By Tyler Lubben / June 6th, 2016
|Release Date||July 16, 2015|
|Age Rating||N/A – Presumed Teen|
As someone who’s played a fair share of video games in his time, I’m always looking for a new challenge. This can be especially tricky in the platformer genre, where decades of Marios, Donkey Kongs and Mega Men means that there isn’t a lot I haven’t seen. There’s only so much that can be done with running, jumping and shooting, right? So, when I was given the opportunity to review developer Duckbridge’s Western-themed title, Luckslinger, I was interested. But with the promise of a unique mechanic that dictated almost everything I did as I played, I was intrigued.
Luckslinger starts about the same as any other story in the Western genre. The titular Luckslinger, an otherwise nameless gunman, rolls into Clovercreek, a quiet town on the verge of collapse. A gang of outlaws has ransacked the town, and there’s little left for the remaining residents to support themselves. With the local sheriff drowning his troubles in the bottle, the people must turn to this stranger to retrieve what was stolen and turn the town’s luck around. Sound familiar? Well, if that’s where it ended, I’d be inclined to agree. However, the key word from the game’s premise as I just described it is “luck.”
On the surface, Luckslinger looks like your run-of-the-mill action platformer. You have two main functions: running and shooting. You shoot enemies to kill them while they try to shoot/knife/pickaxe/barrel you in kind. The key difference here is the game’s unique Luck mechanic. In this game, luck is not the intangible concept of successes and failures as we know it in our world. Luck is a quantifiable commodity, and has a strong effect on the experience you’ll have as you work to recover the six items needed to restore Clovercreek to its former glory. Early in the game, a dying man gives you a special bracelet that allows you to accumulate and keep track of Luck. As you play through each of the game’s levels, enemies you kill will drop glowing yellow orbs that get attached to your bracelet and assist the player in various ways.
You’ll begin to experience different kinds of benefits or hindrances depending on how much luck you’re able to accumulate as you progress. The most noticeable and common help you’ll get is the ammunition in your revolver. Gold bullets will begin to randomly appear when you reload your gun. When fired, these bullets will home in on the closest enemy, guaranteeing a hit no matter where they may be. Enemies will shoot gold bullets from time to time, as well, but, rather than homing in on you, they’ll automatically move away from you, protecting you from additional harm. Luckslinger also has a duck companion/pet called Duckbridge who will randomly distract enemies or grab out-of-reach items for you, again, seemingly based on the amount of Luck you have. However, taking damage from enemy attacks will cause you to lose some of the Luck you’ve picked up, and low luck can have a vastly different effect on your experience. Obstacles like windmills or water towers will randomly fall and try to damage you. Enemies will pop out of seemingly benign pieces of the environment. Seemingly solid platforms will suddenly give way as you jump across pits. You must constantly be on your guard and watch your surroundings carefully, as you never know when danger may leap out of the shadows. However, if you ever feel like you’re in trouble, you have the ability to activate your bracelet, which creates a field around you for a couple seconds that makes all outcomes turn out in your favor 100% of the time. This comes at the cost of half of your accumulated luck, but can still be indispensable in a tough situation.
Aside from affecting how hard you have to try to traverse the environments, each level also has special events where your luck comes into play and can net you helpful secondary items for tough situations. You may also be rewarded with special gold bars, but we’ll get to that later. As you play, you’ll sometimes come across an Indian who seems to be running a casino out of his teepee. For a couple bucks, he’ll give you three cards. If all three cards are green, you’ll receive a random item. However, if you receive any red cards, you get nothing. You can place this bet as many times as you like, but if luck is not on your side, you may end up spending a good chunk of change before you win. As you explore, you’ll also sometimes come across a cabin housing a beautiful woman and her protective father. With high enough luck, the girl will give you an item as you approach. However, if you’re having a bad time of it, the father may notice you trying to seduce his daughter, and will jump out of the house to attack you. In both of these situations, I found the benefit of the items you receive to be worth the risk, as you’ll often receive powerful weapons like a double-barrel shotgun or a sentry turret. While these are generally single-use items, they can be extremely helpful in the sometimes treacherous environments.
Luckslinger has you run through six different stages, which run the gamut of Wild West tropes like a desert, a mine and a moving train. I was a bit disappointed that the obstacles you come across aren’t often too unique from level to level, but you’ll see many different types of enemies that can hinder you in different ways. Each level has your standard foes who will just shoot at you, but that is far from the only danger you’ll come across. The mine has enemies who will sling pickaxes at you. A casino stage later on is populated by dealers who will throw cards, and bartenders will pelt you with shot glasses. Later on, you’ll encounter enemies who can throw smoke bombs which will blind your briefly, making your shots less accurate. That’s to say nothing of the bosses at the end of each stage. Each of them is incredibly unique and will challenge you in different ways. One will throw sticks of dynamite at you, destroying the ground you walk on as the fight progresses, creating pits that you must cross as you fight. Another will whip pickaxes straight at you and cause cave-ins to make boulders crush you. Still another will throw sombreros at you Oddjob-style. Each boss is the pinnacle of their stage’s difficulty, made even tougher due to the fact that each of them also has their own luck item which they will use at will to protect themselves from your bullets from time to time. Eventually, though, you’ll beat each one and be given the option to either capture or kill them and take them back to town.
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