Red Or Dead
What with Rockstar’s Red Dead Redemption doing a roaring trade on consoles and the Coen Brothers’ True Grit currently wowing cinema goers, it’s kinda surprising more western themed games haven’t yet gunned their way into the App Store. Well, polish your Colt and grab a dozen bullets because indie developer Damatha Studios’ impressive iOS debut, arcade shoot ’em up Red Gun (out now, $0.99), aims to fill the void in style.
Set in the lawless Far West during the gold rush of the 1850s, the game puts players in the boots of hard-bitten gunslinger Red Stanton as he blazes his way through a thrilling series of hyper-frenetic shoot-outs set against an authentic backdrop of dusty streets, dangerous saloons whose patrons would just as soon kill you as look at you, and ramshackle towns leaving a trail of bullet-riddled corpses in his wake.
The bare-bones plot, a garbled homage to John Wayne/Clint Eastwood movies, may be nigh-nonsensical and a pretty flimsy excuse for the high-octane action that soon ensues, but Damatha nail every other aspect of the game.
The refreshingly original arcade aesthetic – think Time Crisis meets 60’s spaghetti western – impresses, the grizzled, gravel-voiced Stanton is an undeniably cool central protagonist, while the well designed on-rails mechanic coupled with an intuitive control scheme that’s been primed for pick up and playability makes getting stuck into the fast paced gunfights an unbridled joy. All good, but first and foremost, you’ve really got to admire this developer for having the cojones not to just churn out yet another tiresome zombie blaster.
Proceedings kick off with a quick tutorial that familiarizes you with the game’s slick tap to shoot and swipe to crouch/reload system. Once you’ve got the hang of the basics, it’s off to Bucksin Town where the locals ain’t best pleased to see Stanton, and greet our hero with a volley after volley of hot lead. Picking off the initial few outlaws is easy enough, but the game rapidly ups the ante and soon you find yourself desperately outnumbered and outgunned.
This means adopting a more tactical approach than you might expect from this type of game is necessary in order to preserve your three lives for as long as possible. Rival shooters will cut you down if you stay out in the open too long, so ducking behind bits of scenery and intermittently popping out to return fire is advisable.
Taking cover and reloading your weapon is achieved by a short swipe downwards on the screen, while a flick of your finger upwards whilst tapping on an enemy brings you back to your feet blasting. At times, contextual directional arrows also allow you to strafe left and right, and skillfully snipe around corners or from behind pillars.
Trading bullets with a seemingly endless supply of tooled-up baddies as the action barrels along at a frantic pace and you’re automatically whisked from one explosive gunfight to the next is as thrilling as it sounds. Be warned though, Red Gun is no walk in the park, and even when playing on the game’s easiest setting, it does get pretty darn challenging. Stanton’s adversaries are no mindless zombies and they make good use of the duck and cover system during shoot-outs, skillfully leaping behind overturned tables or taking sneaky pot-shots at you from other strategically chosen vantage points. Furthermore convincing each of these no good varmints to lay down and die takes a surprisingly amount of doing (at least 4-5 direct hits). As such, split-second timing, good reflexes and, of course, a lightening quick trigger finger are absolutely crucial to your cowboy’s survival!.
All in all, I had a blast with Red Gun. The game’s various locales look great, the fast paced gun battles pack a satisfying visceral wallop, while Damatha consistently maintain a good balance between stages being compellingly tough and ‘just one more go’ addictive.
Unfortunately the main campaign is a bit short for my liking and fails to muster much of an incentive for one to replay the game. That being said, there are a fistful of unlock-able mini-games on offer and Damatha have expressed their keen desire to further evolve the game and keep adding content for some months, making Red Stanton’s universe richer and deeper. Here’s hoping they make good on that promise because, good as it is, Red Gun definitely has huge scope for improvement. My suggestions – how’s about a few more weapons (a shotgun and sticks of dynamite seem like shoe-ins), boss battles and maybe a high-speed level set atop a runaway train or even on horseback?.
iFanzine Verdict: Indie devs Damatha Studios kick in the door of the App Store and come out guns blazing with an undeniably slick and stylish debut game. Red Gun is an utter blast from start to end, and boasts a unique Time Crisis style arcade shooter meets Sergio Leone spaghetti western aesthetic. Highly recommended.