The Wild West DS is a game that has an interesting concept, but the overall presentation is quite a let down, and is actually embarrassing.
Back in the days of the NES, Capcom released a title called Gun-Smoke which was a new take of the shooter genre. Gun-Smoke had the player dual wielding pistols, riding on horse back, and unlocking new goodies all while taking down renegade criminals. The Wild West is very similar to Gun-Smoke, but fails to provide a decent amount of fun due to inconsistencies, 8-bit graphics, and buggy gameplay.
Happy Happenings developed this game. This is a very small independent developer and it shows. There is no reason why this game could not have been produced on a GBA cartridge. The graphics scream “NES” as everything has an 8-bit look. The soundtrack, although very reminiscent of the Wild Arms series, lacks variety. But the worst part about this game is the dialog and other on screen text. A perfect example lies within the game’s playable characters. Wolfy is the wolf, and Catty is a cat. Yup, I wonder how long it took to come up with those crafty names. Dialog is so simple and filled with nonsense, I would not be surprised if a 2nd grader wrote the game. No, I am not joking.
The gamplay is a mix of Gun-Smoke’s shooter theme and Point Blank’s Guncon gameplay elements. The D-pad controls the direction of your character while shooting your gun requires a tap on the touch screen. This allows the player to use a simplified version of the dual analog control scheme. However, the player is limited as to where aiming can take place. The angle and placement of your shot is restricted by a circle that surrounds your character, meaning that you can only tap to shoot near your character. This allows all action to take place on a small part of the touch screen.
While is does sound like a simple, but fun gameplay element, it is flawed due to inconsistent controls and touch screen sensitivity. Many times, I was tapping my stylus directly on an enemy, only to have the game tell me that I missed. The hit detection is not the only thing that is off. The graphics are spotty as well. For example, one of the early missions will have the player racing in a mine cart. But due to a strange sprite animation, it looks like the player’s head is being split into two.
The game switches between 2D and 3D levels. The 2D stages play from a top down view, just like Gun-Smoke. Or, 3D levels will have the player shooting into the screen with the playable character’s back to the screen. No matter which level you play, you are guaranteed to die several times due the ruthless difficulty factor. I would say the average player would not be able to make it past level two.
Making a difficult game is not a bad thing. In fact, it can give the game a unique fun factor (just look at Treasure’s games). However, when the game becomes hard due to cheap tactics and shoddy play control, the player will just get frustrated. For example, when playing in 3D mode, in order to move out of the way, you must stop shooting, wait one second for the animation to finish, then move out of the way. This stop-and-go style of shooting is terrible and not only slows down the gameplay, it also makes the difficulty way too high. For another example, one of the 2D levels will put the player in a wagon. However, this wagon literally takes up about half the screen, making dodging bullets an impossibility. These brutally cheap tactics will make any player of this game suffer.
One thing that really just makes the game, well,…weird, is the fact that when playing 3D levels, the character should be walking into the screen. But for whatever reason, the animation of your idle playable character will either be walking left or right. For example, think of playing football. When you are running toward the end zone, you are facing it. Now think, what if you had to run to the end zone while facing the sideline? Yeah, I know, it doesn’t make sense. But this is how The Wild West plays.
Another thing that slows down gameplay is the fact that there are some awkward transitions between certain parts of levels. The game will often pause, as if it is loading for something big that is about to happen, but will pick up right where it left off. It is almost as if the game throws in a static loading page for no reason at all. Or another example takes place when fighting against a large ship. After you kill all the bad guys, the game freezes and the ship in the background moves down screen while the player is left to needlessly wait. This wouldn’t be so bad if it didn’t take about 40 seconds to perform a 3 second animation.
The game does support single card link up to 16 players. But all the minigames are rather bland and contain chunky play control, especially the bull-herding and bucking bronco mini games. One thing that is rather odd is the fact that this game supports the rumble pak, but the back of the game’s packaging does not state this. I think this would be something you would want to promote considering only a handful of games use this unique device.
The Wild West had some great potential as being an unwritten sequel to Gun-Smoke. However, it is not hard to tell that this game came from an indie developer. The graphics are from about 15 years ago, the programming is poorly coded, and the written dialogue is laugh out loud embarrassing. The budget price of $20 is not worth the frustration.