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Game Review: Westerado: Double Barreled

Red Dead Redemption in 8-bit.

Developer: Ostrich Banditos
Publisher: Adult Swim Games
Platforms: Microsoft Windows (reviewed), OS X
Disclaimer: Copy provided by the developer/publisher

I don’t particularly go out of my way to watch Westerns, but for some reason, whenever I happen to consume a piece of media set in the romanticized Old West, I genuinely like the experience. That’s why I naturally gravitated towards Westerado, because from the looks of it – and having briefly played the original Flash version on the Adult Swim website – it seemed like it checks all the points of the grand list of Western clichés. And that’s an entirely good thing.

As is typical for a Western, our quest is motivated by revenge. At the start of the game, our family gets murdered by an unknown bandit while we were off catching a runaway buffalo. So it’s up to us to avenge our family and punish as many bandits as time permits. On our quest, we spend some time walking around a bunch of towns and getting to know a variety of colorful characters. But the vast majority is spent traversing the prairies or exploring some mines. All of this is very reminiscent of the original The Legend of Zelda, since each area is an enclosed space and the world is divided into a grid. Similarly, some of the challenges we face can’t immediately be surmounted and usually the MacGuffin we need is placed at the other end of the map. Thankfully we’re accompanied by our trusty horse that enables us to fast-travel to certain locations.

In order to uncover the identity of our fugitive bandit, we’ll need to gather some information. Westerado knows full well that a good Western is always playing double duty as both an action movie and a detective story. So we’re tasked to fulfill a variety of side-quests in order to receive information on the looks and whereabouts of our nemesis. However, the way we go about our business is largely up to us. We can play the loner with a heart of gold, or we can become an outlaw ourselves, either helping every soul we encounter or leaving behind a trail of blood respectively.

But we’re not here to just talk and walk around the desert, we wanna shoot some dudes. Luckily Westerado has us covered. The world is filled with baddies acting as target practice, though the game’s challenge isn’t too taxing. Part of the reason is the fact that both our enemies and our protagonist can only shoot horizontally, meaning you have to be on the same plane as your enemies in order to shoot them or for them to hit you. More skilled players can also attempt to shoot off enemies’ hats. What sounds like a token homage to every Western ever actually has a pretty good reason for being there. Hats represent your health in this world and you’ve got three hats as your life bar. Meaning you can take three bullets before the fourth one sends you to your grave. Coupled with the shooting mechanic, in which you first have to draw your weapon, cock the hammer prior to every shot and then finally shoot your enemies, as well as reload every bullet manually one after the other, it turns an otherwise unchoreographed mess of revolvers into an intricate ballet of preparing your gun, lining up the sights and hitting your enemies between the eyes all the while avoiding the crossfire from bandits that tend to surround you.

After you’ve righted all the wrongs and put an end to the reign of terror of our nemesis, you can unlock multiple other characters to go through the adventure a second time, albeit with a different loadout to make things more challenging. Which is definitely needed, especially considering that it took me just around 2.5 hours to beat the campaign the first time around.

On the aesthetic front I have to say that I greatly enjoyed the visual style they employed. Sure, it’s another indie game with an 8-bit aesthetic, but it excels when it comes to color palette and subtle animations. Coupled with the gorgeous soundtrack that hits all the right notes in every situation, it creates a genuinely nostalgic atmosphere. Fans of Westerns are advised to pick up the game as it’s a nice little offering that’s not quite an adventure in the league of something like Red Dead Redemption, but still manages to capture that feeling of being a cowboy in the Old West.

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