It’s pretty rare for Devolver Digital to disappoint when it comes to publishing indie games, so when they first showed off Gunbrella as part of a Nintendo Indie Showcase last May I was already paying attention. While the publisher and fantastic name were what ensured I watched the announcement trailer, it was the 2d action platforming featuring an umbrella shotgun hybrid that really got my blood pumping. Well now I’ve had the chance to get my hands on the first four hours of the game, and boy was I right to be excited.
Our silent protagonist is the wielder of the titular stylish weapon, and it’s his primary tool on a quest for revenge. A mysterious stranger tore his family apart without any explanation, and the only lead our main man has to follow is the Gunbrella he left behind. Now in an oppressive world full of cults, a corrupt police force and monsters made from the flesh of the deceased, your only goal is to confront the man who ruined your life and blast anyone who gets in your way. It’s a much darker story than I was expecting when I booted up the game, but it’s really engaging and I want to see where it goes.
The real star of the show though is the run and gun platforming, especially thanks to the beautiful weapon itself – the Gunbrella. Without the hybrid firearm you can run about and wall jump to climb up walls, but that’s about it. The Gunbrella though makes getting around the world a breeze, granting you a huge air dash in any direction when you open it up. Being a video game umbrella it can also slow your fall as you navigate some tricky hazards, and can even be used as a sort of pogo stick to bounce along the ground a little. To say the movement in this game is satisfying is a hell of an understatement.
As well as helping you get around the world, it should come as no surprise that the Gunbrella is also a handy weapon. You can point it in any direction with the right stick, and fire all sorts of deadly projectiles out of this Mary Poppins style firearm. Your standard ammo is shotgun shells, which fire an extremely short range spread of three bullets. You have to get pretty close to the action to deal with the various mutants and critters with these bullets, but you have an infinite amount of them. As you make your way through the game you’ll get new ammo types to experiment with too, from powerful grenades to wacky bouncing sawblades.
As well as launching you around and blasting fools, the Gunbrella can also be opened and used as a shield to protect you from all the projectiles flying around. The best thing about this ability is that if you time it perfectly you can also reflect the bullets, which is ideal for dealing with pesky gun turrets and the mages of Cult-45. It’s nothing you haven’t seen before in all manner of video games, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t satisfying.
Going into Gunbrella I was under the impression that I’d be off exploring a big ole world with my trusty umbrella based weapon and gathering upgrades, but that’s not how this game is structured. It’s a much more of a fairly linear action/adventure, with towns of people to interact with and quests to complete to move on. Sure there are a few hidden chests hidden around the world, but for the most part you’re going from A-to-B with a specific mission in mind, all with an end goal of revenge.
That doesn’t mean you don’t get stronger as you play though, with plenty of stat upgrades to purchase at the shop or collect for completing missions. Pieces of heart combine to give you extra health, and at The Tinkerer you can make your gun more powerful or faster at reloading by handing over the cogs you’ve found. It’s not a particularly ground-breaking system, but it feels great to power up all the same.
One aspect of Gunbrella that really impressed me even in this short demo, is the sheer variety of environments and enemies. Early areas involve sewers and walkways with ropes you can zip line around on, then there’s a castle with chandeliers you can swing on and constantly respawning wraiths to deal with, and I even had to scale a mountain with icy walls that couldn’t be jumped against. Between all these interesting locations there are some seriously tricky bosses to deal with too, which you’d better be ready to battle over and over if you want to proceed.
Gunbrella is a wonderful action platformer which uses the titular weapon to create something very special. Dashing around with a deadly umbrella and deflecting bullets just feels sensational, and even in this short preview session there was plenty of variety on display. Gunbrella is a game I was already excited for, but now I’m worried the wait for the full game will be too much.
Gunbrella is coming to PC in 2023.