Westerado: Double Barreled (PC) Review

Many of the most memorable games at PAX East could be found at the Adult Swim Games booth, and though I’m not the best schmoozer in the world, I certainly […]

Many of the most memorable games at PAX East could be found at the Adult Swim Games booth, and though I’m not the best schmoozer in the world, I certainly handed over my card and hoped for the best. As is often the case for me, “hoping real hard” turned out to be a winning strategy, because I had the good fortune to receive a code for Westerado, their retro-styled open world western.

Visuals

If you read my intro, or looked at any of the screenshots, then you’d already know that Westerado hasn’t decided to jump onto the perpetually evolving visual arms race that tends to drive games. Instead they went with a common indie tactic of evoking nostalgia with pixelated visuals. Whereas many such games aim for mildly updated versions of SNES and Genesis era visuals, or perhaps going back as far as NES, Westerado goes further, with blocky, low resolution characters more at home on the Atari or Commodore 64.

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Did I mention you can do different characters and Co-op? Well… you can.

 

One could be excused for supposing that such an art style would result in lackluster visuals. Westerado, though, manages to put every pixel to good use. The screens are vibrant in color and teeming with life. The desert has scorpions and coyotes. There are railroads, stations, haberdashers, etc. Every town is filled with unique residence, which is actually somewhat crucial to the gameplay and story.

There are also aspects to the asthetic that were genuinely entertaining. For one, the dialogue provides you with a close up view of the speakers, but doesn’t give a higher detail version of the character. (Giant pixels!) But there are also film sprockets, like you’re watching a movie. When intense things happen the screen shakes, etc. It’s neat!

Gameplay

The game is played with the keyboard (in my case) or a controller. Standard movement controls are relegated to the right hand, with an interaction button and a reload button for your gun. The other hand gets the gun controls, which are more complicated than you might expect. Your primary weapon is a single action revolver, which means you need to draw it with one button, then cock and fire with the other. Reloading is done one bullet at a time and entirely manually. Aiming is done by moving your character along the 2D plane of the ground and aligning your gun with the appropriate target. Health is handled by hats (one hat protects you from one bullet) and death costs you half of your money unless you’ve put it in the bank.

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Great! … Wait, couldn’t he have more than one hat?

 

To give you an idea of the overall gameplay, imagine Read Dead Redemption in the Atari era. You can wander over just about any part of the world map from the beginning. Each town is filled with people who can and will assign you missions. Most are fairly simple fetch quests, requiring you to find and talk to someone, then return with information or items. Other missions have you defending a herd of buffalo or a stage coach, or perhaps wiping out a group of bandits. There’s also minigames, like poker, and you can even save toward buying land. Standard stuff for an open world game, but fairly unique for a more retro-type game.

As you’ll learn in the Story section, your main character has to find a specific person, and thus much of the game centers upon finding details about that person via steadily more specific details of his clothes. That person is one of the people in the game, walking around in one of the cities or out in the middle of nowhere. Your desire to find the individual is so ingrained in the game that you can shoot just about anybody, and many dialogue trees have “IT WAS YOU!” as a choice. Notably, “Draw gun” is also always an option in conversation, and is sometimes necessary to… persuade people to listen to cooperate.

Sound

The music, unlike what the visuals might ready you for, is not bleeps and bloops. You get a soundtrack every bit as good as you’d expect from a cinematic western.

Story

You play the game as a cattleman who runs off after an escaped buffalo and returns to find his ranch in ruins and his family killed. The rest of the game has you seeking the man responsible. Subplots emerge, like a developing relationship with the unfaithful wife of a local sheriff, but mostly you want the killer. Perhaps most importantly, there was no shortage of humor.

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Persuasion.

 

Summing Up

I genuinely enjoyed this game. It packed some of the best features of an open world game into a retro formfactor. The simple yet unique controls make it easy to get started, and the depth and openness made sure it never got boring. Definitely worth playing.

Verdict

8.5 / 10: Westerado offers a staggeringly effective union of old-school visuals and controls with open world gameplay.

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About Decoychunk

Editor, Writer, and general Knower-Of-Words, if there is text to be read on BrainLazy, Joseph Lallo probably has his fingerprints on it. As the final third of the ownership and foundation of BrainLazy, Joseph “Jo” Lallo made a name for himself when he lost the “e” from his nickname in an arm wrestling match with a witch doctor. Residing in the arid lowlands of the American Southwest, Joseph Lallo is a small, herbivorous, rabbit-like creature with the horns of an antelope. He sleeps belly up, and his milk can be used for medicinal purposes. Joseph Lallo is also author of several books, including The Book of Deacon Series, book 1 of which is available for free here.