Red Dead Redemption 0.5
Indie, roguelike, and pixel-art. These three buzzwords have been increasingly prevalent in recent years. After the immense success of The Binding of Isaac, everyone and their mother started to jump on the roguelike bandwagon. Edmund McMillen wasn’t the first, but his game popularized the genre, for better or worse.
That isn’t to say other titles copying Isaac are bad, though. FTL, Spelunky, Risk of Rain, Rogue Legacy, these are all fine examples of how to use the roguelike template to create a truly gripping experience. The mechanics of each game are strong enough to entice players back for another go, even if the level designs can rarely be memorized. They all have distinct art styles, too, so it’s hard to confuse any of the titles with one another.
It’s just that the genre (or sub-genre, if you will) has seen a deluge of developers throwing ideas at the wall that rarely stick. Roguelike brawlers, first-person shooters, racing games. Hell, battle royale titles are basically a modified take on a roguelike. Is there still anything left to be mined from the concept of procedural generation and permadeath?
Colt Canyon may not be reinventing the wheel, but it provides a unique enough spin on the genre that I may just need to keep an eye out for it.
The most distinguishing feature of Colt Canyon is its art style. While pixel art is technically correct, the graphics are fairly reminiscent of an Atari title. Characters are incredibly blocky and weapons are made up on individual pixels with a vague resemblance to anything real. The world is rendered in a sepia tone to capture the atmosphere of the wild west, but the limited color palette calls to mind the limitations of Atari’s console. It could pass as a game from the 1980s, save for the blood that paints the floor when you shoot someone.
You play as a wandering cowboy that is looking to rescue his captured girlfriend. You’ll travel across a randomly generated desert that is populated with bandits all around. These bandits may have ammunition, extra weapons, or some captured citizens. You’ll need to stock up on ammo to have a chance at surviving, though you thankfully aren’t tasked with keeping a hunger meter from depleting.
To combat these bandits, you’ll move around in classic, twin-stick shooter style. The left stick moves your character, the right stick aims his gun. You’ll start off with one of a few firearm choices (based on the class you pick) and you’ll come across a variety of weapons as you kill enemies. I was particularly fond of the long barrel revolver, though a crossbow allowed me the chance to take out enemies without alerting their friends.
When you happen upon imprisoned citizens, you can free them and receive upgrades for your troubles. You’ll be given choices as to what you’d like to improve, be it your max health, ammo capacity, or some random perk that could aid you (like bonus explosive range). You could opt to recruit the citizen and have them fight alongside you. This will necessitate handing over a weapon unless you plan on using citizens as human shields.
From there, the main goal is to keep proceeding toward the right-hand side of the screen. Levels are split up into segments of three, so you’ll need to travel from 1-1, 1-2, and 1-3 before you hit level 2. If you feel like you’ve missed out on some cool guns or potential citizens, you can even go back and revisit past levels to stock up.
That’s really it, too. There aren’t a whole lot of layers going on with Colt Canyon. I can appreciate that, especially when most roguelikes try to complicate things with tons of randomized variables. It’s nice to only have to keep track of a few things instead of worrying about a laundry list of stats and modifiers. I’m also fond of how combat is based a lot on player skill and reading environments, which sort of feeds into the Wild West setting of the game.
I had fun taking my knife and breaking boxes, scrounging for ammo, and raiding bandit camps. Your character’s limited health makes gunfights feel tense, with camera positioning being key to staying alive. The minimalist sound design makes you feel like a man on a fool’s errand, trekking across the harsh wilderness to save the one you love against impossible odds. Those moments when you find ammo can feel like immense victories thanks to how punishing mistakes can be.
But a lot of that is inherent to the roguelike genre. Colt Canyon is mainly a different flavor of roguelike for people that want that specific thing. I’m not exactly big into Westerns, but I am surprised there aren’t more games going for this style after the success of Red Dead Redemption. Maybe this will be the perfect game for anyone wanting more of Rockstar’s flavor of Americana.
Either way, it’s got enough charm and uniqueness to linger in my mind. Maybe I’ll tire of it after a few hours, but the game is also early into development. A lot could change from now until release (co-op was mentioned as a feature that will be present), so we’ll just need to wait and see.