Give Me Back My Bullets
I crouch behind a barrel as a barrage of bullets passes my 10 gallon too close for comfort. My trusty six-shooter is in hand. Unfortunately, I have to wait for it to cool down before I can return fire. Lead embeds itself in the wood inches from my face. Then a bomb explodes next to me, I’m down, leaving my territory without a lawman. That’s Barking Irons for you. To survive in the Wild West you need to be quick on the draw and have good aim.
Barking Irons from Sleepyhead Studios is an endless shooting gallery arcade game. You play Wes, a local lawman tasked with making the west a little less wild. Lining up your shots grants combos, which translates to a higher score. The graphics are decidedly retro, and the custom music and sound effects fit perfectly. Eighties babies may want to spontaneously yell “Bang!!” when enemies finally fall over dead.
Players hide behind boulders or barrels in the center of a few different environments. Your lawman is safe behind cover. Cover objects, however, can only survive so many shots before they disintegrate. After that it’s open season on the lawman, who can’t be directed to move to new cover. Shooting incoming bullets is key to survival. Aim the six-shooter by pulling back on the little lawman, and fire by releasing. Keep an eye on timing to give the gun time to cool down and reload between shots.
Eight different types of enemies seek to break the law in these parts. “Enemies” is used loosely here, as one guy just wants to help you get combos by standing in the open waving his hat. Some are decidedly tougher than that, like Big Swinger. One hit from his powerful arms and our trusty lawman is dead. Start shooting the second you see him bearing down on Wes with fury. A lot of bullets are required to take him down. If he gets too close there’s no chance for the lawman to get off enough shots to defeat him.
A Hand and a Heart and Brain
The best android games require both strategy and good hand-eye coordination to make it to the top 10 on the leaderboard. It works and plays as it should, and has the addictive quality of arcade games. The fun of the Ennio Morricone-inspired music and spaghetti western menu styling are worth a nod, as is the inclusion of Google Achievements and Leaderboards.
On the other hand, if you’re not amused by 8-bit graphics, this may not be for you. It’s also worth noting that turning off the music doesn’t silence your grunts or bullet impacts – seems the option to turn sound effects off was overlooked.
Many arcade games lack variety, especially anything with “endless” in the description. Eight enemy types (one of which, as stated, is more of a friendly drunk than an enemy) means Wesis going to fight the same bad guys so many times it’s like an episode of Preacher. Mixing them up helps, and the tougher ones don’t show up until the lawman has passed the first few towns, but it would still be nice to have a few more bad guys to keep things interesting. This is aside from the complete lack of upgrades for Wes – there are no other weapons to unlock, at least not yet.
Overall, even without a ton of variety Barking Irons does what it sets out to do pretty well; players can blast away with no interruption. The only real question about this game is whether or not to pay for it. Considering that there is no way to skew gameplay in favor of those who plunk down more money, it may be worth the change – it’s less than the cost of a 20oz soda in NYC. There are two respectable choices available to mobile game designers offering a game to the public: charge a flat rate, or make the game totally free and sell advertising instead (making it pay-to-win is not respectable). If you hate ads, love arcade games and gaming’s golden age – including all the limitations that implies — then Barking Irons is worth a fistful of dollars, or at least one.
If you like arcade shooters, the Wild West, and hate ads, Barking Irons fits the bill.