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Gunbrella

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Developer: doinksoft
Release Date: 2023

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Switch/PC Preview - 'Gunbrella'

by Cody Medellin on Nov. 4, 2022 @ 12:00 a.m. PDT

Gunbrella is a noir-punk action/adventure title set in a world dependent on a rapidly diminishing natural resource.

Video games feature some weapons that are odd yet inventive: a crossbow with living ammo, the Dubstep gun, hair, and an oversized magic marker. Developers work their magic in trying to convince players that inventive weapons are much better than a normal sword or machine gun. As long as developers keep making games and weapons like Gunbrella, we'll never tire of seeing what they can come up with.

The demo was very light on narrative. You get off a ship in what looks like a polluted Steampunk world. You're told that you'll find some answers to your unknown questions in a town to the east. Going there, you discover that a cult has kidnapped a few people, including the town's mayor, and rescuing them will be the first step you take to get the answers you seek.


Gunbrella is presented as a side-scrolling Metroidvania title. For the most part, the demo showed off some of those elements, like the ability to go backward and having sections separated as large rooms. With a release date of sometime in 2023, there's plenty of time to show off more nods to the genre.

The main star of the game, at least mechanically, is the gunbrella itself. It starts as a normal shotgun, but you can later pick up ammo to make it a semi-automatic assault rifle or a grenade launcher. At the press of a button, you can use the umbrella as a shield, but it can reflect most gunfire if you time it well. Outside of combat, the umbrella can be used to traverse ziplines. It can also slow down your descent or, if you're moving upward at a leap, propel you up higher.

The level design so far shows off plenty of use for the mechanics. Many of the stages show off some verticality, so you can practice your wall jump/umbrella combos. There's ample space to use your reflective umbrella to destroy turrets, but you'll have to master the timing if you want to do so against normal enemies with short notice. The same goes for the ziplines, and the combat areas aren't narrow, so multi-directional shooting is possible. It remains to be seen whether that changes later, but the demo's early levels do a good job of showing off what's possible.


The demo also shows us a game that isn't quite so grimdark, despite the setting. You might find a kid playing in the street or a house overflowing with cats. Talk to certain people, and you'll get into conversations about their hometown or sleeping habits. There's a drug store clerk high off his own supply and two random people talking about how they'd be a better mayor. For a game that allegedly takes place in a world of diminishing resources, it's a pretty lively world, and we hope there are more places like this in the full game.

The overall presentation is quite good, but it's also familiar if you've played enough indie titles over the past few years. The pixel look is more in line with some modern indie games; they go for characters with more defining features who are squat rather than tall and slender. They're also in constant movement, with animations that look good but don't go overboard. Despite the dour setting, the environments look quite nice, but it is the copious amount of pixelated particle effects that impresses. It's a neat effect to see a smattering of blood whenever you shoot an enemy or seeing you constantly bleed when critically injured.

We also tried out the demo on a Steam Deck, and it feels quite good on the device. There are no graphical options to change except for a full-screen one, and the game gives you roughly three-and-a-half hours of playtime on a full charge. The pixel graphics fit the screen perfectly, and the text is perfectly legible when anyone speaks. The frame rate is smooth, as are the controls, so the game is well on its way to being good enough for Valve's device.

So far, Gunbrella looks to be fun for fans of Metroidvania-style titles. The versatility of the titular weapon gives you a ton of flexibility, and the level design puts that to very good use. There aren't many Metroidvania signature elements in place thus far, but based on what we've seen in the demo, the world is a fascinating place to explore. We're certainly interested to see where this goes, especially with a release date of sometime in 2023.



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