The Wild West lends itself nicely to video games, as one of the most popular genres in the early days of the medium involved some cowboy gunslinging action. The Atari and NES had several of these classics, most of them being action platformers. Luckslinger on Xbox is a playful homage to that era, but it goes above this and presents a clever modernised hip hop twist to the Spaghetti Western style.
As the name suggests, luck is a crucial element in Luckslinger where rather than being an arbitrary algorithm as it is in RPGs, it is a gameplay mechanic which serves to alter the level design in subtle yet effective ways. Luck must be collected to charge up a meter which then takes effect in all sorts of situations. However, not accumulating a sufficient amount of luck to use basically means you are unlucky in the absence of luck, which makes the very same situations difficult to navigate.
By collecting and activating luck at opportune times, a whole range of things can occur, such as platforms appearing out of thin air to break a fall, enemy bullets suddenly deflecting, and your duck sidekick retrieving items for you or even obstructing enemies. Let’s back up a bit here: yes you read that correctly, in Luckslinger you are a cowboy with a duck companion, of all things. There is a bit of horse riding here and there, but your duck is with you all the way.
Although largely an action platformer, Luckslinger has elements of a story-driven adventure to compete with towns and side distractions. Although it’s neat to see the adventure punctuated with all sorts of different ideas, it becomes hard to get a sense of what exactly the level design is trying to achieve. Stylistic presentation and immersion are certainly welcome, but it becomes unclear whether Luckslinger wants to be an open-ended 2D adventure or whether it wants to be an old-school action platformer where players must navigate tightly designed levels and intense boss encounters. The two game design choices feel quite disconnected from each other, to the point where early on the whole checkpoint and save system can seem a little confusing and misleading. At what point the adventure picks up when you load up a save despite selecting “save and exit” from the menu is a bit hit and miss.
The core gameplay has some neat ideas, in particular the whole reloading mechanic of the revolver gun, which has some novelty. The shooting action itself is quite basic however, and while the element of luck does play an interesting role, it never feels like something that drives the core gameplay. If anything it almost feels salient. For the most part, players will be focused on the platforming and shooting, and even then, those elements aren’t always as entertaining or smooth as one would like them to be. There are some fun gambling distractions too, including a casual game of Russian Roulette, as one does in the Wild West. Just make sure your luck is fully loaded before you take part!
The presentation of Luckslinger can feel a little on the amateurish side, but there is definitely a sense of style in the game’s retro look. But probably the strongest aspect of the presentation, and one which really drives home the hip hop styling, is the music. The soundtrack is filled with really catchy lo-fi chiptune tunes, and it’s almost as if the game and its aesthetic style were built around the music.
Luckslinger on Xbox is a fun and interesting take on the Wild West action platformer, using luck as a substantial gameplay mechanic within the level design. The luck elements don’t always alter the course of level progression in a meaningful way, and the platforming and adventure elements can feel a bit disconnected from each other, but still the whole hip-hop presentation of Luckslinger manages to shine, thanks to the soundtrack.