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Review: The Outlaw, The Drunk, & The Whore (El Demo)
Author: s-m-r
Added: 06/08/2010

It's no question that Del Duio is one of the "Leaders of the Old Skool," faithfully adhering to the 8-bit retro scene; The Outlaw, The Drunk, and The Whore is another excellent entry into that proud history. While maintaining the classic pixelated look and chiptune sounds of the classics, DD crams lots of features and extras into a game that catapults it into the forefront of contemporary indie gaming. The zany--and frequently crude--humour and Wild West theme also help it stand out (in a very good way) from all the rest of the current crop of independent/hobby games, echoing Mel Brooks and his "Blazing Saddles" rather than "Diablo"--Del Duio's admitted inspiration for this title.

Here is where the "little extras" begin to appear. The game features all you need: different characters, a high scores table, unlockable and collectible items, as well as a full-featured game tutorial. Although you may detect a few audio glitches here and there, or perhaps notice a little "dead time" pause between screens, these are not much of a hindrance at all.

Del Duio is branding himself and DXF Games very well, and his professionalism and care shine through in this project. The full version of the game costs $5, which includes more than twice as many levels and quite an outrageous game...For the many reasons listed below--and to support independent developers such as Del Duio--this game and its full version comes highly recommended.

GAMEPLAY: 7 I'm always entertained by games that are deliberately retro-styled, simply because the good ones eschew flashy graphics in favour of focusing their attention on accessible, immersive gameplay. ODW almost always hits the mark in this category, throwing lots of options and features at you that pay off most of the time. Characters are eligible for stat upgrades and improvements through pick-ups and power-ups both discovered on the map and purchased from the in-game merchant. One of the most interesting features of the game are the "antiques," which allow a player to spend a large chunk of cash on a special item that increases a number of abilities by a small amount, or one stat by a significant amount. Fortunately, there are five slots, so by the end of the game there's a high probability that your character is a kick-ass powerhouse that can take on anyone in the game. This is a good thing, too, since by the time the "Big River" level comes along, you'll need to be able to run and gun with the quickest and the deadliest. And ultimately, this is where the comparisons to Diablo come the thickest. At the game's start, your character can leisurely pick their way through the levels, gingerly stepping their way all over the map. However, during the final level, it becomes a desperate run-n-gun where you must either dodge and outrun all the bullets flying your way, or have picked up enough items and health points to endure the waves of bullets flying towards you. The challenge level is steep, and forces players to either advance-retreat-advance to conquer every square inch of the stage, or speed-run their way to the objective that makes the Devil Gate appear (which, upon entering, ends the stage). With all the improvements that your characters can acquire, I found some of the normal controls inconsistently useful. Although it may be due to my personal play style, I found the "Sprint" feature useless; as a result, I could avoid spending any money on training or items that resulted in "Stamina" stat improvements. Each character also has a "gringo" skill which I found to be unbalanced. A few engine issues also surfaced to hamper gameplay somewhat: collision for the melee attacks was inconsistent at times, and definintely could be exploited by a savvy player (if you've played Necropolis Rising, also by DXF Games, you'll recognize the same quirks, although to a lesser degree). To polish off this category, however, I would be remiss if I didn't mention the gambling mini-games. There's a roulette "bonus round" at the end of every stage (though I can't for the life of me figure out how you end up with more or less chances to win), as well as a "good" ending to the game that allows for a classic poker game stand-off with the Devil himself. Gambling has never been my strong suit, and neither have games of chance, but there's enough skill involved in each of these mini-games to allow for a sharp (or lucky) player to succeed.

Screenshot 1

GRAPHICS: 8 While quite possibly the most obvious indicator of a "retro" game, the graphics in this game are still high-quality and imaginative. Each of the eight levels are vibrant and distinct, whether it's the forest of level one, the mines, or the Civil War battlefield. Along with the environment, diverse assortments of enemies add to the variety of the stages. The cute, cartoony graphics add to the light-hearted sense of humour in ODW. One of my only complaints in this category would have been to see some sort of distinction between the power-ups and the background; things can become quite messy after you blast enough enemies and blow up enough rocks; many of the powerups can easily blend into the backgrounds. A little "glitter" animation surrounding the power-ups would help. Essentially, if you dislike retro games, that would be the only reason you dislike the look of ODW.

Screenshot 2

MUSIC & SOUND: 7 The chiptunes and rudimentary-but-still-recognizable sound effects used in ODW fit both the retro and spaghetti-western theme perfectly. All the tunes evoke sounds of banjos and fiddles playing classic old-timey tunes and jingles, making you think you're sitting in the Saloon instead of in front of a computer. Of course, to fit in with the retro theme of the game, these are MIDI tunes. I personally would have preferred to hear some actual high-quality sound files; the game size wouldn't have ended up too big, after all. But retro is as retro does, I suppose...Besides the twang of a synthesized banjo sounds almost as cool as the real thing.

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LASTABILITY: 9 I was obsessed with beating this game until I finally did, several days later. All told, my first vicotrious play-through took close to three hours to complete; I'm sure a better-than-average player could work themselves down to completing a game (with the "good" ending) in just over an hour. So why come back to it? There are a few compelling reasons, for certain. First off, the aforementioned "antiques" can be collected throughout each and every play-through. Being that there's no guarantee that you'll see them all in any one session makes this an elusive but highly addictive'll definitely want to "catch 'em all" even if it's just to see what they all are. The different characters are similar to an extent, but the animations and distinct skills between each lend to a player wanting to try each of them. I think it's fair to say that the different characters represent different difficulty levels (or perhaps different areas of mastery); I've beaten the game with the Outlaw, but I've found it more challenging with the Drunk in particular. Also of note are some unique antiques that appear only for a particular character; for example, "Dundee's Hat" helps the Whore and her trained "attack pet" improve its abilities, and cannot be purchased by the Outlaw or the Drunk. After a few tries, you'll begin to overlook the small-but-irritating engine issues in favour of seeking out more antiques or playing with a different character, just to see what's in store for you.

Screenshot 4

OVERALL: 8 It's very rare that a game can make playing scoundrels not only fun, but a laugh every minute. While it may not be appropriate for younger audiences, this game offers some old-skool gaming entertainment and a challenging and varied quest for a few hours at a time. This is as close to an 8-bit total package I've seen in years. I highly recommend The Outlaw, the Drunk, and the Whore, for retro fans everywhere...You won't be disappointed.

Sound and Music:

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Posted by s-m-r 6th August, 2010

Ah, sorry the formatting on some of the sections crammed some of the paragraphs together. If I could edit the review to make it more readable, I would...
Posted by Del Duio 21st August, 2010

Oh wow I just noticed this now!

That's an awesome review, thanks a lot S-M-R!
Posted by Phredreeke 29th September, 2010

Is it better than a Mac?


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