Crescent Moon Games’ 2-Bit Cowboy ($0.99) doesn’t hide the fact that it’s a total nostalgia trip. With its Gameboy-era visuals and simplified control scheme, it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to see if actually running on the classic handheld. Thankfully, the folks over at Cascadia Games do a great job of melding new with the old, as 2-Bit Cowboy does a great job incorporating some more modern gameplay facets with the old-school look and appeal.
Dubbed by the developers as a ‘Westernvania’ 2-Bit Cowboy offers a more robust exploration experience than most basic platformers. Each level is a multi-tiered self-contained adventure complete with buildings to explore, missions to take on, and enemies to dispatch. Buildings range from casinos that afford you a chance to earn money to various shops that either replenish health or provide temporary invulnerability boosts. Missions exist to offer additional challenge in terms of fully “completing” the level and to earn some extra cash. Despite all these various activities, 2-Bit Cowboy’s missions are still portable friendly, with completion times between 5-15 minutes depending on difficulty.
While technically players can pass levels by simply locating and using the exit, all the optional activities really make the 2-Bit Cowboy a far more rewarding experience. Later missions mostly focus on increase in difficulty (with the inclusion of mine carts and horses to ride) and don’t really add too much to the mix in terms of new challenges. Also, the only long term reward that is earned for completing missions and exploring levels is money, which is primarily earned to purchase cosmetic items. It would have been nice to see some kind of character development system or maybe an inventory system. This adherence to simplistic gameplay is why I think 2-Bit Cowboy falls short of the vaunted ‘Metroidvania’ classification.
Still, just because 2-Bit Cowboy is rather basic doesn’t mean it isn’t fun. I really enjoyed the level design and thought the game’s visuals did a great job of imparting a nostalgic feel that works really well with both the theme and attention to a basic platform experience. Not everything necessarily conforms entirely to the motif (for example, the music is great but not in the chiptune style) but 2-Bit Cowboy does a pretty good job mostly hitting that mark. The old-school feeling also comes with some limitations in terms of enemy diversity, controls (although I’m a fan of the gamepad support) and tilesets. I understand what the developers were aiming for but I could also see why some players just may not “get it.”
As mentioned earlier, 2-Bit Cowboy, with its simpler ‘Westernvania’ experience is almost like an introductory experience for gamers looking to get their feet wet into more complicated platformers. This is also reflected in its visuals and overall theme, which definitely impart a feel for simpler times. However, I can see how fans looking for a deeper platformer experience may not necessarily appreciate such a style. Regardless, I’d still recommend checking out 2-Bit Cowboy as a great introductory experience for newbies and an interesting take on a platformer for everyone else.