Cowboy Guns is frustrating because of what it could have been. When you first start playing this western-themed dual-stick shooter, you’ll be charmed by the blocky 3D characters, and it’s easy to jump on board for whatever the game wants to throw your way. Unfortunately, this appeal is eventually overwhelmed by the gameplay and story, which aren’t nearly as enjoyable as the game’s look.
Cowboy Guns has a pretty cool graphical style. Clearly its aesthetic was born out of necessity, but it gives the game a distinctive look, at least in cutscenes. Sadly, most of this unique vision is lost on the player while the bullets are flying. The camera is at such a high angle that the people inhabiting this virtual wild west are reduced to looking like hats with guns poking out from underneath.
Nobody calls me yella.
The camera’s disappointing from a visual perspective, but it’s downright maddening in terms of interactivity. Because of how close the camera is to the action, enemies shoot at you long before you can see them. It’d be totally unplayable if not for indicators on the edge of the screen. There’s no reason the player should see less of the action that what we can imagine the avatar to be able to see. Third-person games typically trend the other way: giving the player information their avatar wouldn’t realistically have. Does the protagonist of Cowboy Guns just have his brim pulled down unreasonably low? It’s the only explanation we can come up with.
The gameplay is frustrating for other reasons, too. The most baffling problem we saw in the game was its odd economy. If you die, you don’t re-load the game from the last checkpoint with the ammunition you had at that point. Your player’s soul can travel back in time, but apparently bullets can’t. Luckily, you can buy ammunition at any time, and you should have ample money to do so. Still, it’s a weird way to sink currency out of the player’s wallet.
Looks like you’ve found your man.
The one thing you can’t buy, however, is health. The game’s protagonist will regain health up to fifty percent of his health bar, but beyond that your only hope is to find health packs, which are extremely rare. Conversely, the game litters the levels with more ammo than you’ll ever need, especially considering you can just buy it if you want to.
This all gets really irritating late in the game and during boss battles, when enemies will just spawn out of thin air to surround you, leaving you with little cover and even less health. If these encounters weren’t tedious enough, the bosses go in and out of invulnerable states for no apparent reason. We’ve all seen games where you have to deal with a boss being temporarily invincible, but it’s usually tied to some visual cue or narrative device. Expecting much from the story side of Cowboy Guns is a fool’s errand, though. The writing isn’t impressive, creatively or technically. The dialogue (and other in-game text) is rife with typos, and the plot is about as unsurprising as they come.
The uninspired, unpolished storytelling is a real bummer, because the game’s look would lend itself to a charming adventure like in some of the LEGO-themed games we’ve seen over the past few years. Combine that with strange decisions in the design of the gameplay, and Cowboy Guns is tough to recommend.