2015 was quite the impressive year for gaming. We got the spiritual successor to SimCity in the form of Cities: Skylines, Undertale took the internet by storm, Her Story showed that FMV titles could be excellent, Splatoon gave some much needed support to the Wii U, Pillars of Eternity made Bioware eat their heart out, Fire Emblem Fates clarified that the series was far from dead, Metal Gear Solid 5 was Kojima’s last hurrah under Konami, Final Fantasy 14 got reborn, Monster Hunter 4 escalated its series to new heights, Axiom Verge presented the idea of that inspirations could come from different time zones, and The Witcher 3 turned out to be a contender for the best open world game ever. The highlight of this year for me though, was that it started with Gunman Clive 2. Surprisingly enough, it was barely a dollar more expensive than its predecessor.
As fierce as a revolver!
Starting right at the end of the last game, you come across a village set in flames by a monstrous robot. You, as either of the protagonists, decide to stop this evil reign of terror and literally travel around the world in order to do so. Like the first instalment, you can choose to take on this adventure as one of three characters. Gunman Clive returns as the star of this show and is still able to only jump, duck, and shoot horizontally. This simplicity is again a good way to make this cowboy easy to grasp in concept and reflects the old school platformers from the 80s.
The same goes for the other heroes to control. Ms. Johnson still cannot run and shoot simultaneously like Clive can, but is able to float, which basically makes her the easy mode of the three. Meanwhile, Chieftain Bob still refuses to hold a gun, meaning that he cannot acquire power-ups in contrast to Clive and Ms. Jonson. He still holds true to his trusty spear for melee attacks that can penetrate through walls, but has a short range yet again. A strong weapon for sure, but is possibly the most challenging way to play this title since you will have to get up close to your opponents in order to deal some damage. However, these simple takes on the characters let the developer focus on the level design, which Gunman Clive 2 excels at.
Already at the first stage, this entry showcases that it is more fast-paced than the original. Multiple movable platforms, combining ideas at the forefront, and the biggest change of them all: utilising visual ques to present new concepts instead of having you interact with them in a safe environment. For example, you will come across platforms that have propellers attached to them, making it clear that they can fly. However, due to bottomless pits being below you already, the game forces you to react accordingly right on the spot. This makes Gunman Clive 2 quite intense, but never unfair as it is always clear with the setups it provides, keeping its pace up.
This excitement is constant as well, since this game always offer new gimmicks and mixes them together. Anti-gravity levels with moving platforms, waving ships where you must fight against plenty of foes, and more makes every stage contain a wonderful adrenaline rush. Even with all of this to be aware of, the playthrough never becomes uneven in its difficulty curve and simply expects you to learn and deal with the diverse concepts it presents. A beautiful form of progression.
This is also thanks to the varied and perfectly placed enemies, be they spiders climbing around, bandits throwing dynamites or even stranger things like gentlemen using Gatling guns for hovering high up into the air. All of the fiends have clear patterns to learn and become fun obstacles you will have to overcome. The same goes for the boss fights, as they will require quick reflexes and thinking, with plenty of them even incorporating bits of platforming into their battles, which is a lovely touch.
Despite that Gunman Clive 2 is about the levels’ designs, supportive items and power-ups do return. Enemies can leave behind slices of or whole cakes to refill your health bar, and both Clive and Ms. Johnson can acquire new weapons, which are lost upon their next hit taken. However, there are only two in this entry to find; the triple shot and the rocket gun. I am not sure if the lack of firearms compared the last game was a done to make this sequel harder, but it is still a minor shame to not have at least one more power-up for the sake of a stronger variety. Especially, when the rocket gun shows up barely in the endgame.
While this gunner shines with its platforming stages, the levels that add in some diversity from this setup are not as solid. This is not to say that they are even below average overall, just that they are uneven in quality. There are two levels where you will fly inwards and have to shoot down opponents while dodging obstacles, which are engaging with great controls and sense of speed. Sadly, they do not last long and only the second one had a good challenge with more things happening on the screen.
The other time you will move constantly in this direction, is while riding on a horse into the sunset and this is a fantastic sequence. You can shoot towards left, right, and forward to take down fiends, and must dodge hurdles by moving and jumping around. This provides a huge rush with plenty of elements to deal with all the time, including neat details like how you need to measure up the distance between you and the enemies in order to land accurate hits. This is exhilarating, to say the least.
Lastly, we have the side-scrolling riding sequences. One is while inside a mine cart and it is a beautiful treat with anti-gravity spots, driving on moving dinosaurs, and plenty of other clever layouts that simultaneously have you fending off hordes of opponents. It is simply fun. Unfortunately, I cannot say the same for when you are riding on the panda, as it controls awkwardly stiff and you basically have to do this part in a specific pattern in order to escape a rolling saw blade. It is an average segment with some nice level designs and does not last long, but is definitely the weakest of the varieties offered here.
This is where it is important to reiterate that none of the stages were unengaging, as all had something going for them or a concept that made them entertaining. In fact, Gunman Clive 2 is more of an intense and varied version of the first game, but almost at the same length. While it contains 25 stages, this title can take about 30 minutes to get through, depending on your skills. Personally, I clocked in about half of that. Luckily, the fast-paced and diverse stages that combine different gimmicks, make for a challenging and exciting playthrough. The biggest criticism, is that those sequences outside of the normal platforming is not on par with the rest of the game, but that is just me being nitpicking. I am still confused as to why this short game has a save feature, though!
Gameplay Score: 9/10
The wild west? How about the wild world?
Showcasing that it is an upgrade from the first Gunman Clive, this sequel has moved away from using film grain and brown colours to simulate the black and white TVs. The pencil lines used for an artistic effect are still present, but the models are much more detailed this time to give every part of this game a stronger look. Focusing on using few colours for each area is also a clever reminiscent to early colour TVs by having only a couple appearing on the screen, with them being used to provide each location a clear tone and the fiends distinct styles, such as the blue bandits and the green jungle. It really shows that these are clear artistic choices, which I am all for. My favourite aspect to this, is how the wild west is red in the beginning, giving a subtle reference to the Red Dead series.
Due to that this adventure takes you around the world, you will be witnessing a lot of different places with diverse areas to them. The wild west will take you through a burning village, an oil facility, and dark caverns! Later on when you fly towards Scandinavia, you will travel on icy mountains and within an ancient castle, just to name a few examples. It is incredibly neat and exciting to see how each area is connected visually and what lies around the next corner. Not to mention, the entertaining enemies included, be it ninjas, a huge yellow submarine or even a tyrannosaurus rex, add to this game’s charm! It is outstanding to see this style flourish through imaginative freedom, which I can appreciate as a lovely change from the more focused take in the first entry.
With the added variety in landscapes, comes a diverse soundtrack composed by Arne Höbrberg. It is a bombastic one containing western audio, eastern tones, and even chill electronic to name some highlights. Every single melody fits their respective stages, is varied and long with beautiful buildups, has fantastic use of instruments, and none becomes less than exhilarating. With such memorable compositions combined with silly sound effects of roaring dinosaurs, crunched explosions, and adorable pews from the handguns, it is hard to not be sucked into this cheesy spaghetti western.
Presentation Score: 10/10
Gunman Clive 2 is easy to replay for the sheer enjoyment it offers, but has a couple of more reasons for revisits. There is the ability to play through all or selected stages with time trial, take on the challenge of not getting hit ones in a playthrough, and one silly character that is unlocked after beating the campaign for the first time. Just like in the last entry. Sadly, there is once again not much to unlock and since the difficulty options do not change enough to make replays interesting, they feel uninspired. Although, going through the game with all the different characters is a nice way to spend an afternoon, even if it can be done within an hour. With its short length as well, it lends itself easy for quick runs whenever you need an adrenaline rush, which this title is clearly designed for.
Extra Score: 7/10
What is fascinating about Gunman Clive 2 compared to its predecessor, is how it offers quantity over quality in the best possible manner. This might be the reason for why they come packaged together these days, as both should be experienced for different reasons! As for this sequel overall, it provides wonderful variety in its stages and fierce challenges to take on. Combine this with a charming art style and stellar soundtrack, and you got one of the most exciting platformers ever made. It is barely more expensive than the first title, and despite having the same limited replay value, there is no reason to not get both.