The pulp lunacy of Blues and Bullets

Blues and bullets 1


In Why I Love, PC Gamer writers pick an aspect of PC gaming that they love and write about why it's brilliant. Today, Tom gapes, open-mouthed at Blues and Bullets.

This article contains spoilers for the first 45 minutes of Blues and Bullets episode one.

The Telltale adventure game format supports many varied fictions, from The Walking Dead's zombie apocalypse scenario to The Wolf Among Us. Rarely have they pushed the boundaries of common sense as enthusiastically as A Crowd of Monsters' Blues and Bullets. Unfettered by the quality-control efforts of official license-holders, this studio has created an episodic adventure game of demented proportions, drawing on film noir, occult kidnappings, Sin City, and the conflict between Al Capone and prohibition agent Eliot Ness.

The game supposes that Ness, rather than of retiring and dying of a heart attack in 1957, instead started a small diner called Blues and Bullets. There he lives in guilt, for his failure to crack a major kidnapping case, and for his failure to take revenge on Capone after storming the crime lord's mansion with a revolver during a protracted shooter set-piece.

Historically, Ness and colleagues caused great disruption to Capone's booze-running business before the IRS prosecuted him on tax evasion charges. But what if Capone, rather than serving his time and contracting debilitating neurosyphilis, instead lived out the rest of his days in a hotel suspended from a secret blimp floating over Chicago? And what if the odd relationship between these warring historical figures was underwritten by an ongoing kidnapping mystery with strong occult overtones?

Blues and Bullets

As its plot spasms between influences, so too does the game's format. One moment a straightforward click-every-hotspot adventure game, the next a simplistic cover shooter. Occasionally Ness strides through a strange abstract plot-space occupied by giant capital-lettered transcriptions of the narrator's hardboiled dialogue. The game even turns into a cover shooter during this phase. Ness fends off gangster silhouettes by taking cover behind a giant letter L.

It's berserk, very entertaining and peculiarly stylish. The game is shot in greyscale with hints of red. The engine isn't particularly advanced, but the restricted colours and unusual settings create striking, memorable scenes. At times, watching the white line of a cable car stretch into the stark monotone towers of Chicago, it even looks kinda beautiful. What a surprising game. Bring on episode two.

Tom Senior

Part of the UK team, Tom was with PC Gamer at the very beginning of the website's launch—first as a news writer, and then as online editor until his departure in 2020. His specialties are strategy games, action RPGs, hack ‘n slash games, digital card games… basically anything that he can fit on a hard drive. His final boss form is Deckard Cain.