Though not coming until sometime in 2023, publisher Devolver Digital and developer doinksoft have given players a chance to take Gunbrella for a spin in this week’s Steam Next Fest. And, honestly, you don’t want to miss it. Despite the arguably silly nature of a gun made from an umbrella, the game is grave and a touch gruesome. But the strange combination makes for a stand-out demo, even with tons of great options to choose from.
A rickety, steam-powered boat staggers through a putrid ocean choked with refuge. I, a passenger on this questionable vessel, am woken up by a kind-seeming elderly ferryman. He’s a stranger, but wishes me luck on my journey to discover something about the peculiar weapon I carry.
When the boat reaches land, the main character jumps to shore, revealing I control a John Wayne-like figure. A white piece of fabric billows behind me, and in my hands is an almost comically oversized firearm. But no one is laughing when I aim the deadly weapon in their direction.
The opening section is a small tutorial, which clues me in to the basics of my one-gun arsenal. Of course, I can shoot the gun, but there’s more to it than that. With the push of a button, I can glide through the air with the modified umbrella. It makes me look like a apocalyptic, alternate-reality Mary Poppins. The motion feels buttery smooth, and instantly opens up a world of fun traversal opportunities.
Gunbrella’s visuals reach the same heights of my umbrella-aided jumps; it’s pixels done right. The backgrounds are filled with movement and definition, which makes the gloomy, autumn-toned environment feel dynamic. The gory aftermath of my encounters with various enemies are likewise striking.
Combat is fast and varied. I can go straight in for a killing shot, launch above the enemy’s head to avoid damage and mow them down from above, or open my umbrella at just the right time to bounce their projectiles back at them. Each approach is satisfying.
But Gunbrella is not a mindless shooter with some platforming thrown in. There is definite a story here. Its tone and scope is only hinted at in the demo, but with NPCs along the path to throw news quests my way, the game looks like it offers something to snag those narrative-focused players.