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Game Review

I remember, back in the long-ago days of my childhood, wanting to draw a newspaper cartoon strip filled with funny characters and quips. The problem was, I had no artistic skill whatsoever. So I scrawled my three-panel strips with stick figures and all the artistic panache of a proboscis monkey.

All these years later, someone has turned my idea into a video game.

OK, so I can't claim credit for stick figures, scratched-out pencil drawings and eye roll-worthy yuk yuks. But the new Nintendo Switch game West of Loathing sure feels familiar to the 11-year-old I used to be. This black-and-white, crudely drawn, Western adventure is definitely more than meets the eye.

And that can sometimes be really good … and sometimes not so much

Shootin' Irons, Snakes and Snarky Quips

The essential thrust of this point-and-click adventure is to corral a ton of old Western tropes, then sorta flip them on their heads in the most absurd, snarky ways possible. You've got herds of roving demon cows, railroads that only go one way and haystacks that hold needles well worth finding. And each character conversation becomes a quirky skit with at least one punchline in its winking mix.

But before heading out on a tumbleweed journey through a huge open map of towns, pastures, graveyards and mines—filled with character quests and dust-blown problem-solving—players choose a character from three different RPG-like classes.

The Cow Puncher packs extra melee muscle in his cattle-branding arm. The Bean Slinger whips up magical defenses and attacks from a humble can of pork and beans. And the sneaky Snake Oiler can pick a lock with the best of 'em. As you level up, you can reinforce your moxie (gun damage), your muscle (melee damage) or your mysticality (magic damage), bolstering your character's skills however you see fit.

There are also plenty of Wild West-themed items you can find, read or purchase that'll also boost your stats. Reading that book you found in the doc's cabin might give your character some new (if silly) moves to employ. The right buffalo-skin britches will help your defense. And digging in that gross ol' spittoon could actually turn up a tarnished ring that'll help steady your gun hand.

Stick Draw, Pardner

If some of the things I've mentioned lead you to think there are sunbaked battles to encounter here, you're assessment is correct. As you go, opportunities abound to aim your stick-drawn six-shooter at everything from black-hatted baddies and rattlesnakes to demon bovines and reanimated skeletons.

You (along with one of the other smalltown gunslingers or ousted ranchers you meet along the way) match your skills against villainous types in turn-based RPG battles. But these contests are never bloody shoot outs. The foes here are always more silly than chilling, and in many cases there are ways to reach your quest goals without a prerequisite throw down. In fact, those potential contests are never a surprise but always easy to spot and avoid if you so desire. But the quick draws and bean slings are definitely a part of the game mix.

Boil-Yer-Shirt Ricochets

I should also note, however, that for all of the game's quips and Western-lore flips, the silly shenanigans of this Wild West windup also usher in the game's most problematic content.

There is, for instance, a whole lotta whiskey and moonshine swillin' in this land of dirt and dung. Drunken drifters and even tipsy horses may stagger across your path. You can buy stat-boosting drinks at any saloon you encounter, too. And surgical gin, bottles of laudanum and nerve pills can all be had for the right price.

This scrub-grass world is also rife with magical undead and ghosty things. In fact, one of the main storylines and ongoing quests involves a necromancer who might well be the source of all the demonic, murderous things in this Western realm. His lair features a fountain of blood that players can imbibe for a special boost. Skeletons scramble out of grave sites, and you can even make a goblin named Gary your sidekick.

And general grossness bobs to the surface here and there, too. From spittoon searches to horse-doo doings, rib-tickling gags often depend upon icky, crass elements. And though the general depth of cussin' is relegated to the consarnit and dagnabit camp, you can still find a few rare uses of "h---" and "d--n" if you're digging about.

Now, that's not as all-fired nasty as some spur-to-the-haunches range riders. But it's still a game packin' a few burrs in the saddle that folks ought to be aware of. Especially those younger cowpokes who might be drawn to West of Loathing's stick figure charm.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements

Conclusion

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

Other Belief Systems

Authority Roles

Profanity/Violence

Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality

Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Episode Reviews

Credits

Rating

Readability Age Range

Author

Cast

Director

Distributor

Network

Performance

Record Label

Platform

Nintendo Switch, PC

Publisher

Asymmetric Publications

Released

May 31, 2018

On Video

Year Published

Awards

Reviewer

Bob Hoose

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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