Sometimes I check out a game for a preview and just wish I could play the whole thing right then and there. Gunbrella absolutely falls into this category. Its gameplay is so smooth; it’s like wrapping your hands in silk. The imagery is at odds with the game’s perfectly ramshackle world, but I love an interesting contrast, of which Gunbrella has no shortage. Despite the bitter plight of our protagonist, the crumbling world around him, and the blood-soaked path he walks, Gunbrella is shot through with humor. I can’t wait to see its conclusion.
Unlike previous looks I’ve had at Gunbrella, this preview dove a little bit into the story. It answers some of the questions I had, like: What’s with the gun/umbrella mix? Why is the stoic hero on a journey? And how hungry do you have to be before eating cooked rat? For that last one, it seems anything is better than nothing when you’re down to one heart.
I’ll pick up the tale of woe in Allendale. Having battled death-defying forces and rescued — kinda — a damsel in distress, I finally make my way to the big city. Here, I’ll get my answers. Someone called The Tinkerer dwells in this urban jungle, and he is rumored to have made the weapon I hold in my hand.
But first, I decide to make a quick stop for a nap. Unlike save spaces — which take the form of benches — that fill up my hearts when I rest, sleeping in a bed grants me bonus hearts on top of a full heal. And it just so happens I have the deed to a room in the hotel up ahead for helping out the mayor on my last adventure.
This is one of the many ways my choices change the game. Because I decided to take on an optional sidequest, my health bar is formidable and upcoming challenges are that much more manageable. However, extra health doesn’t help with a broken heart.
Finding the Tinkerer in his shop, the game reveals why my character is out for revenge. The gun I’m holding is stained with blood and a brutal history. It’s also the only clue I have to finding my worst enemy. The gunbrella, I learn, was made for a member of Allendale’s special guard called the Parasol Gunmen. As the name implies, they are all armed with this unique firearm, and a now-retired policeman may have committed a heinous crime, or know who did.
My potential foe spends his days fishing in the wilds outside of town, but it’s not easy to get there. Overgrown spikes, flesh-eating fish, and stinging wasps attack me as I navigate the path already filled with 2D platforming challenges. Despite several failures, I appreciate the balance between skill-testing gameplay and generous checkpoints. The game is difficult, but not rage-quittingly so.
Surprisingly, finding my target isn’t the climax of this area. That happens as my past with the necromancers in Cult-45 (which I defeated in the previous town) comes back to haunt me. They resurrect a monstrosity of fleshy limbs and blood to destroy me. The resulting battle is easy to read but difficult to live through. Octopus-like limbs try to skewer me, toxic bubbles eat away at my health, and the abomination uses its head as an effective battering ram before I end the fight.
And this isn’t the only boss battle I take on during this massive preview. I later find myself facing down a grotesquely diseased giant rat. The battle is memorable not only for the pools of acidic vomit I have to dodge while attempting to pump the creature full of lead, but because it marks another outstanding example of my choices making a difference.
Before going toe-to-toe with the overgrown vermin, I got in a scuffle with a muscle-bound enforcer. After beating him, I had the option to take his life, but choose not to. And because he went on to see another day, he was there to help me defeat the rat king — allowing me to beat it on the first try.
From here, the game’s scope grows larger, and my task becomes more impossibly tangled up in power struggles, unfeeling greed, and deplorable injustice. I can’t wait to see how these will affect my personal mission for revenge.
Gunbrella is still set to release this year, though we don’t have an exact date. With less than five months left in 2023, the vague release window makes me anxious that I won’t see the end of my journey as soon as I want. But I will absolutely wait for this game, as it seems likely to earn a place in the top titles of the year no matter when it launches.