Gunbrick: Reloaded, which is out today on PC and Switch, is a remaster and remix of a Nitrome game that I never originally played the first time around. Don’t blame me, though: back in the day Nitrome dazzled not just because of the quality of its browser games but because of the startling rapidity with which they came out. Two minutes with Gunbrick is enough to confirm that this is the Nitrome I remember with such fondness. There’s the intricate style and zip of the pixel art, of course, but there’s also the sense of ingenious thrift, of a handful of clever ideas explored to the absolute fullest.
Gunbrick is a little yellow square, with a shield on one side and a gun on another. You roll around 2D levels getting from the start to the finish line, and almost immediately the game starts to mix things up. You can use the shield side to roll over jets of flame, but you need to make sure that the right side is in the right place when you roll. Equally, you can use the gun not just to shoot enemies but to push your block backwards without rolling, so it’s a positioning tool for nailing the shield-landing as much as anything else.
Point the gun at the floor and it’s also a rocket-jump, each squeeze of the trigger shunting you into the air and opening up a world of platforming possibilities. What else? Everything else! Lasers, switches that move blocks around, coloured walls that pop in and out of existence, bosses. Nitrome is wonderfully skilled at getting everything out of an idea.
And a game like Gunbrick lends itself so beautifully to the kind of bonus stages that a Reloaded release demands. What’s the big idea? Whisper it: three dimensions.
Three dimensions! Suddenly I’m rolling the Gunbrick around neat little isometric stages, and the Gunbrick itself has become a cube! The positioning game just got more complicated, but the gunplay just got more satisfying too, because you can sort of roll and strafe if you have the cannon pointed in the right direction.
I worried about Nitrome when the Flash gaming scene hit the skids, and I imagine it has been pretty tough. But this small outfit is nothing if not creative. Ingenuity is the watchword. Gunbrick is an absolute delight.