Skip to main content

Gunbrella is another bloody B-movie in Devolver’s video game grindhouse

It only takes a few minutes for me to figure out exactly what I’m in for upon starting Gunbrella — though its title alone should have been a dead giveaway. The pixelated action game opens on a grim scene as I find my dear wife gunned down in our home. When I flash-forward to the present day and find myself blowing through enemies with a deadly umbrella, it becomes clear: I’m in a B-movie.

It’s a cinematic tradition I’m very familiar with. When I was a kid, my friends and I would often rent the lowest-budget action movie we could find at Blockbuster and revel in its schlock. Oftentimes, we were treated to unpredictable experiences that threw every rule of filmmaking out the window in favor of cheeseball entertainment. They were absolute messes, but that was the charm; we craved that idiotic jolt of entertainment. I couldn’t tell you a single thing about the inarguably bad Chupacabra Terror, but I still haven’t forgotten the experience of watching it.

Gunbrella joins an ever-growing stable of Devolver Digital-published action games that bottle up that grindhouse energy. It’s a rambunctious shooter built around a confidently goofy combat-traversal gimmick that’s immediately pleasurable. Though like so many of the exploitation flicks I’ve watched in my life, I don’t expect to remember much outside of its memeable title.

B-movie action

Gunbrella is the latest title from Doinksoft, the team behind 2019’s Gato Roboto. That title was a bite-sized Metroidvania that streamlined the genre and focused on its charming cat-mech gameplay hook. Despite the fact that Gunbrella might look different, much of that DNA is carried over here. It’s another sleek genre piece that’s mostly head down in paying off its absurd title. It’s like Sharknado or Hobo With a Shotgun.

A character dives into a junkyard in Gunbrella.
Devolver Digital

Doinksoft and Devolver haven’t been shy about that in the game’s marketing. Its original reveal trailer famously featured a low voice growling out the game’s title, a throwback to exploitation film trailers. There’s also a grainy filter over its pixel art, further drawing connections to old-school cinema and the charming imperfections in low-budget films.

Though Gunbrella may look the part of a “so bad, it’s good” movie, it’s only acting the part. It’s actually a well-constructed 2D game with a strong action hook. My character wields the titular Gunbrella, a multipurpose gun that doubles as a traversal tool. By hitting my right bumper, I can open it up and quickly zip into the air like Mary Poppins. It’s funny, fun, and functional all in one. That tool means that I can clear rooms full of enemies in an instant, dashing around the screen and blasting away everything in my path.

It’s the same fast-paced, schtick-based thrill that I’ve gotten from other Devolver-published titles like Hotline Miami, Katana Zero, My Friend Pedro, Ape Out, Boomerang X … the list goes on. And it’ll continue to go on. Look at Devolver’s upcoming release list and it’s very clear that the publisher has a type, even if it’s taking in games from totally different studios. You can probably guess what next year’s Anger Foot is all about from the title alone, just as you don’t need to read a synopsis of the 1986 film Chopping Mall to guess where that goes. Devolver is keeping the grindhouse era alive in video game form.

The main character of Gunbrella faces off with a dinosaur boss.
Devolver Digital

It’s a commendable task, though one that can have diminishing returns with modest releases like Gunbrella. While its central action hook is a jolt of short-term fun built for speedrunners, the package around it doesn’t stand out much. Its central revenge tale quickly sidetracks into a schlocky steampunk story about evil cultists and grotesque flesh monsters. Its tone drops into pure irreverence with a barrage of hokey jokes that undercut any potential drama. Even its level design can be sparse, calling to mind low-budget movie sets. It can all feel like a hollow framing that’s secondary to its central gag.

As I barreled through the forgettable story, I flashed back to those days picking random movies off the shelf at Blockbuster. What happens in Chupacabra Terror? Search me. I zoned out for most of it, only tuning in to hoot and holler every time its goofy monster crawled back on screen. That’s how I felt as I sped through dialogue so I could get back to gleefully taking down bandits, cultists, and dinosaurs. Ask me what Gunbrella is about in 10 years and I won’t have a clue. But you can be damn sure I’ll be able to replicate that iconic “Gunbrellaaaa” growl without a second thought.

Gunbrella is available now on PC and Nintendo Switch.

Editors' Recommendations

Giovanni Colantonio
Giovanni is a writer and video producer focusing on happenings in the video game industry. He has contributed stories to…
The video game industry has laid off thousands this year. Here’s what that means for you
game developer layoffs january 2024 overwatch 2

Layoffs have unfortunately become a nearly nonstop occurrence in the video game industry over the past year. In 2023, over 10,000 workers at game studios lost their jobs, according to data from Game Industry Layoffs. In January 2024 alone, Kotaku reports that over 6,000 developers have already been laid off.

Layoffs at Microsoft hit particularly hard for players, as nearly 2,000 Microsoft developers were let go after years of optimistic promises from Xbox leadership over the Activision Blizzard acquisition, and a survival game project was canceled. While that's been the biggest wave so far this year, we've seen plenty of other companies cutting staff, from Riot Games to Eidos.

Read more
Children of the Sun turns sniping into a pitch-black puzzle game
A bullet travels towards a man in Children of the Sun.

I've played a whole lot of puzzle games in my life, but I can safely say that I've never played one as pitch-black as Children of the Sun.

Published by Devolver Digital, the newly announced Children of the Sun is an unholy hybrid between a shooter and a spatial reasoning game. It follows a lone wolf with a sniper rifle on a bloody quest for revenge against an evil religious cult. He has to take out swaths of zealots one bullet at a time. It's as dark as video game premises get, but one that's steeped in a clever genre fusion. After trying its challenging and bloody first levels, you can consider my curiosity morbidly piqued.
One shot
Children of the Sun wears its tone on its sleeve. Cutscenes between levels tease out a bloody cultist story in a wordless motion comic complete with raw illustrations. At first glance, it comes off as a little overly edgy. "Evil religious cult" has become one of gaming's most overused clichés at this point -- three of the last four games I've played this year use the trope. Fortunately, developer René Rother seems to be going for more of a tone piece than a deep story here. It nails that aspect, using dark visuals and oppressive electronic music that give the world a creeping sense of dread.

Read more
My favorite game of 2023 is a secret Twitter eulogy
The Kinmoku SHark sits on a table in Videoverse.

Growing up, I routinely did the very thing adults begged me not to do: I talked to a lot of strangers.

That was thanks to the World Wide Web, which was a digital wild west during my formative years in the late 1990s and into the 2000s. As a small-town nerd who couldn’t always find friends with the same passions as me, I spent many days in online communities. Long before writing professionally, I’d cut my teeth in criticism on IGN’s forums, crafting weekly reviews of Super Smash Bros. Brawl reveals. I’d become close friends with a small group of Death Cab for Cutie fans who I’d never meet in real life despite talking to them every day. My small world would only widen as social media moved outside niche forums and into large-scale apps that could connect me with even more like-minded friends.

Read more