Typically when people say that “your luck’s run out” they don’t mean it in a literal, quantifiable way. Fortunately for us, the clever gents at independent developer Duckbridge have found a way to harness luck and turn it into a playable mechanic in their very first Greenlit game: Luckslinger, a western-themed pastiche of action platformers past with some unexpected hooks.
Chief among those hooks: the ability to collect and cash in “luck” at will. After unceremoniously receiving a mysterious bracelet from a dying man in a cave, players can start collecting gold dots that fill what’s ostensibly a luck meter, which can be triggered at any time and whose effect differs depending on the context. If, for example, you fall short when leaping for the next platform, a previously invisible ledge might suddenly materialize beneath your feet. Or maybe you’ve simply been caught in an unavoidable hail of gunfire—the yellow sphere of luck emanating from the Luckslinger might magically redirect those incoming bullets.
Essentially it’s an all-purpose get-out-of-jail-free card that will save you from whatever dire circumstances you might find yourself in. Interestingly, you’ll also experience bad luck if you fail to manage your resources wisely. I had a windmill blade fall on my head for that exact reason, although I quickly figured out the Luckslinger’s bracelet flashes red anytime some grave misfortune is about to befall you. Regardless, that catch-all flexibility is intriguing. The potential for creative, unpredictable applications is essentially limitless, which (hopefully) will lead to some wild “holy shit” moments later in the game.
Beyond Luckslinger’s eponymous resource, the basic moving parts seem to shine in their own way. It's got the usual 2D side-scrolling shooter components: shooting, rolling, jumping, reloading. Here, though, they’re at least applied thoughtfully. During my hands-on time, I discovered reloading the Luckslinger’s quintessential six-shooter actually takes a second and as a result, you have to be a bit strategic about when and where you reload, especially considering you’re generally able to jump over or roll under enemy fire if you’re paying enough attention.
There’s also a bit more to Luckslinger than simple running and gunning. You can patronize stores to upgrade your arsenal, trigger text blurbs to gain additional information from townsfolk, and even duck into a gambling tent to try your luck at a mini-game or two. Best of all, your invincible duck companion (which, weirdly, is never explained) can retrieve items like health hearts and previously thrown daggers that might otherwise be out of reach. Because why not!
And then there’s Luckslinger’s stylistic hook: a heavily hip hop influenced soundtrack, as well as other similar flourishes like characters break dancing during load screens and scratching sound effects anytime you hit a checkpoint. There’s no discernible reason a retro-styled spaghetti western should have a hip hop soundtrack, but I actually appreciate that the game never attempts to justify it. It’s just a stylistic choice that works surprisingly well, the same way Cowboy Bebop’s jazzy soundtrack elevated the entire show.
Luckslinger isn’t likely to push any major boundaries, but its clever ideas and slick presentation are fun and likable. With any luck, the final product will deliver a consistent campaign that expands on all the game I experienced at E3—it'll be on Steam July 16.