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Review

Buckshot Roulette Review

This game is a blast, literally

Thumping music filtered into a filthy bathroom – Buckshot Roulette had wasted no time making a first impression. This was a game that I had glanced throughout my time online, but had never really encountered in a proper sense – and such a start did nothing to fill in my blanks. I mean, the name of the game painted a gruesome picture, so I booted open the bathroom door to investigate.

In a dingy backroom, a figure leers at you from the other side of a table, and politely asks you to fill out a waiver. Oddly enough, a game that involves putting a shotgun in your mouth requires at least a modicum of understanding and acceptance before play begins proper. What follows is quite literally Russian Roulette, only with the piddly pistol peashooter discarded in favour of something a lot more gratuitous and hefty – with a pump-action slide to boot. A series of shells are displayed, then loaded in random order – green ones are blanks, red ones are ready to maim – and now you and the ‘Dealer’ are free to take turns turning the boomtube towards either your own face, or your opponent. If a self-facing shot is a blank, you get to go again – so here’s hoping your luck holds out. Through some miracle, if you do end up on the loud end of the gun it seems that a simple dose of shock-paddles will bring you back, so chalk me up as impressed with how good defibrillation is at saving a life.

Time to wipe that smile right off your dial

Of course these lives are limited, and the game does evolve beyond rolling the dice on gunshots. Passing the first round of the roulette prompts the Dealer to present you with a more involved level of play, by introducing more revives for each of you and offering a random draw of items to influence play. This collection of trash wouldn’t look out of place on the seat of a messy person’s car, but their impact on the game is exceptional, including:

  • A cigarette that restores a missing revive
  • A can of beer that you can chug, allowing you to rack the shotgun and expel the current shell
  • Handcuffs, that block a players next turn
  • A magnifying glass that provides a peek at the currently chambered round
  • A serrated knife that will saw off the barrel of the shotgun, making its next shot remove two revives (unless it’s a dud, then nothing happens BUCKO)

You get to draw items before each new round of shells, so suddenly the game shifts into this considerably epic battle of tactics where you take into account the current probability of a lethal shot, and what you can do to maximise your turn. Sure, it might be overwhelmingly tempting to ALWAYS grab that magnifying glass and see what you are working with – but when the odds are stacked in your favour, you could always swig a beer and expel a surplus dud to increase your odds of a satisfying kablam. The siren call of the gambler’s vice just grips you.

Don’t mind the mess, I am plotting a big bang for a finale

In many ways the game feels a lot like poker, where reading the current state of play and your opponent can give you the edge you need to clinch victory. The contents of the shotgun are the river, and if you can read well enough into what might happen next, using your goodies can lead to a winning hand (or winning BLAM as the case may be). This pendulum can then swing back on you in a big way, when a simple misplay can lead to a horrific display of your opponent rattling off all of his own fun toys to spell your thunderous demise. The base gameplay loop really plays just like a tabletop card game – there is no video game bullshittery going down, just hard and fast percentages and your own ability to be aware of them and impact them however you can.

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When you eventually best your foe, you then unlock the Double or Nothing mode – effectively an endless play mode where every elimination of the Dealer prompts you with the opportunity to play on and wager your winnings for another set of rounds. The big appeal here however is the addition of new items for the Steam release that further diversify your playmaking choices. Simple items like an adrenaline shot that lets you pinch and immediately use one of your opponents items, or a switch that will reverse the polarity of the current loaded shell are straightforward, but a mysterious burner phone could also be deployed to get some insight into an upcoming bullet, allowing you to forecast some big move further down the line. While Buckshot Roulette was fun in its standard format, this was the incarnation that really felt like developer Mike Klubnika had tapped into something far more intricate and genius.

The aesthetic of the game is that lovely ‘retro-horrorcore’ look and feel that I found myself applying to Inscryption back when I both previewed and reviewed it. In fact, if you were to put the titles side by side you’d be hard pressed to guess they are not distinctly related. But for me, this feels less like a deliberate copying of such an aesthetic and more two brilliant minds forging a similar creative path. Where Inscryption wallowed in the world it offered, Buckshot Roulette instead offers only a fleeting, tantalising glimpse into whatever hideous space it inhabits. The backdrop of the seedy club is all fine and dandy, but there are crumbs of something deeper, such as a random waiver you can encounter when drawing items with the name GOD written on it, or the purgatorial space you inhabit when you properly die. After having played Inscryption and enjoyed all of its explorable nooks and crannies, I found myself randomly clicking around the spaces within Buckshot, dreaming of a similar expansion of the world at my fingertips.

Thank god for life saving shock paddles

Final Thoughts

Buckshot Roulette is an oddly addicting beast. What starts as a series of frustrating dice rolls quickly progresses into a gripping, sinister experience that commands you to keep at it and master its dark payload. It quickly became a game I wanted to run in a window alongside other things, an interstitial challenge I can summon at will. The horrifying maw of the Dealer loomed in the darkness, and I was hungry to keep finding creative ways to force feed him buckshot.

Reviewed on PC // Review code supplied by publisher

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Buckshot Roulette Review
More Like, Shot-FUN
A literal bang-or-bust experience, Buckshot Roulette has that it-factor that combines a snappy gameplay loop with a stunningly low bar for entry that will keep you coming back for more.
The Good
It’s hard to pull yourself away from such a tight gameplay loop
Impeccable visual and audio design is sinister and awesome
Plays just like the best kind of tabletop card game
Shotguns are cooler than pistols
Double or Nothing mode absolutely slaps
The Bad
Begging to expand that mythos just a little more
9.5
BLOODY RIPPER
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  • Mike Klubnika
  • CRITICAL REFLEX
  • PC
  • April 5, 2024

Buckshot Roulette Review
More Like, Shot-FUN
A literal bang-or-bust experience, Buckshot Roulette has that it-factor that combines a snappy gameplay loop with a stunningly low bar for entry that will keep you coming back for more.
The Good
It’s hard to pull yourself away from such a tight gameplay loop
Impeccable visual and audio design is sinister and awesome
Plays just like the best kind of tabletop card game
Shotguns are cooler than pistols
Double or Nothing mode absolutely slaps
The Bad
Begging to expand that mythos just a little more
9.5
BLOODY RIPPER
Written By Ash Wayling

Known throughout the interwebs simply as M0D3Rn, Ash is bad at video games. An old guard gamer who suffers from being generally opinionated, it comes as no surprise that he is both brutally loyal and yet, fiercely whimsical about all things electronic. On occasion will make a youtube video that actually gets views. Follow him on YouTube @Bad at Video Games

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