Life's cheap, out in the West.
Wah wah waaaahhhhhh.
Need some of that cool Western vibes, because we got another cowboy game folks! It's Colt Canyontoday, a pretty charming little retro-styled thing with a lot to like. So let's talk about it and see where we land on it, what do you say?
The start of Colt Canyon is pretty simple. You're a gunslinger, a rustler, with your partner trying to eke out a peaceful life...Then, your camp's attacked by bandits, your partner's stolen from you, and you awake badly wounded and with vengeance on the mind. Time to hunt the bastards down. You're bringing hell to every last one in your way.
...See the thing I love about this vibe is it's just so easy to write cool sounding shit in that spaghetti Western style.
Also, hey, here's actually a cool detail! They only ever say 'partner', not 'spouse' or 'lover' or something specific, and you can change the gender presentation of both your partner (into John or Jane) and the baseline gunslinger (Cade or Cate), so you can hit a pretty broad range of how you want things depicted and how to interpret the resulting data.
This sort of attention to representation is well appreciated, to be sure. But how's the thing actually play once you're in the thick?
So, the basic gameplay loop is thus: It's a roguelike, twin stick shooter. Levels are randomly generated, you aim with your right stick from a top down perspective, etc etc etc. All very classic stuff. But Colt Canyon does a few interesting things within it.
The largest is that it goes for this stealthy, cautious angle where battles can turn ugly in a hurry if they get out of your control. Enemies are a fair bit more durable when they're aware of you, your guns have small ammo capacities and take time to reload, and a solid hit on you can easily take an entire heart away...When several of the characters only have a few hearts to start with.
Oh, right, characters! That's the other thing! You unlock other possible heroes besides Cade/Cate. These ones don't let you change their gender, it doesn't seem, but they can still freely be trying to rescue John or Jane. Each of these characters comes with a different set of possible loadouts, and different starting stats; these can range from the big burly tank who starts with a shotgun, to the fragile glass-cannon of a riflewoman, to characters with deeply esoteric options and bonuses.
The result, like a lot of roguelikes, is a gradually expanding wealth of options that let you further tailor your experience and lean into your skills with the system.
And once you're actually in a round, well, like I said, the whole thing takes on a stealth quality. The basic, crisp graphics let you get a decent idea of where an enemy is looking, and by sneaking up on them you can silently, brutally stab the shit out of their internal organs. On basic enemies, this will easily kill them in a single hit, and even the tougher leaders will be in an excellent position for you to quickly rattle off a shot or two and finish the job. Of course, nice loud gunshots will inevitably attract attention from any other enemies nearby, so things can quickly get...Interesting.
One of the interesting decisions about Colt Canyon is its specific aesthetic. It's near monochromatic, done up in...Not even NES-style 8-bit like usual. Honestly, at a glance the thing almost looks more like it descends from the Intellivision, or the specific aesthetic of the microcomputer era.
This also presents one of the troubles the game has. While you can sort out well enough how to see where people are looking through where their weapons are pointed, the game's monochromatic minimalism means that it can be awfully difficult at times to pick enemies out from civilians, or the dangerous bushes from the regular ones. And sure, that might be The Point, but it rings a little wrong for me when I consider how someone with color blindness would potentially struggle...Made all the more surprising when the game has several other efforts made for accessibility.
But, hey, this is one of those things that can hopefully be patched and fixed.
Some of the other stuff is...Trickier.
I should probably address an elephant in the room.
Westerns, like actually set in the Old West not in fantasy cowboy land, are...tricky. The actual historical era was, to be blunt, pretty racist. Lots of those new frontiers were, ah, not so new to the people who'd been living there for generations before getting forced out, you know?
And I'm not gonna say Colt Canyon is a Bad, or even Problematic, for depicting that era. But there's some...baggage around the whole thing that we should note. Like the fact that the first set of stages go through what could be called farmlands...But when some of the farms are patrolled by armed enemies and the farmers seem to have little lines connecting their legs...It's, well, it's a thing.
...Also the first boss is a straight up whip-cracking taskmaster who forces what are definitely unarmed slaves in between him and you so you can't get a clean shot at him.
So, like, this dude's the bad guy. He's not an unlockable character, he's not misunderstood, he's a monster on two fat legs who deserves to fucking die.
But he's also, like, there. And you'll face him every time, because the game lacks a shortcut system as far as I can tell. ...Aaand the best way to beat him is to throw dynamite at him and just let all the innocents he surrounds himself with die horribly in the explosion.
Is what I'm saying.
This isn't me calling the game out. Shit, look at the end of the review. I liked this game a lot. But I also know people who would probably have a really bad time if they were trucking along with this and then suddenly found themselves facing this guy as the first boss.
Just something to be aware of.
Okay. Let's just all take a quick breath, before I have to turn the entire mood of this piece around the corner at speed.
Because, despite the baggage, the core of this is a good game. There's a solid depiction of a pixelated Old West here, the gameplay loop works, and the combat is deeply satisfying. There's a lot to like!
There's also, besides the baggage, a few hitches. The color blindness issue, the lack of shortcuts so you can learn each area individually (To be fair, I may have simply not learned how to make a shortcut, get back to me if I missed something obvious), and the inconsistency on how the game tries to show enemy health through their little Metal Gear Solid style status symbol over their heads.
But these are all fixable. Really, the big question is, do you want to play a game that's willing to show some of the warts of the actual West? And if you don't, that's legitimate. I totally understand.
If you're in a position where you can work through that, I do think the game is good and worth your time. It's just that question is there, and there's no real way for it to not be.