Imagine a world where seemingly tasty vegetables want to kill you. I think my eleven year son lives in that world already, as he will do anything to avoid eating vegetables of any description, but this is a game, not real life. Wild West Crops is that game, one of the latest from Ratalaika Games, purveyors of cheap, throwaway titles with ridiculously easy achievement lists. In it, we are tasked with sorting out some uppity vegetables.
The story of Wild West Crops is pretty rubbish. To be absolutely fair to the script writer, you can imagine the scene in the office: ”I’ve got an idea for a game where you have to shoot vegetables. Come up with a scenario that makes some kind of sense!”. Meanwhile the poor narrative writer is sat there, with their head in their hands, wondering why they bothered spending all that time at game writing university. Anyway, the story that emerged is that a radioactive meteorite came to Earth one day, and all the crops suddenly became sentient, got up out of the ground, and started rampaging about the place. We, as Sheriff Gatito – a cat in a cowboy hat with a trusty six shooter – have been tasked with putting these crops back underground again.
With Wild West Crops being a Ratalaika game, it should come as absolutely no surprise to anyone to see that it is a retro styled platformer. And lo and behold, that’s exactly what it is. The graphics are suitably bright and shiny, except for the brown vegetables (no idea what they are meant to be, perhaps a coconut?), which blend into the background almost perfectly. The levels are played out as a discrete series of levels, with different vibes as you move on through the various biomes (or don’t, but that is an issue I’ll cover in a bit).
The screens are full of platforms to jump about on, and as you go through, sometimes you have to kill all the enemies to open a gate, and sometimes you have to press a switch; either way we aren’t talking Mensa level puzzling here. The sound is all suitably jolly too; little pops from El Gatito’s gun, and squeaks when a vegetable sidles up and touches him. In fact, the music is nice and jolly too, and so far all is well in the world of Wild West Crops.
In an attempt to inject a bit of longevity into the game, there is a Metroidvania-lite (is that a genre?) kind of vibe going on, with different abilities to find and use. As an example, as you explore you’ll come across an upgrade to your shooting range, which is handy as the standard gun will fire no further than about ten feet. Defeating the first boss gives you the ability to cling to the edge of platforms and pull yourself up, and so going back to earlier areas can be worthwhile. Of course, when you leave a screen and then go back, the enemies all respawn and there is no fast travel mechanic, so a lot of the time, you’ll struggle to bother to backtrack.
As far as the platforming and combat side of the game goes, all is pretty good. There is a pull to the game, to keep pressing forward, and the urge to explore and see what the next screen holds is pretty strong; at least for a while. Jumping, shooting, shooting and jumping is all in a day’s work for El Gatito, and when you have explored sufficiently and found the area’s boss, this is where things kick up a notch. With super sized vegetables to try and take out (the first boss is a giant tomato, for instance) the challenge is increased as well. None of the boss patterns are awfully difficult to decipher, but the beating of these bosses is pretty good fun in itself.
So far and Wild West Crops is pretty good fun, especially for the younger gamer, but what of issues with the title? Well, there are some, sadly. First up is the thing that I have complained about in these types of titles before: the achievements. The Xbox achievement list in place here is almost insultingly simple, culminating in the last, hardest to get achievement – Find the second boss. Yes, that’s right, find the boss. Not beat it, not defeat it without getting hit, simply find the room where it lives. And after this, there really isn’t a spur to play any more.
If you are engaged in some kind of Gamerscore challenge, then spending twenty minutes or so with Wild West Crops should most certainly be on the agenda. If you are looking to be challenged though, looking for a sense of accomplishment, it doesn’t add up. Other than this, and the invisible brown veg from the earlier levels, the rest of the game is pretty decent fun while it lasts.
Should you be after some easy Xbox Gamerscore and achievements, Wild West Crops is the game for you. On the flip side, should you want to play a game that pushes you to complete it, and gives the warm glow that beating such a title gives, this isn’t it. With little to aim for, the rest of Wild West Crops feels pretty meaningless.
Wild West Crops is available from the Xbox Store