Developer(s) – Possum House Games
Publisher(s) – Possum House Games
PEGI – Not yet rated (strong violence)
Release by indie outfit Possum House Studios based in Rochester, New York, Shot in the Dark is a western side-scrolling shoot ‘em up game whereby players must adapt to a black and white 8-BIT rendered universe (similar to Possum House’s previous title Heavy Is The Crown), in order to keep a sharp eye out to defeat oncoming demonic enemies that are hiding in the fog or in the night skies, ranging from gargoyles to undead gunslingers. Although I found a few faults with the game, I ended up enjoying it for the most part and appreciating it for its own unique take on the traditional 2D platformer genre.
Graphics – 6.5/10
The game makes use of 8-BIT visuals in black and world with specks of red; in conceptual design, it’s quite similar to MadWorld, which I was quite impressed by. The gripe I have with the visuals is that the character sprites, most notably the human or skeleton sprites, are made to look quite basic in comparison to many other 8-BIT rendered indie games, such as Cathedral or Alwa’s Awakening. To go along with the tableau of the game it may have been an idea to add grey colors to it to not only make the game more playable in general, as players are reliant on keen eyesight to detect enemies as it is but to also make more environmental features stand out to a better degree.
Gameplay – 6.5/10
The game is a 2D platformer similar to games developed during the third generation of gaming, with the difference being that it focuses on gun combat as well as precise platforming, with players having to shoot through hordes of enemies that are hidden across the level. The strategy the player must employ is to not rush through levels and instead keep their eyes peeled for enemies that roam each level and that are easily concealed by environmental features such as mist or skies. It’s kind of like how Super Mario Bros may have been if the idea was kept in for Mario to have a gun. But of course, this game provides its own take on that idea, and for the most part, it works relatively well.
Controls – 7/10
The game’s control scheme was most definitely the biggest issue I had with this title. It’s designed to be played using a keyboard to input commands such as jumping, shooting, and reloading, and the mouse to aim the crosshair, but it doesn’t work all that well with a keyboard; it’s because of the fact that this was how the game was intended to be played that that doesn’t even work great with a traditional controller either. The reload system was put in to provide players with the added challenge of studying each environment to determine as and how they need to conserve ammo, but for the most part, it’s much more of a hindrance if anything. Since there’s no time limit to each level like a traditional platformer, mercifully, the game’s control scheme doesn’t make it unplayable, but needlessly frustrating at certain times.
Lifespan – 6/10
The game has a fair few stages to it, and it lasts around the standard amount of time for a game of its ilk to last; around an hour or two. There could’ve been some replay value to be added to it, such as unlockable features or a scoring system to give the player a little more to shoot for, so to speak, but I can’t bring myself to knock it too much in terms of lifespan since some of the greatest 2D side scrollers throughout the years have been developed to last there around the same amount of time.
Storyline – 6/10
Again, like many games of the third generation, there is no standout story, only a basic premise. It would’ve done far better to stand out during the NES era, but since the western genre has been tackled in video games, particularly in recent years, it does relatively well to stand out in terms of story concept, but not overly well. The story makes me think of the game Darkwatch but in 2D.
Originality – 8/10
The main aspect in which this game does quite wek=ll to stand out in, however, as in its basic gameplay concept. There have been side scrollers reliant on gun combat before, but not quite like in the way it’s handled in this title. For all I’ve complained about it in this review, this game does have some redeeming value, and there is enough enjoyment for players to have to warrant at least one playthrough.
Overall, Shot in the Dark, despite the gripes I’ve addressed, is a fairly enjoyable game and worth playing through at least once. It will provide quite a stern challenge for the more avant-garde side-scrolling fan, and it has a distinctive charm to it in its own right.