by Matt Porter
reviewed on PC
Welcome to the Wild West
The Wild West. A place of gunslingers, outlaws, as well as bull stampedes and bullet hell, apparently. A Fistful of Gun is a game in which railroad baron Clayton Boon has made a deal with the devil to crush anyone who opposed his company. However, as the game says, “he didn’t count on The Righteous Psychosis of those he had wronged.” In story mode, you choose a character and go on a shooting spree to ultimately get to Boon.
To begin with, you can only choose from a few characters, but you’ll unlock more of the available 11 as you play (although they are all available from the start in Arcade Mode). Each one has a different playstyle, but for the most part, you’ll be trying to clear the screen of enemies while avoiding getting shot yourself. This is easier said than done, particularly in later stages of the game, and most characters being one hit kills adds even more difficulty to the situation. You have a number of lives, represented by playing cards, but if they run out, you’ll be starting the whole story over again.
Each screen is a randomly generated area, though you do get an idea of what’s going to be up ahead before entering. For example, an image at the top of the screen depicting railroad tracks tells you that if you go up there, there’ll be an added danger of trains to avoid, on top of all the bullets. Each screen represents “a mile” on your journey to the boss of each Act of the game. Some will be easy, others much harder, especially depending on the character you choose. The 13th is actually a regiment of soldiers, and although they can take a few extra shots (since there are physically more people) they move extra slowly.
Some characters are definitely more effective than others. I tried one playthrough as The 13th and never went back to them on account of their achingly slow movement. Their special ability is a bit of a speed boost, but it wasn’t enough to make up for the lack of base speed. I became a fan of Zeke, the sniper, since he was able to stay far out of harm’s way, and his powerful rifle could get multiple kills in one shot as long as enemies were lined up. Generally, characters with a bit of area of effect damage and fast reload times will be the handiest in most situations. A weird point to note is that many characters’ control schemes are given assuming you’re using a gamepad, even if you don’t have one plugged in. Using a keyboard, there were one or two guys that I couldn’t figure out how to use at all.
Fast and frantic
Action is fast and frantic, and doesn’t really let up until the screen is empty. At which point you’ll go around collecting all the gold that enemies have dropped. Every now and then a merchant may appear, and you’ll be able to buy a new weapon. It might fire faster, or shoot more than one bullet at once, or something equally useful. It’s just a little frustrating when the merchant appears when you don’t have enough money for even the cheapest upgrade.
Other than gold, you’ll also find the occasional power-up on the floor, usually in the form of alcohol. It might give you a shield, or make you run faster, but in the heat of battle they’re so hard to see that I often found myself only noticing them after everyone was already dead. Either that or the bottle would be in the middle of a group of enemies, making it not worth the risk of moving too close. Still, they’re useful if you can get them. There are co-op modes in A Fistful of Gun, but unless you’ve got someone local to play with you, you probably won’t have much luck. There were four people playing online when I tried to give it a go, and I wasn’t able to find a game. It’s a shame if that’s what you’re looking for, but it’s out of your control.
Not much out there
As it is, A Fistful of Gun is a fairly run of the mill top down shooter. It’s got some good humor to it, and some nice variety to the characters, but the action becomes repetitive all too quickly, even if you’re choosing different characters each time. It’s good for a quick burst of action, but if you’re looking for something longer with a bit more narrative and meat to it, then you’re probably better off looking elsewhere.
Good variety to the characters. Fast paced action.
A couple of odd design choices make things frustrating. Action becomes repetitive.