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The Gunman Clive HD Collection is Short and Sweet (and Out of Its Mind)

Mega Wild Gunman

Gunman Clive HD Collection title screen with Clive

There are worse ways to spend $1.99. Sure, that sounds like an awful recommendation-and it is-but let me explain what I mean first, and then you can judge how awful I am at pull quotes.

The Gunman Clive HD Collection

The Gunman Clive series doesn’t give a damn. Is it cowboys vs. cowboys? Or is it vs. robots? Or is it…ducks? Frankly, it’s whatever it needs to be in order to justify the locale of the next stage. The regular cowboys you fight in the first few levels turn into two-man bob sledding cowboys so fast you barely notice.

These games clock in at a mere couple of hours of gameplay (more if you play as the three other characters, all with different difficulty modes) but the experience itself is worth the journey-especially in the sequel.

Clive has that hand drawn look where shading and textures shimmy a little. It took me three whole days to have an obvious epiphany and suddenly scribble in my notebook that I could just say it’s reminiscent of A-ha’s “Take on Me” and people would know what I meant. So now I’ve said that, but this game is so much more than its art style, so allow me to elaborate.

You’ve probably seen the Gunman Clive games in the Nintendo eShops for a while now. I saw them on the 3DS shop for years, and despite the price never going above $2.99 I never picked it up. It has a static look that pictures can’t do justice. Even when it came over to the Switch, I balked at purchasing it, and I buy so many discount games I often go to purchase some of them only to discover I’ve already bought them. It’d be a real problem if it wasn’t so inexpensive.

Gunman Clive is a very short game. Upon defeating the final boss, I expected to see Stage Clear and was instead treated to a The End screen. It’s so abrupt, even with the economy price of the game. Nothing about the final boss fight screamed endgame.

Clive defeats the giant, yellow headed robot cowboy.
Upon further inspection, yes, you are fighting a giant, yellow headed, robot cowboy.

The game does have three playable characters and one secret unlockable character. I played through the game once on Normal mode as Clive. I went back again as Ms Johnson, who has a midair float similar to a certain cake baking Princess, and once more as Chieftain Bob who can only attack at close range.

I even played as the unlockable fourth character (the game trailer spoils who it is) for a bit. It’s a different experience, and one worthy for people who enjoy a unique challenge, but not one I was interested in playing for long. Not a dig at the mode, it’s just a bit too challenging in a way that doesn’t interest me as a gamer, but worthwhile for gamers that love a weird challenge.

Ms Johnson is toting a gun, and riding a mine cart as a pelican flies overhead.
Look at them pelicans.

That’s not to say Gunman Clive isn’t challenging on its own. Far from it. Heavily inspired by the classic challenging games of the 8 bit era, most noticeably Mega Man, this game makes each stage it’s own challenge.

I love Mega Man. I’ve beaten every one of those games (except 11, haven’t taken a serious run at that one yet) and even though they are often difficult to the point of frustration, I still love them. I remember beating Mega Man 2 and thinking I was a video game savant. After part 3, the other games seemed just a little easy, until I went back and tried to beat the original. I’ve got two words for anyone who has ever beaten the original Mega Man: Yellow Devil. You beat him too? Respect. How much yelling did you do?

I mention that series because Gunman Clive is basically an animated sketch book version of Mega Man set in the wild west and beyond. Mechanical enemies will remind you of classic Mega Man enemies, because they are most-clearly inspired by them. Game mechanics such as disappearing and reappearing platforms will show up in one stage, only to be replaced by directional arrows changing the flow of gravity in the next. If you played Mega Man, you’ve seen all this before.

As a quick aside, I usually hate gravity shifting in video games. I’m already disoriented enough on a good day. Luckily, Gunman Clive uses it sparingly, and usually in the form of a clever logic puzzle.

Clive climbs a ladder, careful to avoid the lasers shooting out from the sides.
If this late game image from the original Gunman Clive doesn’t give you heavy Mega Man vibes, you clearly never played it.

The Switch is designed-in half-to be a portable gaming system, meaning short levels you can hop in and out of are ideal. Clive‘s stages have no checkpoints, and are punishing, but always the right amount. When you complete a stage you feel like you legit accomplished something and didn’t merely scrape by.

Gunman Clive, riding a panda, tries to outrun a giant buzz-saw.
The Panda Level is straight up Panda-mayhem!

Gunman Clive 2 is the perfect sequel. It’s a sequel in the way Super Mario Galaxy 2 is a sequel. It’s exactly like the first game, only everything is bigger and crazier. While the original stuck with a fairly muted color palette of tans and salmons, the sequel opens with dark indigo skies offset by bright orange flames (that probably looked pretty cool on the 3DS version).

The game reuses textures and images, but does new things with them. However, it quickly branches out and does its own thing. With 25 levels (the original only had 16) the game has the room to incorporate a globetrotting map. One level you’re exploring caverns and riding mine carts, the next you’re riding a panda while trying to avoid a giant buzz-saw. And just when you think the game has gone to the most absurd lengths, you find yourself in a mine cart riding atop the strangest things.

There are levels where you are riding a horse, jumping over obstacles and shooting bad guys. Another level has you flying a plane in a level with heavy Star Fox 64 vibes (for me). Both games go off on enough quick tangents to keep things interesting, before settling back into this world’s version of normalcy.

I wont belabor the point of such short games, and will keep this review as succinct as possible. Basically, I finally broke down and bought The Gunman Clive HD Collection, I played it, yadda yadda yadda, I highly recommended it. I have no regrets, except maybe for captioning that one photo of the panda level. I feel like I could’ve done better than “panda-mayhem.” Ugh, what was I trying to say? There’s a better pun in there somewhere.

This review for The Gunman Clive HD Collection was based on the Nintendo Switch version. Also available on the Nintendo 3DS, PC, Mac, and the WiiU.

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Written by Johnny Malloy

Johnny Malloy is the Managing Editor of Gaming at 25YearsLaterSite, and is a crafty arranger of words.
A gamer since childhood, he enjoys indie games and considers The Binding of Isaac to be a subversive masterpiece. He has also written an extensive series of articles about the Castlevania series.
He enjoys writing fiction, be it screenplays, scripts, or novels. His favorite TV shows are Twin Peaks, The Leftovers, It's Always Sunny in PA, and Workaholics.
He has one of those faces. Sorry about my face. It can't be helped.
He's @mistercecil on the Twitter. Follow him if you like wild tangents and non sequiturs.

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