting bullets was neat and some of the other ammunitions are pretty fun to use, but these moments are few and far between. The game does attempt to mix things up later with an alternate bullet type that can deal with certain undead enemies that otherwise can't be killed, but this is mostly part of an optional side quest. In the end, my advice would be to crank the difficulty up to hard if you're a more experienced player, as Gunbrella was a complete breeze on normal.


Gunbrella screenshot: why do we need rats?
Gunbrella has some creative ideas for systems and traversal

Traversal through different towns and locations takes place through a railway system which is simple but effective enough. Players will also carry with them a journal which helps you to keep track of your current objectives. There are a few side missions to be picked up which offer rewards like additional heart pieces which can add to your health, but these optional objectives were few and far between. Gunbrella is a relatively linear experience, further demonstrated through the lack of a map, which honestly wasn't all that much of an issue as this isn't a particularly large world. Between action segments, towns also offer shops where you can upgrade the Gunbrella using machine parts or buy more ammo and consumables from various merchants. Better yet, stop by your local Bill's Pills stand, because he's not creepy at all and completely trustworthy...


Visually, Gunbrella is very brown. I don't know how else to say it. The graphics match the tone of the game's script, but also look a little fecal at times. There's plenty of bricks, chains and machines brought to life through solid pixel art. The game auto loads with a grainy filter, which I personally was quick to turn off. Enemy designs are nothing to write home about, but I did love the design of most bosses, which have an alien-like quality to them. I will say that Gunbrella also has some cool visual effects like blood splattering when you annihilate enemies, and the lighting is really well done. It isn't until the last world where we really see any degree of color, and for me that was the best-looking part of the game. Overall, this isn't a bad looking game, but stylistically, it just wasn't always my favorite.


Gunbrella screenshot: nice bananas
You'll encounter various shops throughout your travels

As for the sound design, Gunbrella presents a very unusual soundtrack. It's lo-fi, abstract, and electronic most of the game with plenty of driving bass for good measure. The sound effects are quite nice, creating an overall soundscape that wouldn't be out of place on a new experimental Radiohead album. I enjoyed it for the most part. You don't get voice acting per se, but characters will let out some odd noises from time to time which for me, I could take it or leave it. Overall, much like the rest of Gunbrella, the visuals and audio are a bit of an acquired taste.


On Steam Deck the game performs very well, locked at 60fps and plays just fine thanks to the lovely feel of the Steam Deck itself. So, if you own a Deck and don't want to chance a Nintendo Switch port, this is definitely a great way to experience the game.


Perhaps I have sounded a bit critical in this review, but honestly Gunbrella is still a cut above your average indie game. It has some unique ideas that could easily be expanded upon in a sequel. While I wasn't big on the combat, traversal was fun and the story was intriguing enough to get me to the finish line. The game plays well, it doesn't look awful, though I wasn't big on the oversaturation of brown, and it sounds quite lovely. While perhaps not fully living up to my expectations, Gunbrella still delivers a fun campaign and is worth adding to your library.


Pros

+ Interesting narrative

+ Gunbrella is a cool weapon

+ controls and plays pretty well


Cons

- Default Shotgun blast is overpowered

- No real need for other ammo types

- Visuals can be a bit overly brown

- A bit on the easy side


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