Developer: Catch & Release
Publisher: Catch & Release
Release Date: 30/01/2018
Platform(s): PlayStation VR (Reviewed), HTC Vive, Oculus Rift
We’ve all seen those classic Western duels in movies, right? You know, a hero cowboy typically facing off against some vicious villain – a bell rings and the first one to shoot is the winner. Well imagine doing that in virtual reality, except it isn’t as simple as just ‘shooting first’, but you also have to actually work out how to outwit your opponent too. That’s exactly what you’ll be doing in Cold Iron, the first ever virtual reality puzzle-shooter.
The fact that it’s a ‘puzzle-shooter’ is oneCold Iron’s most unique draws, especially on a platform that’s inundated with wave-based shooters where you don’t really have to think that much.Don’t worry though, you still get to pull the trigger a lot – you’re just going to have to figure out some little enigmas to work out where exactly you need to be aiming. It’s a ‘boss rush’ title too, so you’re constantly doing something different with every new enemy the game sends your way.
Some of these bosses can be quite clever too. It might be a case of a boss randomly whistling to fool you into thinking the bell has rung, a boss bringing complete darkness to the area and their location only known through the sounds they make, a boss having you shoot targets in a specific order to harm them, or even a boss that brings up mirror images of himself to fool you into shooting the wrong target – there really is a lot of variety on display. Of course, there are a couple of boring bosses in the mix too that don’t really pose much of a challenge, but it can’t all be perfect.
The puzzles behind these bosses can be tricky to figure out at times, but Cold Iron is never unfair; you’ve just always got to be completely switched on, both mentally and with your trigger finger. That being said, every failure you suffer can be frustrating – each world is made up of three gun fights, and if you fail you’ve got to play through them all again.
To lighten the mood a bit, every time you clear a world you get to take part in a mini-game where you earn points by shooting at watermelons that are being launched across the air. This completely eliminates the duelling aspect of the game and turns it into an out-and-out shooter, but I actually found it quite refreshing in-between the tense showdowns. There’s nothing quite like blasting away at watermelons without a care in the world, especially when they’re loaded with fireworks.
In all, Cold Iron is a really fun game to play. Each level varies in difficulty (with some solutions being a little too obvious), but each of the opponents you face off against always do something a bit differently. The variety on offer was what I appreciated the most, and whilst Cold Iron might not necessarily be the best shooter you’re going to play on PlayStation VR, the implementation of puzzling aspects certainly helps keep you hooked in.
It’s worth noting just how accessible the game is too, with it easy for just about anyone to pick up and play – I’m sure everyone has seen a duel in a movie, so the concept remains the same. There’s no awkward movement or anything either, whilst the game can also be forgiving for any players with a bad aim. Don’t get me wrong, there is a demand for precision, but some of the headshots I was pulling off against the Sniper enemy may have been a bit TOO kind on the game’s behalf…
Unfortunately, Cold Iron isn’t the longest of experiences, with it only taking me just over an hour to clear the main story on my first attempt. That was after a few failures on certain levels too, so some gamers might find they can finish it even quicker than that.
There are some extras to return to the game for though, including the hidden chickens on each level, the trophy challenges, as well as trying to get the highest grade on each level. There’s also an additional secret that can be unlocked by earning at least a silver trophy for each challenge, so there’s an incentive in place to replay the game a few times. However, once you’ve beaten a boss, you learn all of their little tricks – it certainly isn’t as satisfying to figure out how to beat them the second time around. Still, at least there’s something there for those who have the patience to take down the same enemies again.
One thing I really liked about Cold Iron was the Western theme, though it doesn’t take the game too long before it sends you across a variety of somewhat stranger locations. You can expect to visit the likes of a forest, a modern city, and even a desert before the game ends. It certainly isn’t afraid to mix things up a bit.
Whilst the environments are varied though, on a technical basis they’re not the prettiest things you’ll see on PlayStation VR. There’s nothing wrong with them from a design standpoint, but they lack the detail to really absorb you into the game world. There’s some noticeable tearing on character models at times too, which is always that bit more obvious on PlayStation VR when looking at things from a distance. Of course, that’s down to the hardware more than the game, but it’s hard to ignore when you’re standing off against a rival who just so happens to be a fair distance away from you.
At least the music and sound design are on point, with each piece of music fitting in perfectly within the game’s setting. As you can imagine though, in tense showdowns it’s the sound effects that are most important, and fortunately each ring of the bell, each gunshot, each heart-beat, and each little whistle (you’ll see what I mean on the first boss) sounds perfect. The voice actor for the Gunsmith deserves a mention too – he does a great job of telling Cold Iron’s tale and really captures the gruff Western dialect that should be familiar to anyone that’s seen a Spaghetti Western…
Cold Iron adds an enjoyable twist to classic Western duelling for PlayStation VR owners, with the showdowns against the myriad of creative villains proving to be both tense and fun to take part in. It certainly demands a level of finesse from the player, but quickly drawing your gun and landing that sweet headshot doesn’t stop being satisfying from the first foe all the way to the last.
It’s just a shame that the whole thing doesn’t last all that long. I’d beaten the game in not long over an hour, and whilst there are some challenges to complete and secrets to unlock, I’m not sure if a lot of players will have the patience to play through the same five rounds against some of the same foes all over again – once you’ve learned how to beat them once, some of the enjoyment starts to slip away.
If your trigger finger is feeling itchy and you want a fix of shooting action with a twist though, Cold Iron is certainly worth checking out. It does something that not only genuinely feels a bit different to a traditional shooter, but also just so happens to be good fun too.