For some reason, I’ve grown accustomed to the American version of Super Mario Brothers 2. Perhaps the biggest reason I love the game is for the diversity of the cast; each of the four selectable characters has a different feel to them, and figuring out their strengths and weaknesses on the fly is partly why I love the NES game. Likewise, I was very excited for the independently created sequel to 2012’s Gunman Clive. The game is a high-octane love letter to the 8-bit platformers of old, with slick graphics and a range of playable comrades that brings variety to this highly addictive title.
Picking up where the last game left off, Gunman Clive 2 pits players against the dangers of the Wild West, with anachronistic technology peppered within its twenty-five stages. The graphics have a comic book like appearance, with gritty shading and some amazing 3D effects. The game itself is more colorful than the first, adapting other color schemes than the main red motif. It’s a nice aesthetic that fits the setting nicely, and while there were a couple of times where it was distracting, it held nicely.
The gameplay is a beautiful throwback to old-school platformers. Armed with a pistol initially, most enemies can be downed in a hit or two (which could reference the all-or-nothing nature of western shootouts). The assortment of enemies are a problem, but players need to traverse tricky terrain at all times, all while keeping an eye their health meter. New to the game are some different mechanics, such as vehicle-controlled levels and gravity-based gameplay. While a couple of levels were distracting, they keep the gameplay fresh (and riding on a panda has got to be one of the best moments ever).
Of course, you will die a lot. However, I felt as if each one of those deaths were fair and were because of my skill rather than finicky controls or a broken physics engine. The game is difficult but fair, and it’s satisfying to clear a stage that you were stuck on for a while. Speaking of which, the boss battles are perhaps the highlight of the game. They’re nonsensical to the plot but are very entertaining; they also make great use of the new mechanics of Gunman Clive 2 (my personal favorite being a boss that relied on shifting gravity to get the job done). At no point did they feel cheap, and it was satisfying to beat the final boss.
While multiple characters were included in the first game, the sequel offers two additional characters from the beginning and an unlockable one; Ms. Johnson, the damsel in distress from the first game, and Chieftain Bob, a newcomer to the series. Each of them play differently: Ms. Johnson cannot run and gun at the same time but has a floating move ala SMB 2 Peach, and Chieftain Bob relies on close ranged attacks to get the job done. The unlockable character’s pacifist run is also something of note, and playing through each of the four characters bestows a very diverse experience. What may work for one playstyle may not work for another, and some levels may be easier or harder for certain characters.
At three dollars and with tons of replayable content, Gunman Clive 2 is a great contender for a modern classic. It displays the best things about the 3DS and creates an addictively entertaining time that’s fun for all.