Yeehaw! Welcome to the party pal! This, I feel, is what Gunman Tales is trying to say. With its brown, sandy deserts, rushing rivers, Native American villages, and frontier towns, it’s a breezy trip back to the Wild, Wild West. One inspired by Spaghetti Westerns and adventure movies about what the untamed West was supposedly like.
So grab your cowhide and put on your spurs, because we’re going to take a journey back in time – and not just to that mythical vision of the West, but also into the past of game design.
If your first glance at Gunman Tales reminds you of something akin to the legendary Sunset Riders, you wouldn’t be entirely amiss. Yet, at the same time, you would be. Gunman Tales is, you see, more of a glorified shooting gallery with mini-games, hidden beneath the trappings of a board game. It has more in common with something like Mario Party and older arcade titles, than Sunset Riders, even if that initial glimpse of the character hunkering at the bottom of the screen and shooting everything rolling across it from the midway point up made me think of that iconic cowboy game.
Designed for one to four players – with the A.I. taking over the role of the other three cowboys should you have no friends on hand – Gunman Tales is a multiplayer party game that can even be played on one controller if you don’t have another couple lying around.
The goal of the game is to reach a mythical city, with a mythical treasure, and to do that you have to acquire the pieces to a map that, when combined, will show you the way. You do that by exploring the various locations across the map with a piece of the map being one of the random rewards for successfully completing a stage.
After choosing one of the game’s four cowboys, each of which has a special ability, you’re thrust into a turn-based system with a limited movement bar to explore the map and choose a location. Once your bar is empty, you have to wait for the rest of the players to take their turn at moving and exploring until you can do so again.
Gunman Tales‘ map is broken up into single-screen shooting sections, duels when you click on another cowboy, horse chase sequences, and “Frontier Towns” that house more mini-games, shops, and saloons to either heal up or buy new weapons – though I never felt the need to do so. My six shooters were always more than enough for any outlaw looking to get in my way.
The meat of the game is the shooting gallery sections, in which you’re plonked down at the bottom of the screen while enemies roll across the top section trying to gun you down or blow you up. There’s a variety of cover objects at your disposal, depending on which area you’re investigating. The left analog controls you’re character while the right controls the aiming reticule. It’s a little awkward at first but you’ll soon get the hang of it.
You’ll be ging up against a variety of stereotypical baddies aiming to put a hole in your Stetson, along with some not-so-typical ones, such as ghosts and werewolves. Running across the screen like lemmings are chickens that, when shot, can give you anything from money to weapon power-ups and it’s usually a good idea to take the time to blow them away.
These sections are short, mindless fun with each enemy killed contributing to removing sections of an overall enemy health bar at the top of the screen. Once that health bar is done, it’s the end of the stage. That brevity, combined with the need for speed and spatial awareness makes these shooting segments entertaining, though I couldn’t help but think they would be more fun with two cowboys taking on the West’s outlaws at the same time.
Duels are one of the games better mini-games albeit very simple. You wait for the right time to pull the trigger on your friends or the AI and the consequences can be hilarious to watch the first couple of times.
The game sports three play modes: Adventure, Arcade, and Duel. Adventure mode is, of course, where you’ll be spending the bulk of your time trying to reach the hidden city first, Arcade mode or scored stage challenges, and Duel mode – unsurprisingly – pops you into a series of duels which is great if you want to get your timing down.
Visually, Gunmen Tales sports a 2D pixel art style with a retro filter that you can turn on and off as you please – though I found I preferred the game’s normal HD look over the aggressive retro filter. The animations are charming with an over-the-top cartoon quality to them, which adds to the game’s whimsical nature. Sound effects, especially for the various guns, are all nice and meaty, while the music sounds exactly like something you’d find in a Western movie or show.
And, well, that’s really all there is to say about Gunman Tales. It’s an extraordinarily simple party game that would feel at home in an arcade. It’s also that simplicity, and a couple of friends if you have some, that give the game its pick-up-and-play and just-one-more-go addictiveness. It’s not the sort of game you’ll play for long periods of time, but it’s perfect to dive into when you just want to pass the time with something simple and uncomplicated.
Gunman Tales was reviewed on Xbox Series S|X using a code provided by the publisher. It is also available on PC, Xbox One, PlayStation 4/5, and Nintendo Switch.
Gunman Tales ReviewGunman Tales Review
- It’s the Wild West baby!
- Up to four players locally
- The shooting galley stages are fun and don’t last too long
- Great sound effects
- Very simple gameplay
- Won’t keep you engaged for long periods of time