Upon first glance, Gunman Clive 2 appears to be yet another 2D shooter/platformer; it is an innocuous little droplet in a sea of seemingly endless similar titles. It doesn’t take long, however, before things take a turn for the bizarre, and you realize you may be in for something much more unique and goofy.
Multiple times throughout my playthrough, I found myself having the same recurring thought: This is a world that can only be imagined by a kindergartner with a hyperactive imagination — or at least conjured up by someone with the rare gift of being able to channel their inner five year old self. It should be noted, however, that the above statement is by no means meant to be derogatory or rude; quite the contrary, in fact.
Although it seems to be marketed as a run-and-gun set in the wild west, it doesn’t take long at all before Gunman Clive 2 takes that landscape and tosses it aside on a whim. Within the first ten minutes of the game, the player is propelled into a landscape entirely un-western. Perhaps in the world of the game, the cowboy look is universally despised, as no matter where he goes, poor Clive is hated. In result, he will find himself running, jumping, and shooting at anything with a pulse in a mad struggle to survive the colorful assortment of enemy types. From ninjas to dinosaurs, Clive battles them, all while continuing his plotless journey. While at first this sudden change of scenery may be a little jarring to players, it doesn’t take long before you get into the flow of the incredibly spontaneous stage transitions. You will find yourself looking forward to the next stop you’ll randomly end up in on the globe. To go into a little more detail on the whole setup: one minute Clive was running across rooftops in front of an arid desert backdrop, and the next Clive found himself frantically attempting to outrun a man-sized hamster as it rolled towards him in its deadly wheel.
It is in this utterly random and split-second ridiculousness that the charm of the game really shines through. Of course, the gameplay has to be just as solid as the world, and luckily the platforming and shooting mix manages to stay away from becoming tedious and repetitive. The game does this by taking a few ingredients from other legendary and beloved games. At one point near the beginning of the game, for example, the player’s perspective changes from that of a 2D shooter to something very reminiscent of Star Fox for SNES. On another (Incredibly frustrating) stage, there is an wonky polarity feature introduced that is sure to remind any who’ve played through Teslagrad or A Walk in the Dark of the anti-gravity mechanics that were such a fundamental part of those titles.
Something important worth mentioning is just how infuriating some of the challenges can be. There are various stages in the game in which it would be simply impossible to traverse all the obstacles while playing through these levels on the first go-around. There is a difficulty spike that occurs about a third of the way through the game as well, but this is not such a large issue, as it helps to prepare the player for the huge trial and error awaiting them as the game moves into its final stages. Something interesting about this tough style of gameplay is the way it very subtly rewards the player for consciously remembering all of the pitfalls and traps. It’s almost like music; the way it starts to become so instinctual — diving and jumping around obstacles without a second thought — and the fact that it all happens with no visible thought makes it quite the fascinating improvement. Having your ass kicked on one stage time after time only to inexplicably beat that stage with no damage on your next attempt is truly a satisfying thing.
One new feature touted in the sequel is the inclusion of colors, and while the visuals presented aren’t exactly landmark in presentation, they still provide enough eye-catching interest to make for a pleasing aesthetic. In fact, the visuals and color palette of Gunman Clive 2 are very similar to those which could be found in a graphic novel, especially with all the scratchy, squiggly animations which align every background. It’s as if the world is a zany, imaginative comic book brought to wondrous life; it has plenty of sheer creative visual quality. My personal favorite moment of the game is the point where Clive moves from a snowy mountain range to a lush, green bamboo forest, and must mount an adorable panda bear and ride it away from a gigantic sawblade propelling after him.
Probably the biggest and best part of my whole experience going through Gunman Clive 2 was the few boss fights scattered between the levels. Every single encounter with a boss enemy was immensely fun and fast-paced, and they’re all so memorable. I’d say it’s worth a playthrough for their fights alone. There was never a moment throughout these battles where I felt anything but a fun and intense time.
My biggest qualm with the whole experience would have to be the way some levels are arranged. They’re arranged so that it simply wouldn’t be possible to run through them in one or two attempts, but this learning curve is not a hugely irritating aspect; it’s more of a cue taken from the age of long-ago gaming where such a play-style was more common. Still, the difficulty does shoot up a little too far in the last few stages, and many of the death traps and enemy placements begin to feel a little cheap.
Of course it’s nice to be able to play with a character whose play-style is different, and the game provides this perk in the forms of two more playable characters, Ms. Johnson (Returning from the first game) and Chieftain Bob. Both of these characters play similarly enough to Clive, but they also have their own individual features completely unique of any other character. Ms. Johnson, for instance, is able to hover for a slight time after jumping; obviously an idea taken from Princess Peach’s outing in Super Mario Bros 2. The addition of these two avatars helps to add a layer of replayability to the story as once the player has chosen their character, there are no options to switch to another. This lack of choice in switching characters mid-game does seem like a missed opportunity, though, as being able to choose different characters throughout the game could help to keep things fresh the entire way through. This is a minor qualm, as the game is short and sweet enough with a playtime of just under 3 hours, and there’s never any real danger of staleness settling in.
In the end, Gunman Clive 2 is definitely a game worth buying for those with a love of fun and inventive enemies and levels, who long for an experience akin to Megaman and other such titles. Everything from the stylish art style to the wacky enemies works so cohesively, it’s impossible not to recommend this gem. Gunman Clive 2 is more than worth the asking price. And if there’s one thing we can all take away from Gunman Clive 2, it’s this: Do not meddle with ducks.
A PC code for Gunman Clive 2 was provided by Hörberg Productions for the purpose of this review.