As a big fan of Westerns and an even bigger fan of RPGs, Boot Hill Bounties ticked plenty of boxes for me with its Wild West escapade. It tells the tale of an unlikely ragtag group of heroes (that are, of course, made up of your typical Western stereotypes) as they look to bring down an elusive group of outlaws known as the Saints-Little Gang. With their dastardly ways and menacing antics, they look to bring even more chaos to the Wild West – it’s up to you to stop them.
It’s worth noting that Boot Hill Bounties is actually a sequel, so the characters and lore had already been established in the previous game. That’s not to say that you can’t appreciate the narrative if this is your first foray with the games though, with plenty of plot elements re-explored early on and the main story being pretty much a standalone tale. Those who really want to learn more about the characters and world may want to check out the original game on PC first though.
At its core, Boot Hill Bounties plays like an old-school RPG from the 16-bit era. You’ll explore an assortment of different locales and interact with their inhabitants, complete quests and help folk out in an assortment of ways, solve puzzles as you look to work through deadly dungeons, and also enter showdowns with countless foes who are out for your blood… basically, it has all the hallmarks of a traditional RPG.
It’ll feel familiar to anyone that has played an RPG before, though that’s not a bad thing. Boot Hill Bounties alsohas plenty of quirky charm on display throughout its adventure by its own right, especially with the unique environments you’ll encounter and some of the peculiar interactions you’ll have with the folk that linger across the game world. There are some moments where the game really takes a light-hearted and almost silly approach too, and you shouldn’t be surprised to see some instances of fourth wall breaking here and there. It’s good stuff and helps Boot Hill Bounties feel a bit more unique when comparted to its old-school RPG counterparts, even if it doesn’t necessarily do anything too different from a gameplay perspective.
The game offers a good few side tasks to dive into outside of its main quest, with the player able to dabble in farming, cook up some fresh meals, collect hats to give themselves battle boosts, and solve riddles to try and unlock some additional goodies. None of these gameplay elements are particularly fleshed out in any way, but they’re still enjoyable endeavours that give you something different to do – just don’t go expecting some Wild West Stardew Valley, no matter HOW cool that sounds…
The meat and bones of Boot Hill Bounties comes with its combat mechanics, which sees players waiting for their energy bar to charge in order to hit their different abilities on enemies. These abilities all require different amounts of energy, so you could wait for it to charge more to pull off a more powerful move that uses more energy, or alternatively you could spam a less-powerful attack that requires less energy on a more frequent basis. It’s simple enough to get used to, whilst the fact that you can also see your opponent’s energy charge means that you can prepare yourself for any incoming attacks.
In fairness, Boot Hill Bounties’ combat is decent and can prove particularly intense, with a lack of concentration or one wrong move easily sending your gang of heroes to an early grave – believe me, it can be challenging to keep track of each character’s actions and how much energy they have, so you can expect to make a good few mistakes or even forget to use moves on occasions.
Despite this, I couldn’t help but to find it a little repetitive the further I went through the game, with standard battles lacking that bit of spark when compared to the more entertaining boss encounters. Thankfully, combat isn’t random and is initiated in real-time by the player (you can even give yourself the initiative if you approach an enemy without them noticing), so you don’t find yourself in too much of a grind as you progress through Boot Hill Bounties’ adventure.
One neat feature of Boot Hill Bounties’ combat is the addition of local co-op multiplayer, which allows up to three additional players to join in on the fun and control their individual characters’ actions during combat sequences. This can make things a little easier, especially since you won’t have to worry about keeping up with the actions of every character, whilst it’s also cool to be able to get stuck into an old-school RPG with friends. The only caveat comes with the fact that multiplayer is limited to combat, so all of the exploration and character interactions in-between battles are strictly solo – I can’t imagine it’s the sort of thing that’ll keep a multiplayer crowd excited for too long.
I’ve played a lot of indie RPGs that have been pretty short in length, so I was pleasantly surprised when it took me around twenty-two hours to clear Boot Hill Bounties´ main quest. There’s an abundance of side-content on offer too and there was plenty that I missed out on, so completionists could probably add a good few hours to that tally. It’s definitely a meaty experience, so you shouldn’t expect your Wild West escapade to be over quickly.
Presentation-wise, I was a big fan of Boot Hill Bounties’ colourful world and quirky character designs. Admittedly, some of the enemies you face off against in combat could be a bit of a mixed bag as far as the quality is concerned, but it’s clear that a lot of love and attention has gone into making Boot Hill Bounties look good for the most part. There’ll definitely be a good few locations that’ll be familiar to fans of Westerns throughout the adventure too – you can expect to feel at home when trudging through saloons full of vicious outlaws or riding aboard an old-style steam train…
That being said, whilst the world itself was of a high quality, I found the battle UI was a little jarring. The text isn’t always clear and with everything a bit smaller on the Switch’s portable screen, it could be a little difficult to keep track of everything I was doing. It’s something you get used to the more you play the game, especially when you learn what each action does, but I couldn’t help but to wish it was a little cleaner in places.
Boot Hill Bounties doesn’t do a whole lot original as far as old-school RPGs go, but its neat Wild West setting and fun gameplay ensure that it’s still worth checking out.
Sure, it can get a little bit repetitive in places – especially within the combat against standard enemies – but the attractive world and the varied gameplay mechanics do enough to make it stand out as another enjoyable RPG to add to the Nintendo Switch’s ever-expanding library.
Developer: Experimental Gamer Studios
Publisher: Experimental Gamer Studios
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PC