Gunbrella Hands-On Preview | When It Rains, It Pours (Bullets)

I want a Gunbrella of my own now.

I was recently invited to jump into the world of Gunbrella via a hands-on preview, and I’m already craving more. When I first jumped into the bleak, dark world before me, I wasn’t prepared to face off against Eldrich horrors and creepy cultists while diving into sidequests for a sewer-dwelling hobo, but here we are now.

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After seeing the reveal trailer in May 2022, I was excited to jump into Gunbrella. After getting to play through roughly three hours of the game, I can say I’m even more excited, even if there are a few gripes I have with the overall game itself. For all the other Gunbrella sickos like me out there, this is for you.

What In The World Is A Gunbrella?

Screenshot: Prima Games/Devolver Digital

After learning a bit of backstory, you take control of our currently nameless hero and his tool of choice: the Gunbrella. While I won’t disclose how he got his hands on such an advanced piece of weaponry, the outcome is definitely not sunshine and rainbows. In fact, the whole world is dark, brooding, and full of sadness, so prepare some tissues before jumping into this one.

What sets Gunbrella apart in a world full of hard-as-nails platformers is the titular weapon itself. Not only is it effective to use at close range, thanks to its unlimited supply of shotgun shells, I found plenty of other ammunition types in the world, making each combat encounter play out in new and exciting ways. Certain enemies will take multiple shotgun blasts with ease but will succumb to the Rifle after a quick burst, but ammo is hard to come by. You’ll need to plan your onslaught before jumping in, making it slightly smarter than your average run and gun.

However, the main gimmick here is the Umbrella function of the Gunbrella. While shooting is your standard sidescrolling, 360° rotation affair, the ability to boost, glide and block incoming shots makes this feel better than something like Neon Abyss, for example. With a perfectly timed block, you can return the hail of bullets at your opponent, boost into the sky and glide down like a muscle-clad, manly Princess Peach, and zip across the ground at high speeds. All of these actions feel great, and there’s even some tech that you can put into play, such as a boost across the ground with a quarter-circle turn on your joystick to launch into the air.

This Ain’t Your Daddy’s Run And Gun Shooter

Screenshot: Prima Games/Devolver Digital

The visuals are another excellent point, but that’s really no surprise. Developer doinksoft brought the world of Gato Roboto to life through expressive sprites and a striking black-and-white art style and has brought the same love and affection to Gunbrella. It’s a gritty noir story, and the environments suitably fit the bill. And the soundtrack is hot, featuring smooth jazz and a variety of electronic drum & bass tracks that will keep your blood pumping when the action gets hot and heavy.

It’s also surprisingly gory, all things considered. Enemies will explode into meaty chunks after receiving a blast from the Gunbrella, leaving behind some lasting bits that you’ll still see for the foreseeable future. Can’t wait for the Boomers to get upset and try to ban umbrellas now after seeing their devastating effects on the youth. Controls are smooth and responsive, even if you can get yourself a bit tangled up during some of the more intense action sequences. After figuring out a good middle ground of face button actions during standard fights and using the trigger actions during boss fights, I found myself carving through foes like a hot blade through butter.

Speaking of boss fights, this is where Gunbrella starts to cook with gasoline. While I don’t want to spoil any of the struggles that are waiting for you, things go from slightly out of the ordinary to completely unhinged once you come across a boss I will only refer to as Baby. Sure, some of the enemies that I encountered during my preview went beyond the standard fodder you see in most games, but Baby ultimately pushed Gunbrella from “interested” to “immediately wishlist”. While the difficulty spike is real, Gunbrella is extremely generous with save spots and helps feed the frankly frantic action.

Not A Truly Waterproof Covering

Screenshot: Prima Games/Devolver Digital

While my time with Gunbrella was extremely positive and left me eager for more, there are a few small gripes that I had with the world. Granted, the build that I played is still in development, so things may change before the final release.

While venturing into the towns, you still have complete control over your Gunbrella, meaning you can blast off shots into the air or the darkness to see if people around you react negatively to your actions. As it stands, they stay stoic and static, removing some of the cohesion and immersion that you’re sucked into.

And while I love the graphical presentation on show here, there appears to be a bit of a smoothing filter in place, which makes the gorgeous pixel art on display appear a bit muddy at times. It looks like an upscaled SNES game when a standard SNES would have looked perfectly acceptable, but that’s more of a me thing.

Beyond those gripes, the time I spent with Gunbrella has me beyond hyped for the full release, especially getting a small snippet of the story that awaits me. Gunbrella is shaping up to be the sleeper hit of 2023, and I know I’m already itching to dive back into the beautifully twisted world that waits.

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Shaun Cichacki
As a fan of RPGs, Action & Retro titles, Shaun has been gaming since he was a young boy. With an overwhelming obsession involving Metal Gear Solid and Pizza Tower, you know you're in for a wild ride when it comes to things he's writing about.