Gunman Clive 2 is a game drawn on scraps of paper, which is appropriate as it's about as flat and lifeless as tree bark.

You have enemies that simply disappear into a puff of smoke, and sound effects that are timid or non existent. The game plods along at a languid pace, and the action never peaks - not even in boss fights.

It just doesn't pop and fizzle like the games it's inspired by, and that's a shame.

Battle notwork

Because this is an inventive and often surprising little homage to Mega Man that is constantly mixing things up with new ideas and off-the-wall mechanics that are tossed away as soon as they are introduced.

The game opens like its predecessor, with simple shoot outs in a western town. But it soon travels to different worlds to toy with gravity and dinosaurs. It might drop giant Tetris blocks on your head, or let you ride a panda or a horse.

There are even 3D flight sections that seem inspired by Star Fox or Afterburner, though they're too meandering and finicky to be a highlight.

Wooly wars

And it's well designed. Solo developer Bertil Hörberg has obviously studied the classics closely and copied the ways they teach players, and the way bosses telegraph their moves and test you on what you've learned in previous stages.

But it's not slavishly retro. You have infinite lives, and because levels are short you never have to replay much when you die. Plus, you aren't stiffed with long 'Game Over' screens upon death: you just immediately teleport back in.

And, of course, it doesn't copy Mega Man's 8bit art and chip tune music in the same way as a game like Shovel Knight. Instead, the game looks like a wanted poster with scratchy ink on coloured paper. And the music is a pleasant melody.

Shovel light

But, again, the visuals and soundtrack are devoid of energy - the main thing that holds Gunman Clive back from being a must-have. It's a nice enough game, but it just feels so indistinct. It feels adequate. Nothing more.

You get a nice amount of content for your cash (and you may wish to replay the game with the other three characters), and it doesn't outstay its welcome. If you dug the first game you'll enjoy this superior follow-up.

But if you're looking for something that recaptures the frantic, bouncy, energetic fun of retro run 'n guns, you might want to look elsewhere.