Westbang Review

Czech developer Rake In Grass has already shown us what it can do with the superlative puzzle platformer Archibald’s Adventures. Its latest effort, Westbang, takes gamers in an entirely different direction–back to the Old West, where the twitchiness of your trigger fingers (or thumbs, in this case) matters most. As far as arcade shooters go, this incredibly fun game is the new sheriff in town.

Eenie, meenie, miney, moe…

In Westbang, you play as a freshly minted lawman who’s been hired to clean up a frontier town. The gunplay is basically a game of whack-a-mole, where assorted scumbags pop out from behind doors and point guns at you. You have to tap to shoot them down before they fire, taking away one of your five lives.

It sounds like a humdrum affair, but there are several twists that turn it into pure genius. For one thing, you can’t shoot a baddie until he actually draws his weapon and points it at you–no preventive strikes allowed. If you shoot early, you lose a life.

And there are many different kinds of outlaw, each with a different strategy. Basic guys come out with their guns already pointed at you, or they draw quickly and predictably. Further into the game, you’ll be dealing with guys who wait forever before drawing, some who draw on random schedules, and others who take two shots to kill.

Then there are the criminals who impersonate the civilians who often appear holding bags of money. These “felonious bastards,” as the game refers to them, are the worst of all, because you don’t know if they’ll pull out a piece or a sack of bonus dough. Shooting someone holding a money bag is bad for your career, obviously, causing you a lost life.

Each level is outfitted with several doors that open and shut rapidly, displaying someone new each time. On later levels, the doors are slamming open like crazy, and you have to keep a very close eye on who’s there, whether they mean you harm… and, if so, when they’re going to draw. If you size them up and kill them in the right order, you rack up combo bonuses, as well as the gratifying sense that this is your town, dammit!

It’s fast-twitch reaction gameplay at its finest, and it both looks and sounds fantastic. Westbang’s characters have tons of personality, with a unique, stilted animation style that’s just fun to watch. And the sound effects are second to none, between slamming doors, gunfire, and the comical yelps of just-plugged bandits. The cutscenes are read aloud in a slow Western drawl that’s a hoot.

Westbang’s attention to detail (you can shoot up the environments), replayability (three difficulty levels and global leaderboards), and tight gameplay are the hallmarks of a superior arcade game. At 99 cents, you’ve got to have it.

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