Pull The Trigger, Frog Licker!
This week I was able to do something that I haven’t been able to do since I was a young lad – open a brand new NES game. I can’t begin to describe the rush of nostalgia that flowed out of the box once I carefully folded over the top flap. Several memories of 80’s Christmas mornings filled my head, and for a brief blissful moment I felt like a kid again. After a few euphoric seconds passed, I waved the cloud of nostalgia away from my face and once the air cleared I could make out the bold lettering inscribed on the top label of the cart: “Super…Russian…Roulette”. Russian Roulette….these are words I’d never thought I’d see on the label of an NES cartridge.
If you’re an innocent gamer and have never heard of the game “Russian Roulette”, let me explain. Russian Roulette is a game of chance in which one player loads a single bullet in a revolver, spins the cylinder, places the gun against their head, and pulls the trigger. If the player is unlucky, the bullet stopped while in the chamber, and they’re going to have a bad day. If that person is lucky, they managed to pull the trigger while the chamber was empty, and they live to see another round. The gun gets passed to the next player who then has a few choices. They can play their macho card and not spin the cylinder before pulling the trigger, but this will increase their chances of death. Or they can choose to spin, but that often results in the other players making fun of their cowardice. As I was saying, this is not a game that fits the NES mold.
So you may be asking “How did this game come to be?”. Good ol’ Kickstarter! Indie game developer, Andy Reitano, decided in February 2016 that his idea for a Russian Roulette NES game might be well received by retro gamers looking for something creative and new. He couldn’t have been more right! Reitano figured out really early that he was onto something because in less than 3 weeks his ambitious project was already 300% funded, and at the campaign’s end he had 1,090 supporters pledging $84,263 to bring his project to life! Retro gamers were chomping at the bit to add a new NES cartridge to their collection and Reitano was able to deliver his project to them in July 2017.
Super Russian Roulette is a 1-3 player game where players gather around their television and play a game of Russian Roulette. Since this is a video game you will not be using a real gun or real bullets, but you will be using the next best thing – the NES Zapper! Each player will have the option to input their initials (I went with ASS) and when it’s that player’s turn they must hold the Zapper against their head and pull the trigger. If the player happens to pull the trigger with a bullet in the chamber a large skull will flash upon the screen and that means that player is dead and out of the game. If the player is lucky they’ll be greeted with a large “CLICK” on the screen and they can breathe easy. The Zapper will be passed from player to player until a single player remains.
Believe it or not there is some strategy when it comes to playing a game of Russian Roulette and a player won’t win on luck alone. A decision must be made to spin the cylinder (by pressing a button on the NES controller) if the player believes a bullet is in the chamber. There is a lot to consider here. Did the last person spin? When was the last spin? What are the odds of a bullet coming out next? Since spinning is often followed up by a ribbing from the other players, we at Hey Poor Player had a bit of fun when reviewing the game. If a player wanted to spin the cylinder they must take a shot of whatever beverage they may be consuming. That brings me to my next point. Super Russian Roulette is the perfect “retro” drinking game.
This game is purely a party game. Sure, you can play by yourself, but I seriously doubt anyone would ever do that. This is made to be played with friends and plenty of alcoholic beverages. After a few rounds everyone taking part is sure to be feeling good and the insults will flow with each pull of the trigger. During our review I noticed other Hey Poor Player staff aiming the gun at the side of their head, under their chin, and as the night grew darker, against their genitals (Go big or go home, Whim Wham! – Editor). My Zapper definitely needed a good cleaning once we were done playing. By the end of the night everyone was talking about all the different drinking rules we could use on our next game night. Super Russian Roulette will undoubtedly be a hit at plenty of retro game nights for years to come.
You didn’t think I’d forget about the Cowboy, did you? The best part about Super Russian Roulette is the cowboy who will join you and your friends in every game. He is the star of Super Russian Roulette and has quickly become one of my favorite video game characters of all time. Developer Andy Reitano has found a way to cram 9 minutes of dialogue into the NES cart! It’s really amazing to hear all the different phrases that the cowboy can dish out and even after hours of play I still am hearing new dialogue. The cowboy will throw insults at you if you take too long and will give you a funny nickname if he likes (or dislikes) the way you play. Being given a nickname was always interesting because he’ll remember to call you by it when it’s your turn to pull the trigger. These names aren’t berating in any way. They are childish names that fit the cowboy’s playful attitude. Cactus Charmer, Frog Licker, and Big Galoot are just a taste of what you and your friends will be labeled as.
The cowboy may look tough and poke fun at you and your friends, but when it comes to his turn his demeanor changes drastically. He may decide to spin or not spin depending on how the last round went. He’ll sometimes even making sure to point out that he’s “not stupid” as he spins the cylinder. When he holds the gun against his head tense music will accompany a close up of his twitching eyes, showing the players how nervous he is before he pulls the trigger. If he dies you and your friends will continue to play while his dead body is limp on the table. It’s rather depressing, but hilarious at the same time.
If you are playing on a old school CRT or tube television you can shoot at the cowboy or other items on the screen. This usually ended up with crazy results, especially if a bullet was in the chamber. We saw a lot of different outcomes, and even after a long play session we were still coming across new events. If you are playing on a modern television you can use the controller to take aim at an item on the screen before you pull the trigger, but I recommend playing on a CRT.
To keep the game fresh you can always visit the options menu and change things up a bit. There are plenty of visual options here to outfit the cowboy to your liking. If you want to make the game last longer there is also an option to increase the amount of rounds that the gun can hold, with 8 being the max. All of the game’s music can be enjoyed by visiting the saloon, and if you hold the select button and press B the music will continue to play on the title screen. It’s really interesting to see all of these options in an NES game as most games of that era didn’t have any options at all.
If you still enjoy playing NES games I can’t recommend Super Russian Roulette enough. To be able to play an NES game in a creative new way is something special. Andy Reitano has created something that has old school gamers getting together and enjoying each other’s company…while playing a grim game of Russian Roulette. We can’t wait to see what he comes up with next!
Final Verdict: 5/5
Available on: Nintendo NES ; Publisher: Batlab Electronics ; Developer: Batlab Electronics; Players: 1-3 ; Released: July 2017 ; MSRP: $55
Full disclosure: This review is based on a retail copy of Super Russian Roulette.