“For a few Gun more.”
A Fistful of Gun is developer FarmerGnome’s take on an offbeat genre, 8-bit western. This wild west title is a frantic, top-down co-op shooter set against a backdrop of gunslingers, bandits, wealthy tycoons, open prairies and bears. Yes, BEARS. A Fistful of Gun has a strange fascination with the absurd, but rather than alienate players the weird nuances beguiles them. Players will be roped in by the game’s 8-bit charm, tied to train tracks by the hectic shootouts and be saved by the simple fun experience that is A Fistful of Gun.
Like the title implies, A Fistful of Gun is filled with weapons. Combat is a cacophony of bullets, arrows, fires and explosions all aimed towards the players. The frenzied gameplay is fast and reminiscent of retro, 2D space shooters such as Raiden and Ikaruga; bullets whiz by quickly and often. But as much as players will be dodging and weaving through storms of bullets, they’ll be firing back as fast as their trigger fingers can move. This shoot-or-die pace is exuberant and will keep players hitting the “continue” button long after they’ve been beaten, shot and set aflame.
The quick pace, though, can be a bit frustrating. When combined with the difficulty of the story mode, the bullet-mayhem will see players restarting the game over and over. A Fistful of Gun allows players to continue after they’ve died, but only if they have enough lives; be prepared to see the character-select screen multiple times in a single session. The game’s three acts are, however, short enough to warrant a demanding challenge and players, fortunately, will grow into the difficulty as they become familiar with their preferred character’s strengths and weaknesses.
Speaking of characters, A Fistful of Gun also boasts 11 unique protagonists, each with their own playstyle, arsenal and controls. Variety is king and the game brings a ton of it in a leather sack with a dollar sign on it. To name just a few characters and their weapons, Pablo sets loads of ready-to-explode TNT charges for wayfaring enemies, Duke mows down hordes of bandits with his trusty Gatling gun and the 13th Regiment moves, fires and dies together like a symbiotic cavalry with a vengeance. Even though all the protagonists share the exact same campaign, each character’s unique style adds so much to A Fistful of Gun. Retrying the story mode as a newly unlocked character and figuring out how to best utilize their skills spells plenty of reasons to keep coming back and gunning down some more bad guys.
Some of the characters are only playable with the mouse and WASD keys while others may be controlled with a gamepad or through alternate keys on a keyboard. This set-up allows for a unique feature: nine-player local co-op. While that absurd amount of people huddled over a single keyboard seems to be more of a chaotic novelty, the local co-op amongst a fewer number of people is an absolute blast. Running and gunning with friends turns an already wild shoot-em-up into a bullet festival; the bright streaks and trails of bullets flying left and right, up and down and through friends and enemies is a teary-eyed spectacle to behold on just a single computer screen. A Fistful of Gun also supports online cooperative and versus modes, however not too many people can be found playing the game at the same time, even after a few weeks of its release.
There are several modes players can comb through in A Fistful of Gun: arcade, story, local versus, online and two secret modes, one of those secret modes revolves heavily around bears. Arcade mode is the easiest category to jump into; all characters are unlocked and players fight through onslaughts of enemies for a high-score on an online leaderboard. Story mode is the most interesting of the choices as it gives the player a straightforward goal amidst the chaos of bullets and bandits. In the campaign, the protagonists seek revenge on Clayton Boon, the game’s wealthy railroad monopolizer. Like any hardened businessman, Boon will do whatever it takes to guarantee his goals, even if that means making a deal with the devil himself. The campaign doesn’t stretch far in telling a narrative. It’s mainly a simple tale of revenge with a weird twist near the end. Players are also tasked with random objectives, in the story mode, as they navigate from one 2D screen to the next. The objectives range from simple goals to absurd ones such as clearing all enemies from the screen to stopping a herd of stampeding bulls because they smelled sausages in the nearest town to taking peyote. The game creates a great pace for the story through these random encounters while sprinkling the game’s lighthearted humor all over the place
Comedy absolutely fits in the universe of A Fistful of Gun. Its charm not only resides in the bright 8-bit graphics and spaghetti western soundtrack, but in the humor of the world. Comedy plays the role of a second aesthetic. The protagonists, enemies, landscapes and especially the obsession with bears all color the world with laughter. Not to mention, the characters in the story are hilarious. Whenever a player interacts with an NPC, whether a friendly character or an enemy, it’s bound to elicit a chuckle or loud “hah!” as the dialogue is ridiculous and comical. Even the title is a parody of Sergio Leone’s A Fistful of Dollars. Every bit of the game manages to queue up some humor in its own way and it works magnificently for this shoot-em-up PC game.
FarmerGnome’s A Fistful of Gun is an arcade, shooter-adventure players can play, leave for a bit and then come back to later and enjoy the game as much as he or she did the very first time. The story mode, frantic co-op exploits and the 11 unique characters are more than enough reasons to journey west and lose oneself in the game. A Fistful of Gun is coated in so much arcade-style and hilarious charm, players will look to drop quarters into their computers just to keep playing.