Gunman Clive is a run and gun platformer following the footsteps of Mega Man with an American western backdrop.
|Console||Android, iOS, PC, Nintendo 3DS, Nintendo Wii U, Nintendo Switch|
|Publisher||Hörberg Productions, Flyhigh Works|
|Genre||Run and gun, platformer|
|Release Year||2012 – 2013, 2015, 2019|
|Purchase (PC)||Purchase from Steam.|
|Purchase (Nintendo Switch)||Purchase from Nintendo.com.|
Despite its potential as a setting, the Wild West doesn’t get that many video games based on it. Sure, people are familiar with series like Red Dead Redemption or Call of Juarez, but that’s about as mainstream as it got. So it’s up to the indie games to pick up the pieces and continue to make the Wild West relevant in gaming.
Case in point, Gunman Clive and its sequel.
Bandits, Ducks and Aliens
In the year 18XX, the Wild West is overrun by bandits. To make matters worse, Mayor Johnson’s daughter (Ms. Johnson) was kidnapped. So it’s up to Gunman Clive to fight off the hordes of bandits and return Ms. Johnson to safety.
It’s a basic premise reminiscent of old-fashioned 8-bit era video games. But if you’re not a fan of the whole “Mario goes to save the princess” trope, it does get subverted when you play as Ms. Johnson.
Yeah. This time, the damsel in question is Clive himself. But of course, we’ll look at the character differences later on.
Gunman Clive is a run and gun game very similar to the likes of Mega Man. In fact, its gameplay elements are heavily derivative of Mega Man—minus the ability to use boss weapons as your own.
But the gameplay isn’t the factor that got me to buy this game. Nope. It’s that art style.
The minimalist pencil sketch art style overlaid on 3D models and the sepia tone colors heavily remind me of the old western wanted posters.
To me, this is a very effective choice for the game’s art direction. It’s so simple, and yet it brings out so much character. It may seem like it’ll be hard to see what you’re doing in this game due to the bright warm colors, but there’s enough contrast between your playable character and the enemies to distinguish between everything. And the cool thing about the game’s environments is that even the hatched lines are animated, giving the illusion of a dry and dusty world.
The game’s western-inspired soundtrack is also pretty good, giving way to plenty of catchy tunes as you gun down outlaws and random passerby ducks.
Getting back to the gameplay, I described Gunman Clive as heavily derivative of Mega Man, which is not a bad thing if that’s what you want in a game. To further get into the similarities, spikes kill you in one hit. Also, there are energy beams blocking your passage in some levels and disappearing block patterns (though they are far more predictable in this game).
While the levels don’t have any checkpoints, the game makes up for this with unlimited retries. So you don’t have to worry about lives or continues.
Clive himself controls like a standard run and gun shooter character, with the same speed and weight present in his jumps. He can use his gun while running as well. And of course, he has access to gun powerups randomly dropped by enemies, giving him abilities like a spread shot or a homing shot. But if he takes damage, he loses the powerup.
Ms. Johnson, on the other hand, controls more like Princess Peach in the US release of Super Mario Bros. 2, in that she possesses a floating jump ability. This ability alone makes Ms. Johnson the easiest character to play as in Gunman Clive, since platforming challenges are a literal breeze for her. However, she moves slower than Clive and also can’t run and shoot at the same time (she stands in place while trying to shoot on the ground). But you can still abuse her floating jump ability to be able to shoot while moving forward. She also has Clive’s ability to use gun powerups.
However, if you got the Gunman Clive HD Collection for Nintendo Wii U or Nintendo Switch, you can also play as Chieftain Bob (who was previously a new character in Gunman Clive 2). Bob uses a powerful spear for close combat and it can be very useful for quickly taking down bosses due to its potentially high damage output. It can also pass through walls, unlike the guns used by Clive or Ms. Johnson. Unfortunately, Bob has no access to powerups and he has to run right up to the enemies in order to kill them, often making him disadvantaged against most enemies (since they use projectile attacks). And don’t get me started on trying to take down the damn train mech boss with Bob. He also controls about the same as Clive.
The interesting thing about Chieftain Bob’s retroactive addition into later versions of Gunman Clive is the ending of his journey. Like with Ms. Johnson, the point of the journey was to rescue Clive from the bandits. How it ended quite surprised me.
When you complete a Gunman Clive playthrough, the rescued Ms. Johnson gives him a kiss as a reward. And when you complete a Ms. Johnson playthrough, she still gives the rescued Clive a kiss. Both times, Clive himself didn’t show much of a reaction, though both endings did imply that Ms. Johnson had a romantic interest in him.
But with the addition of Chieftain Bob into the original game in the Gunman Clive HD Collection, things start to make sense.
So what we’re seeing here is Ms. Johnson never had a chance to begin with, since Clive already had a special someone. Hum. Should someone tell her?
And finally, the last playable character is…
Yep. You get to play as one of the generic duck enemies in the game. The duck doesn’t have any attacks, but can fly over enemies to avoid damage (up to five consecutive wing flaps). And since it has no attacks, it skips all the boss battles entirely. Ironically, this makes it the best character in the game, just from the fact that it flies over everything. Still, a duck playthrough is worth going through just for the sheer ridiculousness of it.
And speaking of ridiculousness…
The best thing about Gunman Clive is how the world becomes increasingly more bizarre as you play through the levels. At first, you’re scratching your head over why you’re killing seemingly harmless ducks but everything else seems normal. Then you start avoiding pelicans dropping bombs, fighting steampunk Transformers and flying through space on a lone rocket dodging asteroids. Also throw in some video game references from Donkey Kong Country and Zelda II: The Adventure of Link.
If you’re a fan of old school run and gun platformers, I recommend picking up Gunman Clive. Mainly, the Gunman Clive HD Collection if you have a Nintendo Switch. The standalone game is only about $2 and the HD Collection is about $4. It’s a short game (even with subsequent playthroughs with the other characters) and also a great candidate for speedruns.
- Old school run and gun platformer in the likeness of Mega Man.
- Four playable characters with distinct abilities, giving the game replay value.
- A wonderfully fitting Wild West aesthetic, which was what drew me to the game in the first place.
- Catchy western-inspired soundtrack.
- The game's humor, mainly from the odd enemies and places you visit.
- Very short (less than one hour per playthrough). 16 levels fly by fast.