Who is this Gunman Clive? He's a cowboy armed with a pistol that works suspiciously like Mega Man's Mega Buster who's out to rescue Ms. Johnson from a recent kidnapping (though you can play as Ms. Johnson or Chieftain Bob - more on them later - who both have to rescue Clive). Originally an iOS/Android title - and the work of one man, Bertil Hörberg - the first game was very successfully ported to the 3DS. A sequel, the perfectly titled Gunman Clive 2, was also released on the 3DS earlier this year. Both titles are captured and given an HD buff for this collection (as its perfect title suggests).
The gameplay is classic run and gun, certainly in the first game. Twenty levels await, including one ruddy minecart stage, and a handful of bosses to dispatch. The three difficulty levels are further distinguished by your character choice: titular Clive is the all-rounder, whilst Ms. Johnson, as befits her gender, can float for a little while (though she has to stand still to fire her pistol). Chieftain Bob packs no heat, instead relying on his trusty spear - it's a bit of a jump (arf) to have melee combat in a platform shooter but it works well once you've adjusted. This is the game's biggest draw if you have the 3DS Gunman Clive: Bob was only in the sequel but here you can play as him in the original.
The sequel ups the ante. Twenty-five stages - and one ruddy minecart level - await and there is much more variety on offer. You take to the skies for a couple of into-the-screen-à-la-Star-Fox shmup levels, and there's one late-game stage that switches things up again. Some of the regular platforming levels involve riding on animals, too, though oddly you never seem to display the finesse and control that Donkey Kong does in similar situations.
The two games compare pretty well, though the original is the tighter of the two. We found that the sequel's shifts in gameplay style meant it didn't gel quite so well, though some will find it refreshing. Both are immensely gorgeous in their own ways and the music is pretty fine, though the sound effects belong in a bygone age. 'Fun' is the watchword, though, and that's a real strength. The most obvious example of this happens when you beat the game and unlock the secret fourth character: more games should have a secret character like this!
There are two things wrong with the games as they stand. Firstly, they are criminally short: you could see everything the two titles have to offer in 90 minutes if you play on Easy. There is a lot of replay value if you're into playing with other characters, changing difficulty levels or beating level times, but if you're just interested in the credits, it might not be for you. Secondly - and this affects Gunman Clive 2 more than its predecessor - there are some levels that you simply have to memorise to get through, perhaps taking the Mega Man template a little too far. It irked us. It irked us good.
Final Verdict: You're spending £3.59/€3.99/$3.99 on two of the best 3DS eShop games for your big screen. It's a harder sell if you've got both games tucked away on your 3DS but, if not, we can only recommend that you come on board the good ship Clive - and don't forget your six-shooter/floating petticoat/bench grinder!
Y'know, for sharpening your spear? Oh, man... we researched that gag for ages...