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Review: Bang! The Videogame

Bang! is a videogame version of the 2002 card game of the same name. You take on a spaghetti western-inspired role and strategically play your hand in order to eliminate the other players. It is out on multiple platforms, so for the purpose of this review we’ve covered both the iPhone and PC version.

The core mechanics of the game have you take on the role of Sheriff, Deputy, Renegade or Outlaw. However you only know your role, and whoever the sheriff is. It’s part of the game that you work out who the other players are. Sheriff takes on the Outlaws and Renegades; Outlaws take on pretty much anyone, including other Outlaws; and Renegades sit on the fence, waiting until the final move to take on the Sheriff

You have a hand of various types of cards, each turn drawing two new cards. The main card is the “Bang!” card, used to shoot the other players and reduce their health count down to zero. You have defensive cards such as “Missed” and healing “Beer”. There’s are also gun cards, allowing you to extend your range (by default you can only attack the players on either side of you). The strategy comes not just in the luck of the draw, but making the most effective use of your cards. Do you go all out, hoping to eliminate a player, or play it stealthy keeping your role under wraps while building up a large arsenal.


Dean on PC

I’ve never actually played any game like this before, my card games start and stop with what I can do with a pack of 52 cards, and a stint of Pokémon TCG back in the day. It took me a while to get into it but I’m finding it pretty enjoyable. Activating the game on PC requires you to install the game, input the licence key which then generates an activation key to be emailed to the developers where they’ll then email you back a final activation code. It’s an extremely cumbersome method, and in my case I didn’t receive a code until 12 hours later; rather dimming initial impressions. Hopefully it’s something they can keep on top of but I’d suggest scrapping this activation method altogether.

Upon first launch you have to go through the Tutorial; singleplayer and multiplayer options are greyed out until that’s done. The tutorial places you in the role of Sheriff and gives you a firm guiding hand for much of it. Pop-ups will appear, giving hints of how each role would act, directing you towards which cards to use. However, for the latter half, you’re allowed to play under your own steam. I will say the pop-ups for the cards could do with a tweak. If you hover over each card it will give a handy pop-up describing the action that card can take; however it’s in a scrolling banner that only shows 3-4 words at a time, making it a bit of a pain to read through. Thankfully, there is a help guide on the menu, where you can look up the effects of each card; just a shame this isn’t accessible while playing. After several matches you will have met most of the cards, so it does become less of an issue over time, and you’re soon putting people in Jail, calling upon Indians, Dueling and hiding behind Barrels without a second thought.

The matches are rather quick, depending on the amount of CPU players you’ve chosen of course, so it makes for a great game to fill in those short moments of the day. Being a game that’s rather comfortable to play in windowed mode helps with its casual charm. The Dodge City expansion deck included, as well as different characters having different perks, helps keep the gameplay fresh as you try new play-styles and roles to find your niche. I’ve rather enjoyed the game, certainly different to any thing else I’ve played. It has a nice charm and a lovely western soundtrack playing in the background. I might even hunt down some of the physical card packs, would be a good game to play with the family.

 

Connor on iPhone

The iPhone version is really the same game as the one Dean has described, but with touch controls. One gripe I did have is that it is unclear what cards do in-game. According to Dean, the Windows version of the game has a sort of pop-up that briefly describes it, but for the iPhone version, no such pop-up came about and I was left either guessing or having to manoeuvre the menu to find the guide, and find the card in the guide, which could be rather irritating. Overall, I had fun with the game, however. It’s an interesting concept in that you have no idea who your opponents are and who your allies are when you first start playing, and you have to hazard guesses at who to target your attack cards towards. Most of the time you’ll figure out who’s working with you and who’s working against you, but there have been times where I’ve accidentally wiped out an ally, leaving myself to get thoroughly thrashed in the next few turns.

The touch controls can sometimes be a little bit awkward. To put a card into play, you have to either drag it into the middle, or tap it and then tap the middle. On quite a few occasions I would attempt to do both of these only for it to unselect the card or not place it into play. It could be as much down to clumsy fingers as it could a calibration issue, but it happened enough for it to become a noticeable problem for me.

These small gripes aside I feel like Bang is a pretty well-rounded card game, with an interesting concept and a wide variety of cards and ways to play them.

Multiplayer

Bang! provides cross-platform multiplayer, allowing PC and iOS users to play together. It took a while to set-up, much like the install process it requires a key to activate. It took a few attempts to discover which of the three keys I had it wanted, not helped by the disabling of pasting but once you’re logged in you don’t need to input this info again.
The multiplayer is a rather simple affair, include quick match and private match modes. For both private matches and quick matches you can set the amount of players and if it includes the Dodge City card pack. Despite the relatively low number of people playing, it hovers around 30-40 online, it’s rather quick to get into a match. Though Connor has said that on a 3G connection is will sometimes hang when joining a match.
Within the match it’s the same play and rules of single-player. It is rather fast paced though, which includes time limits on your turn, so make sure you’re well versed in the cards usage when playing, you can’t be hovering over for tool-tips anymore. One part I thought was rather lacking was a complete absence of any form of chat. Cards has always struck me as rather social gaming so it was a bit disappointing.
One issue, and something that may not be a bother for most people, is the inability to join on friends. We specifically had two people review this game so we could check out the multi-player together and even with the low amount of players we found it near impossible to end up in the same match. If you’re looking to pick this up with friends make sure to get three copies so you can create private matches.
Other than that the multiplayer is as much fun as the single-player with the bonus of facing off against human intelligence.

Bang! The Videogame

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