Tag Archives: cowboys

2017 Game Review Haiku, #71 – Cross Stitch Casper

Troubled dad, young boy
Must keep ranch safe, Nana helps
Homely embroidered

I can’t believe I’m still doing this. I can’t believe I’ll ever stop. These game summaries in chunks of five, seven, and five syllable lines paint pictures in the mind better than any half a dozen descriptive paragraphs I could ever write. Trust me, I’ve tried. Brevity is the place to be. At this point, I’ve done over 200 of these things and have no plans of slowing down. So get ready for another year of haikus. Doumo arigatou gozaimasu.

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Hunting the West’s most notorious outlaws and making it up as I go

call of juarez gd impressions screenshot

Sixes and sevens! Did I really beat Call of Juarez: Gunslinger over a month ago and have still not officially written more than a haiku about it? Grrr. That’s summer for you, when I can only keep my head down, power through games, scribble a slimsey attempt at Japanese poetry, and move on to my next conquest. Makes me wonder when I’ll get around to finishing that post on The Bureau: XCOM Declassified, but enough of that–today is all about one cowboy’s quest for revenge after his life became a cropper. Yes, I looked up a bunch of Western slang for this intro post; did you know folk used to call onions skunk eggs? Makes sense to me.

Fortuitously, Call of Juarez: Gunslinger arrived in my PlayStation Plus library a day or two after I rewatched Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained, which is not necessarily a Western, but does star some bounty hunters and pistols being quickly drawn. Plus intense and over-the-top violence. The big difference between those two properties is not just that one is a game and one is a film, but rather Tarantino’s work is a train-driven narrative, and Call of Juarez: Gunslinger openly and playfully skirts the edge of a reliable narrator and plot. Without that uncertainty, it would be another ho-hum first-person shooter with little to it, as other entries have dabbled in similar mechanics and visual styles.

The story is as so: legendary old bounty hunter Silas Greaves enters a saloon in Abilene, Kansas, in 1910 and regales the patrons with tales of his adventures in exchange for free drinks. The patrons–Steve, Jack, and a teenager named Dwight–are amazed at first, but grow increasingly incredulous as the ludicrous stories go on and on and on, in which Greaves takes credit for the killings of numerous legendary outlaws, including Butch Cassidy and Newman Haynes Clanton. See, Greaves likes to embellish where and when he can, and this plays into the gameplay, where scenarios and events will change on the fly based on what is being told and what is being questioned. The first time it happens, mid-action, I couldn’t help but smile at the swift change of course.

I’ve never touched any of the other Call of Juarez titles–namely the first one, Bound in Blood, and The Cartel–but they sound like they share similar elements. Gameplay in Gunslinger consists of completing linear objectives to progress, and these usually involve shooting dudes who are shooting at you until they stop shooting at you because you shot them down. Occasionally, you’ll have to dodge bullets via a quick time event or act honorably–but deadly–in a traditional gunslinger duel. Those duels are a ton of fun, as you have to pay attention to multiple aspects and timers, like heartbeats and the location of your hand, and not draw too early or else you’ll be labeled a dastardly varmint. Thankfully, all villains were shot down honorably in my playthrough.

Other than that, there are collectibles called “Nuggets of Truth” to find, of which many are easy to spy as they sparkle in-game. If that’s not enough, you can unlock a perk to have them play a jingle and vibrate your controller when nearby. Still, I missed a few, but they offer some interesting tidbits about the multiple characters and legends of the Wild West. In an action-driven game, I found it difficult to steer off the main path in search for shiny doodads and playing cards.

Call of Juarez: Gunslinger does a fantastic job at dumping you into an ever-changing world and giving you all the abilities to be an unstoppable force–without actually making you unstoppable. Even on the standard difficulty, I ran into some trouble, though most had to do with the few boss fights and figuring out the best way to approach them over a handful of tries. The game’s tone is outlandish in all the right ways, keeping the action frenetic and unpredictable, and my only complaint is that I wish the ending had been more profound instead of simply a twist, one played far too straight for a man like Silas Greaves.

Hunt the varmint that killed your family in Westerado

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With a name like Westerado and a colorfully retro look, it didn’t take much to get me interested in this browser-based Western, free to play over at Adult Swim’s gaming subsite. A dastardly bandit kills your entire family, burning your home to the ground as a bonus, and you must go seeking revenge, gathering clues and helping others to learn the true identity of the bastard, in order to shoot him in front of the local saloon. It’s a traditional premise, but the idea of not knowing exactly who the murderer is works amazingly, especially since you can accuse nearly everyone you talk to and even draw your pistol on them. I killed a rancher just because he seemed to be holding back information; I’m not proud of that, just saying it’s something that can be done.

You control your bandit-seeking cowboy with WASD, using J to holster or unholster your pistol, K to both cock it and then fire, and R to reload a single bullet. E is your main action button for speaking and selecting dialogue options. Your cowboy wanders towns, picks up quests, learns clues, and continues on. Oh, and you can even join in a round of poker. I’ve played Westerado now in two separate sessions, with the first lasting an hour, and the second being much shorter than that, eventually breaking itself. It’s a surprisingly deep game that could potentially take several hours to complete, unless you know exactly where to go and who the bandit is from the word go. Not sure if that’s random each time or not, wasn’t paying attention to the details there.

I struggled with the shooting, mostly because there are some faults with it. I like the idea of manually reloading one bullet at a time and cocking the gun each time before firing, but maybe it’s a little too restrictive in execution. Throw in the fact that you automatically holster your pistol when you run and you can find yourself taking out your pistol, running over to an armed bandit, and then standing there empty-handed while your hat gets shot off. Lose three hats and then get shot one more time–you’re dead. Not a huge deal, as some progress is saved, though it’s not entirely clear what is being saved and when. I did die fighting some bandits and returned to the same place to find the ones I managed to kill still on the ground. So, yeah. That’s cool and all, considering it is browser-based, so you kind of have to play it in a single sitting or leave it running when you walk away.

And naturally, as this is me we’re talking about, I ran into a nasty glitch, which I worked my way around, but then it broke Westerado, thus lowering my interest to ever play again and figure out just who exactly shot my mother and brother. Oh well. I know he had a brown hat and is very thin, but that could be a number of men in town. Anyways, the glitch. Tasked with leading a caravan of goods, I quickly had to defend it from bandits with guns on horseback. Well, that’s what the instructions said, at least. No bandits ever showed up. The music was hyper and dramatic, and the caravan and my cowboy continued to race forward. This went on uneventfully for several minutes before I figured out that something broke; no matter what I did, I couldn’t get the bandits to spawn. Ultimately, I shot the caravan’s horse and lost the mission. Was dumped back into the wonderfully named town of Clintwood, where things slowed down and the game hitched up, eventually freezing on the fast travel map. Well, shoot.

So yeah, Westerado. A fantastic name, appropriate and polished tunes, a neat look, and the potential for a great mystery to solve. Alas, I don’t have the time to dig into it all at once, and now I’m scared of more glitches. But feel free to give it a chance, as it’s pretty charming otherwise.