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Pretty much all of 2023’s major releases so far have been drawn-out games that thrive on a slow-building pace and gradual exploration of expansive worlds. I enjoy massive playgrounds as much as the next person, but I’ve been feeling deprived of fast-paced action experiences. The kind of game where I can go in, have a blast, and get out in the space of a weekend.

Well, what’s this we have here? A fast and bloody 2D shooter with unique movement mechanics and a pun for a name? Sign me up.

Gunbrella gameplay

Gunbrella understands the charm of simplicity. The opening cutscene is barely 30 seconds and gives us everything we need to know: gruff guy, wife dead, cool gun, and off we go. From there you’ll be free to glide through the game's platforming levels, out-maneuvering enemies before turning them into red smears on the ground.

The titular Gunbrella is a simple shotgun with a lot of power but barely any range. Never fear though, as it’s also a bulletproof umbrella that you can open up to block and deflect incoming attacks. Opening it also causes you to dash forwards, letting you quickly close the gap between you and your enemies.

It’s a brilliant balance, as close-range is both where you’re most effective and most vulnerable. You need to get close to kill your enemies, but such a position gives you no time to react to their actions, which can put you in a tricky spot in a crowd – something the bosses exploit very well.

Gunbrella gameplay

It’s not just a combat tool either, as you can dash in any direction, giving you a lot of freedom to maneuver in a fight as well as giving you a lot of height and speed around the game’s platforming areas. When you get into the rhythm of things, you barely have to slow down as your enemies crumple to pieces as you glide right by.

There are even segments that put emphasis on this smooth movement. Once you’ve cleared out an area you’ll need to head back out the way you came, only this time you’ll be pursued by violent wraiths that are always on your tail. It turns relatively simple platforming into a fun race that adds a nice change of pace following a boss fight.

The only major problem I found was a general lack of difficulty. I enjoy smashing my way through the levels, but the more I went on, the more I wanted some challenging combat encounters, but I rarely found any. There are a few enemy types with high mobility that throw you off the first few times you encounter one, but you’ll learn to deal with them eventually.

Gunbrella gameplay

Even the bosses aren’t too difficult. Their patterns can make it hard to get close, but for at least a couple I managed to get close and blast them away through sheer force of will. One particular giant rat, I didn’t even need to learn its patterns. To quote Danny DeVito, I started blasting and before I knew it, I was victorious – it’s no surprise that the game tries to push you towards picking hard as your starting difficulty because that’s the only way you’ll get a challenge.

This was just the first half of the game though. The mechanics, the enemy design, and the level design are all there to make something rather fiendish both from a combat and platforming perspective. That said, even if it doesn’t, I’ll still have loads of fun dominating the game. It’s exactly the kind of indie game that 2023 desperately needs among all the heavy hitters.