Do YOU feel lucky, punk? No seriously, do you? Cause you’re going to need it if you want to survive in this game, as without it you’re going to have a hard time or end up dead. Luckslinger is a newly released hip-hop infused run n’ gun game by Duckbridge, who are a small indie team hailing from Holland. The game was originally put up as test version for a game using a luck mechanic as a core feature up on Newgrounds, but it did well so they went ahead with the plan. So how does it hold up in its fully released form?
First off, the core features of the game. It’s an 8 bit retro game which I know there are plenty of, but this tries something different with its hip-hop background music and a core reliance on luck, something we’ll go into detail on shortly. It’s a run and gun shooter, with your objective being make it to the right as far as you can go until you hit a boss, then see him off and move onto the next. It has a dodge mechanic, useful for avoiding incoming fire and a system where you always have to keep track of your gunshots, and reload your revolver in quiet moments so you don’t get caught in a gunfight with no bullets. The game reminds me a lot of older platformers like Ghosts n’ Goblins, simple mechanics but the game itself is a challenge. You do get an extra helping hand here though, in the form of luck.
In this world, luck is a commodity. Our hero gets a bracelet right at the start that can collect and harness it’s power, but the bandits in the area who have been harassing the local populace also have this ability. With the aim of the game being to take down these other luck infused people and being peace back to the town. Luck is collected from fallen enemies or animals, and is stored in a meter visible on the top left of the screen. As you’d expect with luck, it triggers randomly for the most part, with the odds shaping more and more in your favour the more you have.
Good luck can occur with a yellow glint on the screen, such as missing a jump over a pitfall, and a platform spawns under you saving your life, or bullets getting reflected away from you mid-fight and missing completely. Bad luck is also a thing though, a red glint and objects can come falling if you don’t meet a luck roll, spike pits can appear under your feet and even enemies can appear from behind fake walls and rocks to ambush you, should you not be so lucky. The warning signs for the luck do help to reduce the likelihood of being completely screwed over by the luck, as you generally have a chance to react to whatever is happening.
I can’t speak about this game and not give props to the soundtrack, it’s awesome. It’s very hip-hop, with some scratches thrown in every now and then, and I will be honest I wasn’t sure about it fitting at all when I first played. But after half an hour or so I was really digging the beats as I was trying to progress through the game. It’s also available as a separate purchase on Steam, which is a nice extra to have available. The music is also a theme within the game, as you can collect vinyl LP’s and play them in the saloon, as well as the games checkpoints within the levels being small gramophones that record your progress.
The game does have some drawbacks though, most of it stemming from the game developers trying to emulate the old school platformers of the early console and arcade generation, which is to say that this game is hard. You get three hits of damage per life, and three lives per level. You can restart back at a checkpoint should you lose a life, allowing you to carry on mid-level, but that isn’t always beneficial in this game.
The reason being that you lose your luck every time you’re hit, and you lose all luck you’ve accumulated upon the loss of a life. Once you’re past the first level, going further into any of the others without a stack of luck to back you up is going to require a lot of mechanical skill to beat or a hell of a lot of restarting over, with you being forced to meticulously study each level until you beat them. You can even get screwed out of lives thanks to luck, if you’re going for collectables that is, as levels contain a man playing Russian roulette, and if you want his shiny gold bar you’re going to have to play. Playing with luck, regardless of how much you’ve got in the level, is risky and can bite you in the ass when you really don’t want it to, setting you back to a checkpoint or the whole level, and it’s out of your control for the most part.
All in all, the gameplay within Luckslinger is very enjoyable. Shooting baddies and dodging bullets, all the while having to micro manage your ammo count and your luck makes for enjoyable gaming. The soundtrack is pretty awesome and one I will add to my growing collection of video game music. It’s not all roses though, as the game can and will kick your ass if you’re not good enough, or because you got unlucky, leading to the once fun gameplay becoming grating and annoying.
If you’re not put off by replaying levels until you have a mastery of them, enjoy a good solid platformer with a cool aesthetic and good backing music, then you’re in safe hands with Luckslinger