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Western Press / 10th of May 2016

There have been few party games that have caught the imagination quite like Messhof’s Nidhogg did, pitting two players into a tense, taut battle to the death, so it’s certainly a tough act to follow as one would therefore imagine. Yet, from seemingly out of nowhere, a small Australian outfit known as Bandit-1 have created one of the wittiest, most inventive releases in recent years, with it’s pixel art visual style, incessant film referencing and yes, simple, but thoroughly effective gameplay, Western Press might just be the very game that you’ve been looking for.

Now, let me just get this out of the way as quickly as I can, there really isn’t an awful lot to the game, there are some characters to unlock (twelve in total), and two different ways to play the game, but that’s it really, but that’s not point though, is it? Confrontations in Western Press last only around fifteen seconds or so, and whilst there is a tutorial to work through – this effectively passes for its story mode – the game has been designed primarily for a multiplayer experience, and this part thankfully, can be enjoyed both online and offline. In both instances, players can take part in tournaments that play out much like the Sam Raimi film, The Quick and the Dead, with up to sixteen competitors being drawn against one another, round after round until the number of challengers has been whittled down to just two who then compete in a final duel in the desert as the sun hangs low in sky. Perfect, right?

Now, I have to ask you an important question; do you like QTEs? Yes? Good. I had wondered just how matches would play out in Western Press, I had assumed that they’d likely play out as a manic free for all like Nidhogg before it, but how wrong I was. Instead, what transpires is that, at the start of each match, a long sequence of instructions appears at each side of the screen, these are entirely random, but players must enter these commands correctly and as quickly as possible, preferably without making any mistakes. The idea is that whomever manages to do so the quickest will win the duel, mistakes incur a time penalty and can quite literally be the difference between life and death. It is also possible to change how the game is played, making it a test of memory with the instructions being hidden, often leading to calamitous results!

I have to admit, I had a soft spot for Western Press almost immediately, as within moments of booting up, a warm, deep voice not entirely too dissimilar to the great Sam Elliot announced that “the duel abides”, seeing me sit grinning from ear to ear as I wished that I was clutching a Caucasian instead of a controller. It’s a game that wears its heart on its sleeve, as the banter between the various competitors frequently makes reference to variety of other Hollywood classics as they insult one another with gay abandon.

Graphically, the game also packs some charm, it’s certainly not going to take much horsepower to run it on its highest settings, but it’s still a lovely game to look at, with a superb level of detail to found in both the locales and animations, as expended shotgun cartridges drop to the floor and characters die in gratuitous and often amusing fashions. The narration is top notch and the soundtrack is also equally fitting, perfectly matching the western setting, so you won’t need to go running for you Ennio Morricone LPs, but I’d certainly keep them on standby, this a party game after all.

With four selectable characters, twelve additional unlockable ones, charming and highly stylised visuals and a rug that ties the room together, it’s almost impossible to not recommend this sixteen player gunfighter. It’s unlikely to be to everybody’s tastes, but there are few games that can compete with the way that Western Press can liven up a party, and whilst this is certainly just my own opinion, dude, I dig your style Bandit-1, I really do.

James Paton
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