Every now and then you find a game that puts together a lot of very unlikely things and creates something awesome. In Luckslinger, you play as a bounty hunter in a western setting with hip-hop music and aesthetics, and a duck sidekick. At the beginning, you happen upon a dying man in a cave. This man asks you, as a last request, to take his lucky bracelet to the town of Clovercreek. From this point on you will find out just how profoundly this lucky bracelet can affect your game.
Your permanent weapons are a six-shooter and a throwing knife. Your revolver requires a timely reload, which makes mastering the throwing knife important for those times when one last shot is all you need to kill that enemy. And you never have to worry about getting the knife back, since your duck companion—named "Duckbridge" after the developers—will always fly out to grab that knife back for you, as well as find a few hidden pick-ups for you at times.
You also now have the lucky bracelet, which fills with drops from enemy kills. How full your luck meter is will actively affect numerous aspects of your gameplay. The more full your luck meter is, the more likely that treasure chest will have something useful in it or a better chance at loading golden bullets into your gun, which will hone in on your enemies. It may also potentially turn enemy bullets gold, which will then change trajectory and avoid you altogether.
Conversely, the more empty it is, the more likely that windmill blade in the background will drop and fall on you, or that treasure chest will have a snake instead, among other hazards. Once your luck is partially full, you can spend half your luck amount to unleash a "lucky aura" that will guarantee lucky events for a few seconds. These are great for when you're surrounded by a hail of bullets, as the luck aura will deflect all incoming enemy fire.
The town of Clovercreek is a home base of sorts between levels. The town has been robbed of its six lucky charms and as a consequence has become rundown and gloomy. It has many NPCs to talk to, as well as a shop with a few meager—and expensive—upgrades to make your admittedly difficult journey a tiny bit easier. It also provides a few diversionary mini-games to give a nice break between levels, like duels, drinking contests, and Texas Hold 'em to name a few.
Now, despite Luckslinger's crunchy pixel graphics, this game shines in almost every way. The luck mechanic definitely works to shake things up so no two trips through a level will be the exact same. Each level provides a unique, lively environment, and enemy variety is surprisingly large. Each level is pretty lengthy and only has a few checkpoints.
They also contain a couple diversions, like a Native American tent where you can play a slot-like card draw to win health, a powerful secondary item like shotguns, or a deployable shield among many others. You can also encounter a man willing to play russian roulette, but be careful, as your current luck meter greatly affects the outcome of both of these games.
The platforming is also very challenging at times, requiring you to hit that jump just right or else you won't make it, that is unless your luck meter is high and decides to bounce you right out of certain death. The control feels very responsive, and while this may not be a big deal to some, I absolutely love the fact that, when using an Xbox 360 controller, it changes the on-screen button icons to match. I highly recommend using one if you have it. A splash screen at the beginning of the game recommends using one as well, but the game functions fine using keyboard controls.
Boss battles are especially tricky, as the luck mechanic applies to them as well as having large life bars. They have the town's lucky charms, so they too are subject to strokes of luck, where your bullets can become "unlucky" and will stray away from the bosses, and they will trigger their own lucky auras as they're weakened, effectively making them invulnerable for a short time. Also, barring certain events, once the boss is defeated, you can make a choice to bring them in either dead or alive.
I won't mince words with this part, the music is phenomenal! The guys at Duckbridge have put together one hell of a soundtrack with excellent electronic hip-hop beats to accompany your journey, and they fit Luckslinger's environments so well. I found myself hanging out in certain places just to keep listening to the awesome background music.
Overall, I was deeply impressed with Luckslinger. This game, while aggravatingly difficult at times—and let's face it, what good game isn't?—is a real gem. The difficulty to me was simply a wake-up call that modern games have been coddling me over the years with constant checkpoints, regenerating health and unlimited lives. Playing through Luckslinger gave me an old-school sense of gaming accomplishment that very few games nowadays offer.
The game had its start on Newgrounds before going the Kickstarter route to try and get it funded. Fortunately, despite the unsuccessful funding campaign, the developers at Duckbridge put it successfully through Steam Greenlight and persevered to release this great game.
It took me roughly 9 hours to finish Luckslinger; however. I'm willing to attribute three of those hours into continues and retries. There is a "New Game B" option available after finishing Luckslinger; however, the only difference I noticed is you have exactly one life heart instead of the standard three to start with.
There is also a demo available on Luckslinger's Steam page if you wanna give it a try. Luckslinger releases on Steam July 16th and will be priced at $12.99. It's a higher price point for an indie, but for how well put together Luckslinger is, I can safely say I've paid far more to play games that couldn't hold a candle to this one.
Luckslinger was obtained through a code provided by the developers and reviewed on PC.