Review: Western Press

What started as the premiere project of the Australian three-man indie developer Bandit-1 could prove to be the beginning of something special on the Steam marketplace. Combining the Wild West with simple-yet-frantic gameplay and a minimalist appearance at a great price may very well mean great things, but the question here is whether Western Press will be the first shot... or the last.

Title: Western Press (Review Copy Provided)
Publisher: Surprise Attack Games
Developer: Bandit-1
Platform: Steam
Release Date: April 21, 2016
Players: 1-16
MSRP: $4.99

Courtesy of Bandit-1 and Surprise Attack Games

The concept of Western Press is fairly simple - Western duels to the death serve as a backdrop to see which player can input the right buttons the fastest, and to keep things simple and focused, the entire world is rendered in retro-style graphics reminiscent of classic PC titles. Right from the introductory cutscene, it becomes quite obvious that the game decidedly does not take itself that seriously. The whole tone of Western Press is basically paying homage to the Western genre of fiction in general, with a gravely-voiced narrator (and the only voice you ever will hear in the game) ever present to oversee every duel and each character having a simple personality to match as shown through their pre- and post-duel taunts. The characters themselves run the gamut of the genre, from your typical gunfighter and Indian archetypes to military and foreigners, and even the undead. All of these elements combined give a very simple aesthetic, and while that would presently be a very easy style to take for a studio's first title, it works here because the simplicity allows the game to focus on what matters most - the gameplay.

The controls are easily one of the most amazing parts of the game. Players have to use both hands to hit any of 8 buttons for a given sequence, and that alone is simple enough. The amazing part comes in with the sheer amount of control adaptability - Western Press allows for nearly any kind of controller to be used, so you can likely use the keyboard to go up against a player with an Xbox or PlayStation controller, or even go up against a player using a dance mat on even footing (no pun intended). This kind of accessibility is definitely welcoming for players looking to challenge themselves, and there will definitely be challenge as the game can get really intense at times.

Courtesy of Bandit-1 and Surprise Attack Games

The meat of this game is in its multiplayer tournament modes, in which up to 16 players and/or AI bots can take part. Online mode is very simple, allowing anyone to host their own dueling server or join others at the drop of a hat. Matches can either be about having the fastest 10-button sequence input or about having the most correct inputs in sequence in an ever-increasing chain of button commands. There are many different potential characters to choose from, most of which are unlocked through single-player mode, providing much needed variety. The single-player campaign has you playing as the rifle-wielding character Peggy Sue as you gun your way through the Wild West, all to hunt down the elusive Wyatt Hurt. The campaign could stand to have a bit more to it than just a generic rush ladder, but overall the fact of the matter is that the lack of plot is not important in the slightest if the gameplay is this incredible.

All of this, however, only makes up a little over half of what Western Press offers. The rest of the game's content lies in the Steam Workshop Uploader bundled with the title. This part of Western Press allows players to make their own characters and environments for themselves and others to use while playing, all with tools that are relatively simple to use. The game provides all the templates for its characters and environments for players to start from and even allows uploading of files made with other image editors, all with the easiest integration possible into the game. Combine that with the sharing functionality of online play, and the possibilities are really quite impressive.

Courtesy of Bandit-1 and Surprise Attack Games

All in all, Western Press definitely makes its mark as a game that is incredibly fun, easy to get into, and hard to master. The Workshop portion, if used correctly, can definitely carry it for a long while. With the price tag being so modest for the whole package it would be extremely hard to pass this nifty little title up. Bandit-1 definitely have the makings of a studio that knows what is important in making a good game, so to pass up this title would be a darn shame.

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I am a game development college graduate and lifelong gamer. I am looking to use my knowledge however I am best able. As it so happens, that makes for great game reviews.
Port Saint Lucie, FL