Picture this: you’re enjoying a nice drink in the local saloon when a gang of pesky thieves stroll into town and steal your prized horse. You’re not going to take that lying down, are you? Virtuous Western won’t let you anyway, even if you wanted to. In this latest release from Ratalaika Games, you’ll find yourself travelling across the Wild West on a revenge mission that includes an entire army of goons, a ton of dynamite and some handily placed TNT.
You’d expect a game with a premise like that to be your standard run-and-gun affair. You’d be wrong. In fact, in a rather refreshing twist, Virtuous Western is actually a puzzle game as each level has a set number of enemies you need to dispatch. Problem is, you’ve got a gun with no bullets. Therefore, you’ll need to scavenge bullets (and dynamite later on) and work out the correct order to see off the enemies.
Sometimes, you’ll be met with levels where there are more enemies than bullets. Here, you’ll need to use your intuition to work out the solution. Usually, you’ll need to bait enemies into killing each other in fun and creative ways, like getting them to blow themselves up or dropping massive boxes onto each other. It’s a nice element that injects a little bit of variety into Virtuous Western.
Killing enemies in these unique ways will usually reward you with a little bit of Gamerscore too. In fact, most of the achievements tied to Virtuous Western are related to getting kills and multi-kills with different items and environmental hazards. Don’t think that makes this game any harder than your standard Ratalaika release though. You’ll still be earning the full 1000 Gamerscore within thirty minutes or so.
You’ll need to complete the game to earn the last achievement. Which means Virtuous Western is way too short. There’s thirty levels on offer here, and even the most casual gunslingers will still clear them all in under an hour.
Ultimately, the reason for its ridiculously short length is that the game never evolves past a difficulty that can only be described as relatively simple. It’s not for lack of trying, mind you. Virtuous Western does introduce TNT barrels, dynamite and more tanky shotgun enemies later on, but they do almost nothing to heighten the difficulty. If you’re looking for a challenge, or something that will put your puzzling skills to the test, you’re not going to find it here.
In fact, the only thing that approaches ‘challenging’ in this game is the final boss. And even then, that’s a stretch. Once you’ve worked out how to dodge his bullets and anticipate when he’ll stop shooting, he becomes a breeze too.
Virtuous Western does come with a speedrun mode, which – as the name suggests – asks you to complete the game as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, it just feels rather tacked on and I wasn’t particularly encouraged to play it too much after finishing the game.
Virtuous Western doesn’t particularly stand out aesthetically either, with it’s pixel art being nothing you haven’t seen before. It sounds unremarkable too. Don’t get me wrong, the soundtrack certainly fits the theme, but it’s on a continuous loop. Being that the levels are so short, it gets very repetitive, very quickly.
So what do we have with Virtuous Western? Well, it’s nothing more than a nice idea, with average execution. It has some brilliant ways of dispatching enemies and solving puzzles, and the easy achievements are a nice addition. But plonking a puzzle game in the Wild West ultimately falls short here, because the game simply lacks any sense of challenge. Virtuous Western is too easy, and the new elements that are thrown in later on do little, if anything, to change that. The result is a game that you’ll be fully finished with in thirty minutes. At £4.99, is that a good deal? Probably not.
Head to the Wild West of the Xbox Store in order to grab Virtuous Western