From the developers who brought us High Vaultage – a game that merges pole vaulting and flatulence – comes something with a different taste, like chewing tobacco or gun smoke, maybe. Ostrich Banditos are a rising Dutch team of developers who I’m sure are going to match Vlambeer in their success. Their latest delivery of rawhide burst through the saloon doors today and shot up the place. To say the least, we were surprised but thankful for the turn of pace that got our hearts pumping again. It’s called Westerado, and it’s now available to play for free over on Adult Swim Games.
The idea for the game sprouts from these crazy-talented developers’ heads while they were in college, and was intended as a Legend of Zelda meets Cowboyana type of ordeal – it actually warrants being called a Red Dead Redemption demake for many reasons, but Westerado also has its own ideas that allow it to cock its own revolver rather than live in the shadow of anything else. Basically it’s an action/adventure set in a rather authentic pixelated vision of the wild west, with buffalo, saloons, bandits and folk who open gates with guns. You’re better off just heading off to play the game for yourself, but as you’re here, you may as well hear the set-up of the plot (spoilers ahead): raiders came to your family ranch and killed your loved ones, and so your task is to head out in free-roaming fashion to find the killer and seek revenge.
“Featuring Gun-versations, because there ain’t nothin’ more western than pullin’ out a gun in conversation.”
The start of the game is actually rather compelling, so expect to be drawn in for quite a long time once you start because there’s no turning back once you’re in. You learn the basics of the game, which include moving around and pulling out and holstering your gun. Being the powerful object that it is, the gun and what you can do with it is highly regarded and being able to pull out your gun during any conversation immediately turns it into an interrogation. You’re only going to be able to find the killer by talking to people, gaining their trust so they share vital information and occasionally threatening others by cocking your gun in their face.
Dom gives the game the following one-line review, and that guy is never wrong: “The second-best steely-eyed stranger simulator out there. Who needs to sit through reams of dialogue when you can just level your gun at someone’s head and have them spill the beans?”
Talk To The Gun
Now this may shock some of you, but Westerado actually has one of the most authentic feeling Western worlds I think I’ve experienced. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t accurate to knuckle, it’s more stylish than that as it capably matches the sunset horizons, long shadows of cacti and dry bones being pecked at in the deserts of the movies. All the iconography is in place and the color palette sizzles and is as striking as the game’s live instruments – pianos, banjos and trumpets were all captured for the game. Truth is, when you think of Westerns you think of the movies and Westerado lets you be inside them!
But it’s more than just lashings of style and visual touch-ups. Already showing a huge variety and depth during the time I’ve spent with the game so far, Westerado’s plot lines and open world allow you to sink in to some great conversations (with or without guns) and many of them come with a punch, an impact that you probably won’t be expecting. Take the game’s beginning for instance – the first time you use a revolver it is used to kill your brother to save him from the suffering of his last graces of life. You want some grit in your game? Here, have a fistful. Even down to how the gun works is important – you reload bullets one at a time into your revolver and there are buttons to pull it out and cock it, which you have to do before being able to fire. This whole process emphasizes the important and weight behind every shot because they will have consequences, and the game’s denizens will make sure that you know about them.
“Are you gonna run with the bandits, robbing and shooting your way through every situation? Side with the Indians and get them back their rightful land? Or maybe you just wanna spend all your money on the girls at the Habberdashery? “
I’m sat here still trying to fathom how much there is to do in this tiny Flash game, and how brutal, exciting and gorgeous it all is – there’s a lot to take in. And best of all, there is so much freedom to explore it all and a tangible effort has gone into making your presence inside the game come with appropriate reactions. Pull out a gun in the middle of town and people will walk a little faster in the other direction; others may pull out a gun and aim back at you. As you leave town, past the East Clintwood statue – the founder – you might see a bandit with some loot; if you steal it from him, he’ll turn around and shoot you square in the face. Fortunately you can take damage in the form of hats – you throw one away every time and you can buy new ones from the dancing girls in the saloons. I think this is my favorite game from what I’ve played so far this year!
Before I start rambling incoherently, let me just say that it’s best for you to just go and play Westerado to find out these things for yourself rather than listening to me recall it all in slavering praise. Because, so far, that’s all I have for it.