Off The Grid: Gunpoint
Zachary Brictson kind of lost track of the plot two missions ago.
Richard Conway is a freelance spy who operates on a 2D landscape, accepting missions via texts on his phone and confronting himself with buildings that utilize formidable security systems and shoot-on-sight guards. His talents – longjump trousers, the ability to belly flop from extreme heights onto concrete without harm and his mastery over electrical grids – put him in touch with a series of agenda driven clients and a tale of good old revenge.
Mission briefings present optional dialogue that Conway can use to better learn of his partners’ motives, allowing him to later doublecross those you either grow suspicious of, or those that you flatly disagree with when it comes to ethics. The premise of each level can be interesting if you give this storytelling some thought, but that’s the difficult part. Text messages are on the long side and full of technical jargon, coming from hard to keep track of personalities who are tied to various security companies and weapons manufacturers. It’s hard to remember what you’re even doing in some cases, hacking into various databases, deleting data off servers, or framing this guy who’s a rival with that other guy.
The actual fieldwork is better presented. Conway can view and then toy with the power grids of the buildings he is breaking into, making a joke of the security layout and harassing the guards within. Through simple drag and drop control, you can rewire about anything electrical to create new cause and effect relationships. A light switch that opens a locked door, a security camera that calls up an elevator instead of setting off an alarm. Patrols will react to certain oddities and investigate, allowing you to slip around them, hack into the objective computer terminal, and make your escape.
A gadget shop offers some methods to enjoyably exploit the game’s rules, like the ability to rewire the firing mechanism of a guard’s gun to instead activate an elevator, or buying a handgun yourself. More than just a cerebral game, the joy of Gunpoint is not being just a clever spy, but a cruel one, super leaping through glass windows like some kind of monster and straddling a guard to the ground. One punch will do, but by all means, keep clicking away and watch the blood begin to seep on the floors, the cartoon smack of Conway’s fists reveling in the game’s ridiculousness.
What is a snazzy looking, smart, and often funny experience, does unfortunately end before it takes full advantage of any of its ideas. Gunpoint introduces complex multi-grids, timed doors and elite guards, but it’s only a few hours long. Before its challenges become substantial, it’s over and leaves itself feeling like a glorified tutorial, leaving you with just one final mission to scratch your head over, and a level editor to make up for its own shortcomings.
Zachary Brictson is a Computer Science graduate from Northern Illinois University who chooses to write about games rather than code them, contributing to physical publications like The Printed Blog, sites such as Playstation Universe, and his own blog, Up Magic.