I’m tempted to make this the shortest review ever. Gunbrella is marvelous, and with a publishing machine like Devolver Digital behind it, I’d be surprised if anyone reading this doesn’t know about the game already. Two months ago, I had the chance to go hands-on with a hefty chunk of the game.
My article ended, much like doinksoft’s game, with hope. I hoped the game would earn a spot amongst the best titles of the year. And now I know for certain it will. The combat and platforming runs like a well-oiled machine. Every character overflows with striking personality. And the world — though brutal and grim — always seems to be laughing.
I continued my review journey about halfway through the game — where the preview linked above trails off. It took me a little over seven and a half hours to roll credits and through that time, there were plenty of surprises. The moments following my last play session threw a curveball at me that I didn’t see coming, and I loved it.
With this twist, the developers transformed the world, motivating me to revisit areas I knew well already. It’s wild to look objectively at how small the game is, with only a handful of locations to explore because it feels so much more expansive and I never feel like I’m treading old ground.
There is so much to enjoy in this game but not every element soars as high as the rest. The story — not including the moment-to-moment beats because these are often wellsprings of delight — is built well enough to hang the game on, but I was never deeply invested in it. I cared more for the arch of a poor fruit stand owner or a gang of junkers than I did for the main character’s.
What impressed me more and more as I plunged farther into the adventure was the way my choices truly changed up the experience. I spoke with the developers a little about the aspect of the game earlier this year, and they weren’t exaggerating.
Deciding to spare a character early in the game meant I had a good relationship — and a difficult decision — to make in the later chapters. Getting rewarded with the key to a room at an inn for completing a side quest had the unexpected consequence of ensuring me a ton of health going into some difficult battles. There are enough diverging paths that I’m eager to watch other playthroughs to see how other players’ playthroughs differ from mine.
I’ve already hinted as much as I dare about Gunbrella’s ultimate outcome, though I suspect some details will change depending on how you play. Its overarching narrative might be a small rain cloud, but everything else in the game shines so brightly it hardly overshadows the game’s brilliance. I look forward to seeing it in this year’s best of 2023 discussions.