Developer: Cascadia Games
Price: $0.99
Version Reviewed: 1.0.1
Device Reviewed On: iPad Mini Retina

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★★☆
Controls Rating: ★★★☆☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★★☆☆
Replay Value Rating: ★★½☆☆

Overall Rating: ★★★☆☆

2-Bit Cowboy is a game full of great ideas. They just doesn’t quite pay off.

For one, it uses a greenscale color scheme that resembles the original Game Boy. It’s not the first time this style has been used, but it’s cool to see it because it’s a challenge to make a game that’s visually appealing with those restrictions.

2-BitCowboy-3Second, it’s got an interesting level structure where the levels are open and multi-tiered like a Metroidvania style game, but actually split into 12 different levels. These levels have missions to complete for money, and secret areas to discover in each one. It’s refreshing compared to all the relatively flat, extremely linear levels that many platformers have. There are things to do in these levels besides get to the exit! Yet, there’s still immediate goals and satisfaction possible because they’re individual levels, not just part of a larger world, and they’re still short enough to be friendly for players with limited time.

The game’s a bit sloppy, though: the controls are very small on iPad, and the Mega Man X style of wall-jumping feels a bit sticky. It feels like enemies should be able to be jumped upon, but they’re not. The downward firing while double-jumping feels like a compromise because having a four-way d-pad with virtual controls would be less accurate than just the left and right virtual buttons.

2-BitCowboy-4But beyond any sloppiness, there are some fundamental design issues here. For one, why actually collect currency? There’s little practical benefit because, well, there are only cosmetic items and powerups that can be bought. There’s little incentive to actually go out and get money, which renders the missions nigh-worthless. And because completing the missions is the chief reason to explore the levels, without any other reason to do so, the game can be played in a fashion where players can just get to the end quickly. And these expansive levels don’t do so well for “get to the exit” style of play, making the many paths more annoying than fun to delve into.

So, what we have is a game that’s ultimately punchless, which is a shame. It clearly aims for the stars, but it just doesn’t have the thrust to escape the atmosphere. For $0.99, perhaps the idea is worth exploring, but what I want is to see this game reexamined from a base level. How can the interesting ideas be fully-realized? There’s a great game here, it just doesn’t exist yet.


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