A fistful of gold
It takes a certain kind of appeal for Devolver Digital to add a title to its stable of games. While the indie-friendly publisher doesn’t necessarily have an underlying style that unite all of its games, there is a common theme. They’re all uniquely awesome in some way. A Fistful of Gun is the newcomer to Devolver, but it falls right in line as one might expect.
A Fistful of Gun is a top-down western arcade shooter that’s all about execution, but maybe moreso about how you’ll arrive at that execution. In predictable fashion, there are a bunch of bad guys on the screen, and you’re tasked with shooting all of them. One hit kills them, one hit kills you. Where this game thrives is in the choice that it gives the player.
Maybe the most overwhelming facet of A Fistful of Gun isn’t in the fray of battle but rather in the character select screen. Developer Paul Hart began creating the game with three particular characters in mind — one controlled by keyboard, one by mouse, and one by game pad. That snowballed into nine different playable characters, all vastly different from one another, and all highly refined for their input.
For example, one of the keyboard characters totes a shotgun and aims in the direction that the player last moved. A simple push of the assignable fire button blasts off a wide-ranged spread. However, one mouse character thrives on precision and has a slow-shooting sniper rifle that’s complemented by a cloaking feature.
The fact that Hart has been able to make the different characters feel refined in some sense is remarkable because by his own admission the game doesn’t control all that well. That’s by design. It’s actually so well done that movement and shooting are only awkward for a tiny bit before you subconsciously know how to compensate for it. Well, that’s for one character; mind you, there are eight others to master.
Creating characters tailored for three different inputs sounds like a chore, but Hart actually aimed for more. He ambitiously told us about trying to make the game work with racing wheels and MIDI pianos. Ultimately, he had to scrap that idea because the drivers weren’t universal enough. If he could get the game working with one peripheral, another would pop up that caused issues.
Hart plans to ship A Fistful of Gun sometime in 2015 with a handful of modes. There will be a single player experience that Hart was hesitant to talk about, and with a grin on his face simply said is about “stuff.” There will also be competitive and cooperative multiplayer, both locally and online — all with up to nine players.
It’s unclear right now how well cooperative play will work. Playing with just three was a pretty easy experience for us, so it needs some tweaking and balancing — something that Hart readily admits. The competitive mode should prove to be a hit, with the frantic action leading to quick rounds and fast restarts to crown a new winner. While online play will be supported, you couldn’t help but get the sense that Hart would prefer if everyone gathered around a monitor with their own device to share in the experience together.
But, of course, the choice is yours. That’s what A Fistful of Gun gives you at every turn. There are just so many options, and with the game always randomly generating stages, enemies, and color palettes, there’s always something different right around the corner. It makes sense that Devolver picked the game up. After all, “different” is right up their alley.