Admittedly, the most prominent feature of Gunman Clive is its visual design. Dedicated to the sepia-tinted image of a Wild West "Wanted" poster, the game simply looks classy. Enemies are kept in prominent signal colors, while traps and background elements are much more subdued. All this is complemented with a vintage movie grain filter.
Due to its setting and side-scrolling action, Gunman Clive is immediately evocative of the Konami arcade classic Sunset Riders, but it is actually closer to Mega Man - much closer than it lets on in the beginning. Clive has similar limitations as the blue robot, so he can only ever shoot forward, although his weapons are dropped more conventionally by regular enemies. For most of the game there is only a spread shot a gun that shoots big explosive shells, although some more out-there firearms await towards the end.
The enemy gallery seems rather tame at first. The army of cowboys is only mixed up by some seemingly harmless animals, but as soon as the former start using ducks for airborne attacks, it becomes clear that things aren't as normal as they seem. Then a locomotive turns into a steampunk mecha and attacks Clive, followed by a Bionic Commando tribute boss, and things get out of hand, fast. Before long, Clive finds himself in outer space, trying to rescue the kidnapped barmaid from aliens.
Gunman Clive lasts only 20 short stages, but it sure strives to get the most of its length. Every other stage introduces some new main hazard. Many are lifted straight from Mega Man, like moving ladders, disappearing platforms and even the sparks from Elec Man's stage. Some of the more mechanized enemies also seem vaguely familiar. Later levels rely on physics-based platforming challenges like in the more recent Mario games, from seesaws to rotating blocks and rolling boulders. The obligatory (thankfully short) minecart stage isn't missing either, and finally Clive mounts a rocket for an insane shoot-em-up level. When dying, Clive can try again an infinite amount of times, but he has to restart from the beginning of the stage each time. Since a level rarely takes longer than two minutes to complete, that's not too bad, although towards the end some annoying instant-kill situations just before the finish line make it seem worse. Still, the game is not very hard, and it's easy to finish it within one afternoon.
Once completed, there is not much incentive to go at it again - at least not in the original versions, as the 3DS download has been expanded somewhat. Aside from a useless but neat level map, the game now has three difficulty levels and a second playable character. Apparently in reaction to the recent sexism in games debate, the resolute barmaid Ms. Johnson can set out to rescue Clive instead. She can float for a bit in mid-air similar to Princess Peach and has a silly walking animation due to her skirt, but otherwise plays the same as Clive. The same cannot be said about the hidden third character - a completely helpless duck.