Goin’ Ahead and Making My Day: Playing ‘Westerado’ by Ostrich Banditos

I didn’t intend to play it. I didn’t even know I COULD play it, or that it existed. I certainly didn’t anticipate losing an hour (or two) avidly engrossed and enjoying every minute of it. Damn, Westerado. I’m so glad you tumbleweed-ed into my life.

It all began during my daily devotional over at the Yogscast yesterday as I watched as smooth-croonin’ Sips (the best guy) introduce Westerado in a new edition of the endlessly entertaining series An Evening With SipsNot endowed with an attention span for most free online games, or cognizance to remind myself to check out free game sites, I freely admit: I’m a lady who misses out on a fair few good things in life. But not this time, brothers and sisters! In the chilly New England witching hours, I found myself standing vigil as an animate girlfriend alarm clock (my manfriend sleeps deep with purpose and had to wake up at 2:30 AM for work; proof that not all aspects of IT jobs are glamorous.) Having exhausted my normal internet haunts, I futzed over to adultswim.com to give Westerado a go.

Westerado Saloon Ostrich Banditos free game on adultswim.com

Revenge? Pfft. Ain’t nobody got time for that: there’s a poker game afoot at the saloon!

Westerado, delightfully designed, rendered and presented by Dutch team Ostrich Banditos is just tops. Best described as an adventure RPG, the game is pretty prodigious for being both 1) a flash game and 2) free to play. The main story line is all beer and skittles for your protagonist who seeks retribution, (never not compelling!) complete with side-quests and clue finagling (often by pulling your six-shooter on folks mid-conversation.) You gather info about the ruthless cur who done you wrong (and the clues are different in every game; another great touch.)  Haberdasheries are serious business in this western expanse as your health wholly relies on hats.

The map is riddled with unlockable locations and bandits a-plenty. Once you discover somewhere new, feel free to wander there screen-by-screen (though I found it easy to get lost and ambushed this way, just putting that out there) or fast-travel on an ever-nearby horse. *Be well warned from the get-go: the game will save any map and fast-travel information you unlocked during your play, but if for whatever reason you have to start over, the game does not save progress that you make.*

From the graphics and music to the slick controls and response/interaction, Westerado is plain,  entertaining fun. The Ostrich Banditos bob friendly nods to the legends of the Wild West (try examining the statue to the right of the Clintville saloon. ) Interacting with all the NPC folks is genuinely engaging. Your protagonist is a man of precious few words, but choosing responses with appropriate tact or intimidation noticeably impacts the story. And who doesn’t like a good old-fashioned shootout in an abandoned mine town every once in a while, eh? Don’t even get me started on the poker. I don’t know exactly what is so intoxicating about virtual poker–or blackjack, or the rare euchre–in a seedy saloon setting, but honestly, it’s a wonder I was able to pry myself away from the round-table and beat Red Dead Redemption.

Sure, this game has some pillbugs. I encountered two with a habit for repeating themselves:
1) When I bit the dust saving buffalo on a side-scrolling ride, the screen dimmed but kept scrolling instead of bringing up the menu.
2) Every time I crossed over to the second screen of the mines, I either wandered onto a rock and got stuck  (see screenshot below!) or simply got locked in a screen that wouldn’t load but from which I couldn’t escape.
As you can guess, these were a bit of a pisser since progress isn’t saved. The upshot is that, even when I had to start all over, my fast-travel locations were all available and with a “run like hell!” locomotion control, picking up all the quest prompts again is far from arduous. And hey, even if you die right away, you can now forever hence skip the tutorial and hop right back on your horse. The ‘Banditos don’t seem shy about reaching out on forums to eagerly gather data on any bugs/issues to fix them right away, and you can’t dream up a better developer attitude than that.

Westerado Ostrich Banditos stuck in Mine

Stuck on a rock in the mine. Now all I can do is do the button-mash boogie! (Map: Mine, 1st screen to right of entryway, halfway up the room in this one spot that is absurdly easy to ‘dash’ into by accident.

*Good-news for the hapless: If/when you foolishly get shot clean outta hats and die, up comes a menu screen tallying your score for a number of silly doings. This menu also offers options to “Submit” a score, “Restart” a new game, or “Continue”. Choosing “Continue” prompts a pop-up that says it’s A-OK to continue, but you can’t submit your score again. (My scores were laughably small beans so I chose to continue, and was right back at home base with all the dinero and quests that I had before wading in half-cocked like a banty rooster.) Just FYI: Two times I died and this screen did not appear; the page just refreshed. Don’t know if it was the host site or the game, just putting it out there. Totally worth it to continue this kickin’ game, but my chance to do so did go missing once or twice.

Overall, Westerado has a lot going for it and not only did I enjoy the hell out of it yesterday, I plan to play it again soon. This isn’t the first title from the Ostrich Banditos and I’m genuinely excited to see where they take their indie designs in the future. If you’ve got some free time on a PC with internet connection and literally nothing else, then you’ve got what it takes to enjoy this game, too. Happy trails!

(Click here to go play!)