Bastards Review

Have you ever played Doom and said to yourself, “Gee, this is fun, but it’d be a lot more fun if I were shooting up the Wild West instead of Hell?” Of course you haven’t, and that’s part of what makes Bastards for the iPhone a nice little surprise.

Bastards puts you in the stirrups of Boot McKane, a cowboy who’s on the prowl for members of the aptly-named “Bastards” gang. When Boot encounters desperados, he gently reasons with them using his guns. Hint: There are a whole lotta desperadoes in this game that need a good talking-to.

Time for new glasses.

Bastards is based on the classic Doom engine, so there’s a lot here that’s familiar. The graphics are pixelated, the landscape is flat and sprawling, enemies are plentiful, and so are weapons. Advancing through a level means fighting for every step against hordes of crazed cowboys and finding keys that will help you go further up and deeper in until a level is cleared. Health can be restored through food and alcohol (our favorite: “!Whiskey!”).

The game makes no attempt to hide its heritage, which is part of its charm. However, Bastards’ aesthetics are wholly its own. Demons are now decorated cowboys. Cacti stand lonesome in the battlefield, and vultures peck at bodies. Horses wait patiently for riders. Chickens strut at your feet (and make good target practice, cough cough). Your weapons are primarily an assortment of guns, though you can also gather up sticks of dynamite for some quick, dirty fun.

Looks like it’s horse meat for dinner again.

Bastards will definitely make you smile if you can still remember those sleepless nights you spent with your shareware version of Doom on your 486. But for that same reason, it might feel a little too retro for some cowpokes. There isn’t much exploration to speak of, here: Your main goal is to shoot, find keys, and move on. Also be aware that this is “Episode One,” so there are only a handful of levels, and they’ll keep you busy for a few hours at best. A dollar is a pretty good value for what you do get, but you’ll presumably be handing over another for each subsequent episode of the game.

If you’re not in the mood for Doom nostalgia, Bastards won’t make your bull run. Otherwise, it’s a nifty little diversion that recalls the days of the untamed frontier: Cooking outdoors, sleeping on the ground, and hucking dynamite at bad guys.

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