Bring the…Duckus? Action-platormer Luckslinger is worth the gamble.
When Luckslinger first appeared in my inbox, I had no idea what it was about. I installed the game and booted it up right then and there. Just as I expected, a hip-hop themed western with references to the man with no name trilogy featuring a duck sidekick and atari style graphics. I shook my head. I wish people would just come up with something original now and again.
Honestly, though, Luckslinger is great. Don’t be deceived by the retro appearance. This game has plenty of unique personality to set it apart from other indies and action platformers.
In Luckslinger you play as a nameless cowboy bounty hunting for the small town of Clovercreek. Armed with your six shooter, lucky bracelet, and duck partner you shoot your way through deserts, mines, trains, and other cowboy-esque backdrops. The real star of the show is the luck mechanic. Every now and again defeating enemies and opening chests will earn you luck, which looks a lot like sparkly Pac-Man power pellets. The more luck you have in your bracelet the more likely you are to load lucky ammo which automatically hits an enemy, deflect enemy shots, and win a hand of cards. You can also spend your luck to have a temporary shield that deflects enemy shots and spawns platforms under your feet to get to the hard-to-reach secret spots. The game uses this mechanic in a strong way by throwing you right into it. It took me very little time to pick it up, but it was hard to feel natural jumping straight for the void in a platformer in hopes a platform would appear. The luck mechanic isn’t the only thing Luckslinger keeps interesting, though. Using a six shooter makes blasting your way through enemies more complicated because you have to take time to reload. Reloading takes a few seconds, and if you jump to avoid any fire you’ll stop reloading right where you’re at. I had a lot of fun with this once I had become used to the timing it took to deal with it. Certain segments in levels will stick you smack dab between two enemies firing at you and in order to succeed a balance had to be achieved. Shoot, reload, jump, reload, jump, shoot. I had it down to a science and it was quite satisfying feeling the ability to out shoot multiple men at once. There are a few other mini games dispersed throughout like quick draw, poker, and even russian roulette (which at the time of this writing I haven’t figured out how to play and remain alive). The missions you go on allow you to take the bosses dead or alive, too, which isn’t a strong “moral choice” system but I give the game credit for allowing you to choose whether or not you want to be a hero.
I don’t understand where Netherlands developer Duckbridge opted to mish-mash all the inspirations into Luckslinger, but hip-hop western theme plays out really well. The music in the game is really well done and a great smash up of two genres in a game that could have easily rested on retro sounds to support it. You can collect records to unlock new beats and songs, there are silly load screens where the main character is using a phonograph like a boombox, and all this doesn’t distract from the spot on spaghetti western vibe as well. Minor spoilers but my favorite gag in the game is the constant flow of dialogue when you run into new characters or bosses. The game zooms onto the characters pixelated face using text for dialogue, then at the end of every speech it zooms to your character sitting in silence just long enough for it to be funny.
The luck mechanic is interesting especially when interacting with the background in the game, but this is also one of my only complaints. The luck you’ve collected can trigger rocks you’re standing on to fall, enemies can appear in certain spots, and more, but once in a while this left me stuck. It was a very specific circumstance, but I rode a falling rock to a lower platform and jumped to a lower spot to collect a treasure chest. The rock had fallen and there was no way back, and the way forward I had to have luck in order to get a platform. My only choice was to jump to my death, which was circumstantial, I understand, but I felt frustrated as a gamer to be put in a situation where my only choice is death.
I had a lot of fun playing Luckslinger. It appealed to me on a personal level because of my taste in pop culture; but the game is fun and simple enough by design that you can have blast with it if none of that means anything to you. The game may be a little expensive to some gamers considering the style but with the difficulty there are several hours of gameplay here. I didn’t feel burned out by the end of it, either, and can see myself playing it more in the future. If you’re only a little curious wait for a sale, but if any of this sounds appealing it’s worth a play through.
Final Verdict: 4/5
Available on: PC (reviewed) ; Publisher:Duckbridge; Developer: Duckbridge; Players: 1; Released: July 16, 2015 ; ESRB: T for Teen ; MSRP: $12.99
Full disclosure: This review is based on a review copy of Luckslinger provided by the game’s publisher, Duckbridge.