A distant ice-clad planet is under attack from the dreaded Destrovians, with its complex plutonium pipework being the saboteurs' prime target. Others have tried and failed to eradicate these attackers - now Gunrunner remains the only hope for this beleaguered world.
Each of the game's ten levels consists of a pipework landscape on a horizontally-scrolling screen. Gunrunner moves left and right through this, jumping and kneeling where necessary - collecting a jetpack allows him to fly up and down to greater heights and depths.
As he moves forward, groups of Destrovians attack from both left and right, moving in at varying speeds and heights. Contact removes one of 'Runner's three lives, with those remaining shown at the top right. On losing a life, our hero restarts from the beginning of the present level.
Gunrunner must also beware of dangerous gaps in the pipework; booby-trapped Destrovian supply domes; perilous, opening bomb doors: mines (against which there is no protection); and pedestal-mounted scanning orbs (unarmed but worth valuable points).
A blaster constitutes our hero's only protection at the beginning of each level. This destroys aliens and scanning orbs, with points awarded for each and a total shown at the top left. A bonus is added when 15,000 points have been earned.
To upgrade his weaponry, Gunrunner picks up equipment discarded by previous resistance fighters. This includes; a Multi-fire Unit which converts his blaster into a rapid-fire tri-directional weapon; a shield with finite energy reserves giving protection against contact with Destrovians (a status indicator shows remaining energy levels); a short duration jet-pack; and a poison device which eliminates all aliens in the immediate area - but only on limited occasions. This extra equipment is acquired by touch, and more than one piece can be carried simultaneously. An onscreen message indicates if a jet-pack, shield or poison is currently in our hero's possession. In the absence of a shield, contact with a Destrovian removes all of Gunrunner's collected equipment.
A level is completed upon reaching the striped emergency defence computer. Gunrunner then automatically receives a jetpack to help him fight his way to the next level within the specified time limit.
'Hewson's considerable reputation led me to expect a great deal from Gunrunner. However, I was disappointed. While the packaging and general presentation are all that I expected, the game itself is not; although I' m sure that many companies would be proud of a shoot 'em up of this calibre. The graphics are reasonable despite the scrolling jerking occasionally, but I found ft lacking in gameplay, and consequently unaddictive. The format is becoming dated, and it's a bit much to ask £7.95 for an ordinary shoot 'em up.'
'Shoot 'em ups can be good if they're playable - but Gunrunner lacks any positive points, and to my mind is a failure due to its unfriendly feel. The graphics, which are the game's most attractive aspect, are too squarely drawn to be inspiring. Sound is also limited, being confined to a few neat in-game effects and an average title tune. Gunrunner is off-putting from the start, and once I had mastered it I could find nothing to make me have another go.'
'I'm disappointed, because this is the first unfortunate game Hewson has produced. The presentation is good, especially the loading screen with its scrolling message and excellent tune. However, the package is a little too similar to Uridium for my liking - the monochromatic playing area, the alien attack patterns and the aliens themselves all bear an uncanny resemblance to the aforementioned masterpiece. Gunrunner isn't compelling or playable enough to earn my recommendation.'