01 November 2014
GameCity - Bang Bang Bang! I'm Dead. Again.
The Monday night of GameCity included LadyCade, a free-for-all exhibition of some of the best games around by female developers.
Sadly, I have to admit that I didn't get to try a lot of them, firstly due to getting there late (I was having dinner with my sister), and secondly thanks to getting momentarily obsessed with Sophie Houlden's game Bang Bang Bang.
This is about to go badly for someone...
The premise is simple: A wild west shoot-out in the vein of the great Sergio Leone. Each player picks a character, each armed with a trusty six-shooter. The playfield consists of a simple, symmetrical system of nodes and lines which dictate player movement. There are various layouts, randomly chosen for each round. Players can move along the lines of the playfield (from one node to another), instantly moving there, or in the case of firing a bullet, killing anyone who is on that target node. Last person left alive wins.
On top of this are a few additional mechanics. The players guns can each hold six rounds before needing to be reloaded. Players can also fire a 'slow' bullet, which is a massive bullet that gradually makes its way from one node to another, allowing players to try to control their opponents movements.
The action of stillness.
So far, so simple. However, in keeping with its spaghetti western origins, the majority of this game occurs even before the round is started, thanks to a single, very cunning mechanic. In order for the battle to commence, each player must first ready their gun, that is to say hit the A button to enter their duelling stance. The round begins the moment that the final player hits A. This elevates the pre-game sequence into a cat and mouse game of misdirection, timing, and wits. The last player to ready their gun is blessed with the element of surprise, being able to ready and fire in a single motion. The essence of the wild west shoot-out* is perfectly captured, being as it is less about the muscle memory of aiming, but rather a game of moments. It is in the anticipation of action that a shoot-out reaches its crescendo of drama. Leone's climactic scene in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly includes a four minute stand off in which no-one utters a word, aided by Ennio Morricone's masterful score.
* cinematic shoot-outs - they never actually happened in real life.
Bang Bang Bang is definitely worth getting your hands on. Beyond what I've mentioned above it has workable, clear graphics (important when you're zipping around the screen like a cockroach), with the requisite strong colour palette, helped by some very good, thematic music to keep things ticking along.