I’m gonna flip this coin, when it touches the ground… DRAW! So are the rules of dueling in the savage West, where outlaws, bounty hunters and BBQs are the norm. When Clayton Boon, the evil railroad tycoon- hey it rhymes!- decided to make a new road, he crossed the wrong psychopaths: our beloved protagonists.
A Fistful of Gun
The thing I like the most about the game is it’s control schemes. Plural. You see, you have eleven characters to choose from, and every one of them has a unique gimmick that translates into a specific way to reduce enemies to red pixels. For example, my favorite one has a revolver and once you expended your bullets you have to reload them manually by pulling the right thumbstick. It’s awesome, I feel like Revolver Ocelot. Some characters are controlled exclusively by mouse and keyboard though, such as the sniper who can turn invisible by not attacking. I am glad the dev decided not to compromise and adapt every single playstyle to the gamepad. The right controls for the right character.
The game is really responsive and it’s very fun to experiment with the different slaughtering methods in the arcade, to find the best style for you. I mentioned mayhem before and I did not exaggerate: the amount of flying bullets is ludicrous. I weave and dodge the attacks only to step into a fire and burn myself to death. You have many lives in the form of playing cards and you’ll wish you had more stashed in your sleeves by how quickly they are spent.
While difficult, the game is rewarding. You don’t feel bad at all for dying because the game allows you to jump right back on, with the same or another character. The arcade mode gives you random upgrades that you can choose from after beating each screen, while the story mode has a more RPG feel to it complete with shops, quests and NPCs that won’t attack you on sight (if you have good karma that is).
You need to unlock characters for the story mode, but they are all available by default in the arcade mode. The story is quite simple: your character is pissed off and Boone has to pay. You can rob banks, hop on trains, meet mystical indian stereotypes and save doomed townspeople from rampaging animals. Never a dull moment on this game.
Graphically the game is like many other indies: pixellated. While I understand the reasons behind a style like that (simplicity, budget, retro nostalgia) it fails to create enough contrast to help keep track of things. Look at the screenshots and you’ll see that many levels are warm in color and that the bullets and other hazards like fire blend right in. Maybe with another art style this could have been avoided and it’s only an issue when you’re hit with a stray bullet you didn’t see because everything looks alike.
The music though is very good with a spaghetti western feel to it, which I heartily approve of. You can buy the soundtrack if you really like it too!
I mentioned before how hard the game is. It’s a throwback to the arcades of old, with explosions and bullets dotting the screen and a merciless machine chewing down your hard earned quarters. Good times.
The game manages to capture that essence and add to it. The (single player only) story mode allows you to collect gold to buy items but you can also barter and trade, explore procedurally generated levels and engage in quests. What you do in a level carries on, decisions made will haunt or help you along the way. According to your actions you have a “wanted” level and it will color your interactions with NPCs such as sheriffs. As you advance, you must defeat bosses in your goal of stopping the evil Clayton. Because the levels are never the same in each playthrough some parts of the story may be experienced differently.
The online mode for the game is perfectly suited for couch gaming. According to the dev you can hook up 11 controllers to use all the players at once in local co-op! Most likely, you will have a friend or two over. No matter, because one computer can control many players, so it will be the three of you plus whoever comes around online, mixing up online and local multiplayer.
While the more the merrier, once again the graphics make it easy for you to get lost in the chaos which grows exponentially with every character’s unique bag of tricks. At first my friend was reluctant to play a game too hardcore for casual tastes, but then we ended up playing hours without realizing. Trying the online features is a hit and miss, the matchmaking is poorly implemented but a solution is coming soon- there is no proper server browser and you have to restart the game to switch servers.
Suppose you can’t find anyone in the server you find yourself in. Just head to the forums where the dev has helpful instructions to host a game yourself, or just ask around and you’ll quickly find other players and then it’s just a matter of choosing a server to play on.
The game is completely worth it even if you’re not going to use the co-op or online multiplayer. It’s fun, it’s fast paced, it’s got a badass soundtrack and with the eleven characters it has eleven times more gameplay than many indie titles. The single player wasn’t developed as the focus of the game by the creator’s own admission, yet it’s very entertaining and compelling, maybe even more so than the arcade if you don’t like twitchy old school hard games.
Multiplayer wise, this is a gold mine for co-op lovers. There is a versus too, but it pales in comparison to almost a dozen people teaming up to fight fast shooting pistoleros in the midst of flaming angry bears. Give it a shot!*
*The author was hanged for making this pun soon after publication of this article. If you like co-op, bullet spamming and fun in general consider purchasing this game for you and your friends.