Developed by Doinksoft, the studio behind this year’s physical-only Demon Throttle, Gunbrella‘s title really tells you everything you need to know about the 2D action game in three syllables. You have a gun. No, wait you have an umbrella. Hell Nah, you have a GUNBRELLA! What else needs to be said, let’s go kill some bad guys.
A zany name like that can have its downsides though, as players can be quick to write something off as a “meme game.” Fortunately, that’s unlikely to be the case here. Based on a 30-minute demo I played a couple of times, Gunbrella is shaping up to be another worthy addition to Devolver Digital’s consistent slate of indie action games. Like some of the publisher’s best releases, it makes action just as much about moving as it is about shooting — and that’s all thanks to its namesake weapon.
You play as “a gruff woodsman on a quest for revenge”, who reminds me mostly of Ron Swanson from Parks & Rec, and shoot-slash-Poppins your way through “ghouls and gangsters, cops and cultists, and the fallout of corporate exploitation”. The game isn’t solely action though: your gunbrella-toting woodsman is on some sort of investigation and interrogates other characters they meet along the way to build a picture of what’s going on.
As the game begins, you arrive on the outskirts of a small town via boat. An NPC at the dock quickly puts some quests in my logbook by mentioning some mysteries happening in the game’s “noir-punk” world. The most intriguing of those relates to the titular Gunbrella that I’ve arrived with, which has some sort of strange insignia on it.
From there, Gunbrella wastes no time in introducing me to its core ideas. With its default ammo, my trusty weapon acts as a short-range shotgun that can take basic enemies down in a quick burst. However, that’s just one of many tricks. When holding down a direction button and opening the umbrella with a right click, I zip in that direction. That allows me to both reach high-up platforms and perform dashes. A spoon full of sugar my arse, this is an Umbrella with some shotgun shells!
It’s a little tricky to get the hang of. The direction has to be held down before opening the umbrella, which I found went against my instincts. After some early fumbling, I got the hang of it and started to see the potential for advanced movement techniques that’ll be a blast to watch executed at a high level. Like a lot of Devolver-published games, I imagine the speedrunning scene will have a field day with all those zips.
The umbrella also works as a shield and one that can parry attacks too. If I open up my umbrella right before I’m about to get shot, it’ll deflect the bullet back at my enemy. By the end of the demo, I got a strong sense of the bullet ballet. In one breath, I could pop into the air, shoot down at an enemy below me, and open my umbrella upon landing just in time to deflect a turret’s shot. I yelled out many times like Yandu from the second Guardians of the Galaxy movie, ” I’m Mary Poppins y’all!”
The story is a little more mysterious at the moment. I only got a small taste of what appears to be a multilayered mystery that delves both into local politics and supernatural horror. While most of my demo was spent exploring a small 2D town that featured NPCs complaining about the mayor, it ended when I discovered cultists making blood sacrifices to summon what’s probably best described as a fleshy meatball with legs.
Naturally, that led to a boss fight where I used my gun’s alternate ammo to cut it down without much trouble. There’s a bit of meta humor in the mix for good measure too, like a signpost that begs me not to break a machine with a grenade by laying out exactly how I would do it. Of course, you know I had to do it.
So far, Gunbrella delivers exactly what I was hoping for: a fun indie action game with a sturdy mobility hook. I get the sense that my trusty weapon is capable of even more tricks, so I’m excited to see how much more it can open up in the full release. Even if it doesn’t wind up being groundbreaking, I certainly already have its name branded on my tongue. Gunbrella is scheduled to launch in 2023 for PC and Nintendo Switch.
This preview was written based on a PC demo for Gunbrella.