Recently, there’s been a surge of top-down shooters in the indie scene that focus on making everything, including yourself, very easy to kill. 12 is Better Than 6 is another entry into that specific category. Featuring a wild west theme, does this tale of gunslingers manage to impress or does it merely add another entry to the genre?
You’ll be playing as a mysterious gunslinger known as the Mexican. The story actually picks up halfway through, with the Mexican being chased through a desert by bounty hunters trying to collect the rather substantial bounty on his head. The Mexican is also suffering from a bout of amnesia and doesn’t quite remember what he actually did to get said bounty. During the game’s story he’ll team up with some strange people to assist him, including a criminal named Slippery Pitt, a European man pretending to be a Native American named Tomato of Wild Prairies, an angry barber that goes by the nickname “Beardman”, and more as he continues to try and get his memories back and clear the bounty.
The variety isn’t bad, but the game is prone to really sudden scene transitions that barely feel natural. 12 is Better Than 6 also tends to just suddenly introduce characters that the Mexican is supposed to have a history with, but that history is never really explained. For example, during one mission, the Mexican shot his way through a house and ended up in the backyard where he met a guy that he apparently was friends with, and who never shows up in the game again. It ultimately came off as an unnecessary distraction from the shooting. Finally, the game doesn’t really end, so much as just sorta stops on an unsatisfactory note before tacking on a fifth chapter that sees you replaying levels without much reason.
Levels in 12 is Better Than 6 are fast and furious, as they often only take a couple of minutes to get through on a perfect run. You’ll play from a top-down view, and will be picking up various weapons to shoot your way through swarms of enemies. Notably, the majority of the weapons in the game need to have their hammer manually cocked or have the lever pulled between shots. This means between firing every round, you’ll have to hit a button to simulate this action. Similarly, you have to reload shots one at a time by hitting a button for each bullet you load. You’ll have to place your shots and pick when to reload carefully, which sometimes feels at odds with the way levels occasionally like to throw bigger swarms of enemies at you.
Hitting the button to cock your gun also locks you onto a nearby enemy, who you’re almost guaranteed to hit so long as the crosshair is red. This helped, especially with controllers, as almost all shots in the game are a one-hit kill on either side. On the other hand, the game didn’t always lock onto who I wanted it to lock onto, and sometimes I’d have to make strange movements to kill someone I didn’t particularly need to or want to kill simply because the game was refusing to let me lock onto someone I actually needed dead.
I did like that 12 is Better Than 6 challenged me. Its stages were usually well thought out in making points where I could evade enemies and have room to move. I was also happy that stealth is actually an option. A knife is always available and I could sneak behind and around enemies and take care of them without alerting other enemies. It’s a simple system that only relies on line of sight, but it’s a nice addition that gives more options when taking on levels. Some levels are more peaceful, allowing me to wander around a town and take on odd jobs to earn some money to buy perks. These include things like using two revolvers at once and strapping dynamite to rats and sending them running towards enemies.
The biggest problem I had with 12 is Better Than 6 involved the broken ammo system. I’m still not sure if it was a game-spanning glitch or I just couldn’t figure the system out. However, in my time playing, I was completely unable to pick up ammo for the rifle or shotgun at any point, leaving me stuck with whatever I happened to find left in the gun. I also couldn’t pick up ammo for the pistol, but every time I reloaded new rounds would just sort of show up in my inventory. It meant I basically was forced to use the pistol for most of the game, which usually wasn’t a problem. However, sometimes I would get to a fight were I needed the longer reach of the rifle. A train sequence where enemies would run alongside the train and shoot into the windows, leaving me to just sort of blind fire my pistol and hope for the best rather than get sure shots with a rifle.
After finishing the story, which takes around six hours depending on how many times you get killed, you’ll be able to mess around in an arena mode that lets you fight waves of enemies. It’s a nice bonus, but not actually one that had me going back after a single run.
One thing that 12 is Better Than 6 has is an interesting art style. This is both to the game’s advantage and disadvantage. It helps the game stand out from the crowd, the colorless heavy outlines with splatters of red style looking pretty great. While the game itself stands out from the crowd, enemies in the game don’t. Enemies are difficult to spot at times, blending in with the environment easily, so I would often miss them while making my way through levels. While the art led to occasional problems, the soundtrack is almost always on point and excellent. Fitting in many interesting tracks, I found myself constantly entertained by what I was hearing.
12 is Better Than 6 isn’t a bad game by any stretch, but it is a game that needed some more refinement. It needed a story that doesn’t have strange jump cuts and random characters popping-in, Mechanics that worked better and didn’t spend the entire game broken, an art style that helped enemies stand out, and some more polish. It’s still good fun when it’s at its best, but it’s not there often enough. 12 may be better than 6, but 6 is all this game is getting.
12 is Better Than 6 was reviewed on PC via Steam using a copy purchased by the reviewer.
A stylish top-down shooter brought down by mechanical quirks. They say that 12 is better than 6, but this game is only holding 6. It's good, but it has some work to do if it wants to get all 12.