02
Sep
19

Skunny: Wild West for DOS

Having already looked at three of the Skunny games you’d think I would have learned my lesson and avoided today’s game Wild West, featuring our not so favourite Skunny Hardnut. This entry in the Skunny series of games came out in 1994 and was made and published by Copysoft. With the previous games not being terribly good and expectations low for Wild West you’d be forgiven for thinking I am some kind of weird retro gaming masochist.

The story for Wild West isn’t as nutty as some of the others, Skunny is simply diverted to the Wild West on his way home from Rome to help his parents retrieve their missing sheep.  I am actually kind of disappointed as the nutty stories from previous games were quite amusing. No sticky nut pudding to be found anywhere, and who doesn’t like a sticky nut?

The VGA graphics are very much like previous games, they’re decent in their own way but not great either. It’s very much like Save our Pizza’s in style. I suspect it uses the same engine and has had new artwork made to fit the Wild West theme. I did notice one funny inconsistency, Skunny’s hat disappears when he bends down to pick up a crate, perhaps it falls off his head.

Audio is again like previous games, reusing many of the sound effects where they could. In general the digitised effects and PC speaker bloops are ok. There is only one track of music that loops constantly, so that gets a bit maddening after a while, although it’s better than the last game you’ll want to turn it off.

The keyboard controls are basically the same as they were in Save our Pizzas, although there are less issues getting around the levels and dealing with enemies. I still found that the game would completely miss pressing jump when using the keyboard.

Because the keyboard controls aren’t great I thought I’d try out using a game pad with the built-in joystick support. Back in the day this would have been uncommon, as most people had either an analog joystick (which isn’t appropriate for a platformer) or only a keyboard and mouse for input. It turns out using a gamepad solves the issue where it misses input for the jump button. I’d imagine that this may also help Save our Pizzas play better as well. Although the movement mechanics are still a bit janky, so it still doesn’t control well.

The game play is better than Save our Pizza’s for a few notable reasons. Firstly Skunny has a water pistol as his main attack, which means you’re much less likely to touch the enemies in the process of taking them out. When you are hit you don’t bounce backwards unless you touch an enemy. This significantly reduces how often you’ll be knocked into a hazard that kills you instantly, although it still happens. There are quite a number of health and ammunition pickups in the space that I played, so you generally can recharge.

Although the game play is improved I still found it to be frustrating to play. The enemy projectiles are generally impossible to dodge, just because they are fired so frequently.  Resulting in losing some health at every encounter with no way to avoid the damage.

The levels are set in a magical part of the wild west where everything is suspended on platforms in the sky, even the lakes and trains. Perhaps they mastered levitation and didn’t tell anyone. So basically most jumps are over a pitfall of some kind and any mistake at all is pretty much insta-death. So it’s better in the sense that you’ll get further into the game before you lose your mind.

I got far enough into the first level to discover that there are check points if you can make it far enough, mostly because using a gamepad made things a little easier. However after numerous attempts I couldn’t get any further just like the other games. I took some screen shots from the demo as I didn’t want to keep playing, and it shows some areas I couldn’t reach.

Like the other Skunny games there isn’t a terrible lot to recommend it, although I concede you may enjoy it if you have some nostalgia for Skunny. I downloaded the shareware version from the usual place, until recently you could still buy the registered version from the Copysoft website, but that seems to no longer be available.

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