By Jason Quinn / June 11th, 2020
Colt Canyon is a twin-stick shooter rogue-lite developed by Retrific and published by Headup. Despite me saying it’s a twin-stick shooter, this is something pretty different from the likes of Enter the Gungeon. Enter the Gungeon tries to be about fast paced, frenetic action, this is more cautious and methodical. The premise is fairly simple. Your partner has been kidnapped by bandits, and it’s up to you to rescue them, while presumably killing bandits en masse in the process.
The gameplay is as simple as the story is. Shoot bandits to kill them. However, ammo is in extremely limited supply. If you’re lucky, you’ll have maybe a dozen or so bullets at your disposal for any given gun. There’s separate ammo types too, so you won’t always have the bullets that you need. Ammo is dispensed in crates you can destroy, but you’ll get a single bullet from them, maybe two if you’re lucky. Enemies frequently drop ammo as well.
Ammo isn’t overly scarce though. If you’re rigorous in searching for it, you’ll be sure to find some. It’s just scarce enough to get you to make your shots a little more calculated. You can have up to two weapons at once, so you’ll want to switch between them frequently. An ideal mix would be a gun that’s very powerful but slow, and one that’s fast but weaker. Given the setting of this game, there aren’t exactly machine guns around. You get single shot rifles, shotguns, the fastest thing you can get is a six shooter revolver.
Reloading is also particularly important in this game. A lot of guns only get one or two shots before needing to reload. Reloading also has to be done manually, it won’t just do it automatically when you run out. It might seem annoying, but it’s just another way the game forces you to pay attention and make very deliberate actions.
Stealth is going to be your biggest asset in this game. Enemies don’t just immediately come after you, you have to draw their attention in some way. Given how guns are in this game, this isn’t the sort of thing where you want to fight large groups of enemies, so methodically taking enemies out one by one is the best course of action. Sometimes though, tossing a stick of dynamite can solve a few problems at once. Or, you could simply sneak past a big group, or find another path, if it looks like it might be too much for you.
You won’t want to sneak past stuff too much though. This means you won’t have many opportunities to pick up more ammo or new weapons. There’s also hostages scattered around and saving them gives you crucial upgrades. I’d only just avoid enemies if it looks like there’s too many to take on at once, and you’re lacking dynamite.
As one might expect, you die pretty easily in Colt Canyon. Yet, it does a lot to make sure then whenever you die, you always feel like it was more of a failure on your part rather than a failing of the game. Its very easy to spot enemies before they ever see you, and there’s plenty of cover and tall grass to hide in to evade detection. If you end up having to tangle with enemies though, you have a dodge roll if things get too dicey. It’s rarely ever totally necessary though. Enemy attacks can be avoided by just careful movement, since you’re relatively quick.
Instead of running around a maze-like area to find the room that just happens to take you to the next area, Colt Canyon keeps things straightforward by asking you to just run to the right. If you’re moving towards the right, you’re moving towards the exit. Occasionally there’s some dead end paths, but they usually contain ammo or dynamite anyways. It does a good job of keeping a very quick pace despite how methodical the game is.
Something I really appreciate is that there aren’t discrete combat rooms. It would ill-fit a game like this, and they seem like the de facto way to make action oriented rogue-lites these days. In most games, they tend to just slow the game down to a crawl, and also severely restrict how you can approach enemies. This game doesn’t mind you making a tactical retreat. Enemies will lose your trail after awhile, so if things go awry, you can book it out of there and try a different approach.
All the game’s systems work really well with each other to create a pretty tense experience. Simply missing an enemy feels like a huge error, as you wasted a bullet, prolonged the fight with the enemy, and potentially even alerted other enemies. The pacing is excellent, and it’s fun to play almost immediately. Its a game that derives its enjoyment not from item drops, but just from its core systems. So it doesn’t fall into the trap where the first 10-15 minutes of the game are really boring because you simply don’t have a lot you can actually do.
The visual style of the game is quite nice, emphasizing more on just being able to easily parse what everything is. Characters are silhouettes, so it’s easy to tell at a glance what enemy types you’re dealing with. The big draw with this style is how bloody the game gets. After the smoke has settled after a gunfight, blood marks stretch across the landscape as a testament to your brutal victory. It’s not over the top, but it lends itself to the sort of violent Wild West setting its going for.
Colt Canyon is still in development, so I do hope that the final product has a bit more in the way of variety. Unfortunately, I think they’re kinda trapped in a corner here. With the game having a very specific setting and premise, they can only do so much. You’re in the Wild West, so presumably all the environments will be some manner of desert, and the enemies will be some manner of “guy with a gun”. Though the build of the game I played said flat out that there’s a lot of content that isn’t here. So perhaps the final product will surprise me. I think the core gameplay is really solid, and whether or not it has the content to keep people attached is ultimately up in the air. I think it’s something to keep on your radar.
Colt CanyonHeadupPCretrificrogueliteTwin stick shooter