Gunbrella Review (Switch) – Gunslinging In The Rain

Gunbrella is the third full title from Oregon-based studio Doinksoft and the first official release after the acquisition by Devolver Digital. Doinksoft seemingly aren’t afraid to pivot genres accordingly, as their monochromatic metroidvania Gato Roboto, or NES-style shoot ’em up Demon Throttle are both big departures from what we even have now with Gunbrella. What does link all the titles together is an overwhelming sense of capability and confidence in gameplay – only this time round Doinksoft has something to say.

The game is a 2D action platformer set in a ‘noir-punk’ world on the verge of ecological collapse. The ideas ruminated from the frustrations of COVID-19, exploring climate disaster, isolation, police and corporate greed, into the world, story and aesthetics of Gunbrella. Seemingly the only symptom of the pandemic I can embrace nowadays, as I think this could be Doinksoft’s most thought-provoking game yet, whilst retaining the addictive and near-flawless gameplay I’ve come to know and love them for. So is Gunbrella just tears in rain, or the best invention since the air fryer? Let’s get into it.

I’m Vengeance

The game opens with our gruff silent protagonist foraging for mushrooms. On his travels back, he can see his home burning down from a distance and rushes to save his family. He’s too late though as his wife is dead on arrival. The only thing salvageable in the burning and bloody wreck of his home is the mysterious Gunbrella, an umbrella that conceals the fact it’s a deadly weapon. Full of revenge, he sets out on a journey to find the owner and exact painful justice.

Don’t let the simple premise fool you, Gunbrella’s magic isn’t necessarily the plot, but the world built to push the narrative. Every character, location and quest/side quest feels fully realised. I cared about every NPC or shop owner I came across, and to my delightful surprise, your actions have consequences that affect them. There is no binary of good or bad between characters, instead, there’s a morally grey fog of motivations that leaves you to deal with your actions.

Something insignificant like a boss you’ve just bested telling you to finish the job does grant you a health upgrade but at the detriment of upsetting the boss’ friends. The more violence I imbibed in the rainy world of Gunbrella, the more contemplative I felt about the journey ahead. Violence begets violence at the end of the day and Gunbrella doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it delivers something impactful. I’ve already mentioned the themes and whilst some of the execution lacks nuance, it doesn’t tout it in your face to pick a side. But I can see it creating a dialogue, and that’s always commendable.

Under My Gunbrella

The titular Gunbrella isn’t just a plot device as it’s also the focal gameplay mechanic throughout. The Gunbrella can obviously make it rain blood as you blast away your enemies, but it’s also an incredibly unique and multifaceted tool for defence and traversal. You can dash, jump and glide at a whim with the Gunbrella, making traversing across all the levels an absolute delight. Pair this with its wonderful defensive capabilities where you can not only block but parry attacks, deflecting and causing damage.

The Gunbrella is a shotgun by default with infinite shells, however, as you progress the more ammunition you find. Machine gun rounds, sawblades, and grenades are just a few that you’ll come across as you progress which are finite by comparison, but they all add a great variety on how to tackle encounters. I didn’t completely utilise all the different ammo to its full potential, but that’s just me who loves a good shotgun and Gunbrella has an awesome shotgun feel.

It can also be upgraded via damage and reload speed and whilst the means of upgrading is weirdly uneven, it doesn’t completely need it. Moreover, the actual run and gun aspect is a little bit finicky, you can move with the left stick which also acts as partial aim to your Gunbrella, but the right stick is the true way to aim more precisely and as you play with both sticks it often felt at odds with each other on where you’re firing. Thankfully though, the game’s frenetic and fluid movement does compensate for that issue by feeling so agile to dodge attacks. It overall makes it possible that I can miss a shot and not be paying the price.

Thanks To All The Rain Yesterday

Outside of the brilliant core mechanic is a world full of quests to come across. I’ve already gushed about the world-building, but the surprising amount of time spent just exploring, talking to people and doing the odd jobs from carrying a child to their parent or exorcising demons with holy bullets. I fully embraced and loved the downtime to just exist in the dour noir-punk world.

There are a handful of stages connected via a train system that really builds on the aesthetic. Whether it’s the trash gang in their scrapyard or the humble folk of Orwell, I loved exploring the nooks and crannies to find items or people to interact with. You do have a journal to track your objectives, and you will normally have more than one, but they aren’t very descriptive. You don’t have a map that can guide you to point you in the right direction and I often got lost trying to mop things up before moving on.

Doinksoft has set a tone in Gunbrella that is so excellently crafted. It’s not afraid to slow things down a bit in service of atmosphere and story and the gloomy steampunk aesthetic paired with the autumnal colours accentuate the vibe that is so compelling. The pixel art style, the architecture, the animations and all the character designs are glorious, an apocalypse has never looked this good.

Hell, Love Costs

The bold and rickety art direction is then only reinforced with an incredibly off-pitch jazz soundtrack. The sombre piano licks and forlorn trumpets cut through the heavy beat from the constant rain, giving it an all-encompassing atmosphere that really does the noir punk descriptor justice. Some of the UI is a tad oversized, sometimes covering potential enemies and attacks, without an option to adjust it in size or transparency. Though it’s a problem I didn’t come across too often, it’s still something I wish I could change. Nevertheless, the game runs supremely smoothly without any hiccups in frame rates or load times when going to new areas, resulting in a seamless experience.

I can see the echoes of Doinksoft’s previous games come through with Gunbrella, taking everything they’ve learnt thus far and telling a potentially more personal story with it. The result of that is the most mature and comprehensive game Doinksoft have made. It was initially jarring, to play a game that had so many avenues to elaborate on but to stick to their Gunbrella and hold back on potential mechanics in service of a more streamlined and impactful experience.

Characters and dialogue are written with some levity to lighten the already burdening world and it’s the amalgamation of tones that Doinksoft pull off so well that makes Gunbrella a gem in a busy year of great games. I do wish there was a bit more in terms of accessibility and the HUD could have more fine-tuning, but it otherwise plays like a bullet-blazing dream. Navigation isn’t the best if you miss something and a log to reread dialogue or a map would have been so handy.

Gunbrella is a cinematically fulfilling 2D action platformer whilst showcasing one of the best game mechanics of the year with its titular weapon. The shorter run time and less is more approach to the gameplay may not be for everyone, but the streamlined and frenetic run and gunning met with an intoxicating world is an astounding quality in any game.

Gunbrella is available now for Nintendo Switch (review platform)and PC via Steam.

Developer: Doinksoft

Publisher: Devolver Digital

Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we were provided with a promotional copy of the game. For our full review policy, please go here.

If you enjoyed this article or any more of our content, please consider our Patreon.

Make sure to follow Finger Guns on our social channels. TwitterFacebook, TwitchSpotify or Apple Podcasts – to keep up to date on our news, reviews and features.

Please Post Your Comments & Reviews

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.