A good title can tell you everything you need to know about a video game in just a word or two. When it comes to elevator pitches in that vein, you just aren’t going to get much more succinct than Gunbrella.
Developed by Doinksoft, the studio behind this year’s physical-only Demon Throttle, Gunbrella‘s title really tells you everything you need to know about the 2D action game in three syllables. You have a gun. It’s also an umbrella. What other information do you need to determine if you’re in or out?
A zany name like that can have its downsides though, as players can be quick to write something off as a “meme game.” Fortunately, that’s unlikely to be the case here. Based on a 30-minute demo I played, Gunbrella is shaping up to be another worthy addition to Devolver Digital’s consistent slate of indie action games. Like some of the publisher’s best releases, it makes action just as much about moving as it is about shooting — and that’s all thanks to its namesake weapon.
Under my Gunbrella, ella, ella
My demo begins when my character, a quiet woodsman wearing a brown bowler cap and a long scarf, arrives on the outskirts of a small town via boat. An NPC at the dock quickly puts some quests in my logbook by mentioning some mysteries happening in the game’s “noir-punk” world. The most intriguing of those relates to the titular Gunbrella that I’ve arrived with, which has some sort of strange insignia on it.
From there, Gunbrella wastes no time in introducing me to its core ideas. With its default ammo, my trusty weapon acts as a short-range shotgun that can take basic enemies down in a quick burst. However, that’s just one of many tricks. When holding down a direction button and opening the umbrella with a right click, I zip in that direction. That allows me to both reach high-up platforms and perform dashes.
It’s a little tricky to get the hang of. The direction has to be held down before opening the umbrella, which I found went against my instincts. After some early fumbling, I got the hang of it and started to see the potential for advanced movement techniques that’ll be a blast to watch executed at a high level. Like a lot of Devolver-published games, I imagine the speedrunning scene will have a field day with all those zips.
The umbrella also works as a shield and one that can parry attacks too. If I open up my umbrella right before I’m about to get shot, it’ll deflect the bullet back at my enemy. By the end of the demo, I got a strong sense of the bullet ballet. In one breath, I could pop into the air, shoot down at an enemy below me, and open my umbrella upon landing just in time to deflect a turret’s shot. I’m like a deadly Mary Poppins dropping a spoonful of shells on the world’s creepy cultists.
The story is a little more mysterious at the moment. I only got a small taste of what appears to be a multilayered mystery that delves both into local politics and supernatural horror. While most of my demo was spent exploring a small 2D town that featured NPCs complaining about the mayor, it ended when I discovered cultists making blood sacrifices to summon what’s probably best described as a fleshy meatball with legs. Naturally, that led to a boss fight where I used my gun’s alternate ammo (a longer-ranged pulse rifle) to cut it down without much trouble. There’s a bit of meta humor in the mix for good measure too, like a signpost that begs me not to break a machine with a grenade by laying out exactly how I would do it (I did it).
So far, Gunbrella delivers exactly what I was hoping for: a fun indie action game with a sturdy mobility hook. I get the sense that my trusty weapon is capable of even more tricks, so I’m excited to see how much more it can open up in the full release. Even if it doesn’t wind up being groundbreaking, I certainly already have its name branded on my tongue.
Gunbrella is scheduled to launch in 2023 for PC and Nintendo Switch.
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