Sunday, December 16, 2012

Michelin Game - Gunman Clive

Gunman Clive could well be the best platform game to come out of the App Store. And for a game that has been basically created and developed by a single individual, it is pretty amazing.

And that man is Bertil Horberg, whose earlier work, Helium Boy, was a decemt and fun 3D platformer but lacked a certain polish and had only about 8 levels of gameplay.

Bertie's new game, however, is an absolute revelation. It has been out since May, and it is a pity that it has not gotten more attention since its release.

In a nutshell, it is a western gunslinger platform game where the protagonist, Clive, has to go rescue a damsel in distress. To do so, he has to basically get past 16 levels and 4 boss fights to achieve his final goal.

Rescuing A Damsel In Distress

All this might sound a bit pedestrian, but the moment you fire up the main menu, you notice the game adopts a very unique art style that is highly stylized. It looks simple yet really amazing.

It best resembles those pencil animation tests that you often find with Disney and cartoon animators, and the game even has an option to turn on that same sort of flicker effect you see in those pencil tests.

Every scene is rendered in a faded yellow and brown tone, with the occasional flashes of color in the baddies, but for the most part, it almost resembles the look of a classic GameBoy game.

Highly Stylized Art

Yet, every character and object is still beautifully animated in 3D and the framerate is buttery smooth. As in most platformers, there are only 4 buttons to worry about. Left, Right, Jump and Shoot. Simple. Straightfoward.

What is not so straightforward are the various baddies and obstacles that are thrown in your way, and the 16 levels are full of diverse characters and situations that will leave you truly impressed with its art and level design.

There are well placed villains which you have to deal with constantly, as well as animals like wolves and ducks that will zapped your health levels if you are not careful. The controls themselves work very well and are probably the best in this genre for touch devices.

Riding A Mine Cart

While most levels require you to jump and shoot, there are some levels that are truly creative and stunning, including one which you have to ride a mine cart and have you jumping from track to track whilst still shooting the bad guys from side to side.

It is exhilarating when you simply look forward to progressing to the next level, wondering what will hit you next, and the ingenuity never lets up. Every level is different and features different challenges. There is even a level where a locomotive transforms into a bad guy just like a Transformer.

And speaking of challenges, there is a boss fight after every 4 levels and I must say, these are some of the best boss fights I have seen in any video game, anywhere. They are difficult and challenging, but never impossible to beat, and when you finally overcome one, there is a real sense of accomplishment.

Amazing Boss Fights

Beyond the challenging boss fights, the levels themselves are no pushover either. Each level is relatively short, but it is incredibly challenging as well, as you have no checkpoints whatsoever in a level.

Normally, I would consider that a flaw, but here, it turns out that by returning you to the start of a level every time you die, you actually do learn the levels on subsequent runs, and you do get better at it, and you will eventually get past the stage and feel equally satisfied and rewarded.

This is unlike most platformers, where the levels are long and can get quite monotonous after a while. In Gunman, even though each level is short, it is so varied and so cleverly designed that you do not mind the brevity of it all.

Fighting Your Way On A Moving Train

The sound and music deserves a special mention here too. I believe Bertil's brother composed the fantastic score for this game and what a great soundtrack it is. Part retro, part western, the music has that nostalgic video arcade vibe f the 80s, and yet it sounds fresh and modern at the same time.

The gun sounds are not your typical Winchester bangs, but rather, more akin to the electronic bleeps and bloops of the SNES days, which was an obvious influence to Bertil while developing Gunman.

It is this half modern, half retro feel that really distinguishes this game from its competition. While most retro games goes a hundred percent retro, Gunman Clive is a perfect balance of old and new that has inevitably produced something totally new and refreshing to the plaformer genre.

A Giant Transforming Locomotive Boss
Gunman Clive is a perfect example of the perfect iOS game. It has an innovative and amazing look and sounds gorgeous. And it boasts of, perhaps the best level design of any game this year.

It may be short, but it is incredibly challenging and will keep you replaying the game and levels all over again. In summary, it has now taken the mantle of the best game of the year.

And it was totally developed by one man, an independent programmer named Bertil Horberg. Look for his name in the future, for I think he is the best game developer since Shigeru Miyamoto.

Gunman Clive could well be the Mario of iOS gaming.

Gunman Clive (US$1.99) - Click here to download.

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