It’s high noon! Whether you’re in the middle of a dark forest, a blizzard, or in front of a dramatic sunset, it’s ALWAYS high noon when you’re playing Western Press, a super-simple yet sure to test your skills to the max kind of game available now on the Xbox Live storefront. Western Press pits two competitors head-on in a dramatic, lightning-quick duel where the fastest and most accurate button presses win supreme bragging rights over their friends family, and/or AI-controlled bots (Disclaimer: actual level of bragging rights may vary).
This here is a great example of old school-type gaming. No bells and whistles, just an incredibly simple concept: fastest person to press the correct prompts wins. It all comes down to the three things that competitive gamers and gamers of yore covet most; speed, skill, and accuracy. There are no microtransactions to give you an edge. There is no grinding involved to give you an edge over your poorly-geared opponent, the only way to get better is to practice, practice, practice. After all, Frogger didn’t just walk himself across the street at a stoplight; it took skill, practice, and a bunch of quarters. Western Press is all about challenging your reflexes. You do have the option of lowering the AI’s difficulty level, but where is the satisfaction in that?
Western Press is a pretty bare-bones title. There are a few gameplay options available so let’s take a gander at those. Skill Tester mode is the closest you’re going to get to a story mode in this game. It pits you against eight enemies (and one group of inanimate cans) of varying difficulties and rule sets. Each victory nets you an achievement and a new number in the corner of your character profile that shows off the highest skill level you’ve beaten. After defeating the final duel against Wyatt Hurt in front of a dramatic sunset, you’re treated to a short epilogue. I loved this duel. Throughout the whole of the challenges, the bar on the left side of the screen remains visible while the countdown to the duel begins. You can tell when the duel is about to start due to the fact that you can watch the bar be filled with the prompts you will need to press and as soon as it fills to the top, you go. However, the final duel changes this up dramatically and it makes a huge difference. Instead of watching the bar fill while the time ticks down, there is no bar, nor is there a countdown. Instead, the words GET READY blink slowly on the screen. After a bit of time, the narrator says GO and the full bar pops onto the screen unexpectedly. This small change makes an already challenging duel a lot harder, but a lot more satisfying to beat. It was a very cool moment in a game where they are in short supply.
Custom Tournament is the only other mode. You can customize and play a tournament with a mix of up to 16 players and bots. You have a range of characters to choose from, but many have to be unlocked in a variety of ways, such as clearing the Skill Tester challenges or winning a tournament without getting shot. You can also play online, but I haven’t seen anyone else on the two times I checked, so I don’t know what kind of player base a game like this would even have. Custom Tournament has a bunch of rulesets you can mess around with, from choosing how many lives characters have in a duel, to what kind of prompts show up during the matches. You even have two different styles of game to choose from: the usual fastest press or memory mode. Memory mode has the duelists competing to remember increasingly longer strings of button prompts until one of them messes up. I’m horrible at memory games, though, so I stayed away from that one!
The graphics are made up of low-res pixels, which is fine by me. But, and this is a big but, I hate when developers decide to pixelate the in-game writing as well, especially when the writing is so small. It adds absolutely nothing to the aesthetic and I don’t see why anybody does it. Just before the duels, the characters like to trade barbs with each other. The humor falls flat in a lot of places, though. They’re either not funny, or the writers try too hard to ‘western’ it up by adding the letter n between every other word. At least the sound design is good. From the classical soundtrack that sounds like it was pulled right out of a cowboy movie, to the “ooh’s” and “ahh’s” of the spectators, Western Press is a great-sounding game. I even found that the narrator sounds a little bit like Johnny Cash, so that’s a nice touch whether it was meant to or not.
So there are two big problems stopping me from recommending this title to everyone. First is the online, which seems like nobody is ever playing. Second is the extreme lack of content. I feel like this game compares to the westerns that it emulates: a single tumbleweed blowing through a mostly deserted town just before a duel starts. Part of the issue is the fact that duels take only a few seconds each, tops. It gets boring after 10-15 minutes of playtime. That being said, Western Press is an excellent game for people who just like to pick up and play for a few minutes at a time, and for people who love video games that test their skills and reflexes. So if any of this sounds good to you, you might as well grab a copy, if not, keep on moseying, partner.
*Note: A copy of this game was provided for the purpose of the review.
Final Score: 5/10
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