12 is Better Than 6 (Switch) Review
Release Date: March 5, 2019
Publisher/Developer: Ink Stain Games/Hypetrain Digital
Platform: Switch (Reviewed), Steam
I love Western games. One of my favorite gaming experiences is playing the far right side of the Sunset Riders arcade cabinet. The pink-clad Cormano mowing down bad guys in the Konami classic stole a lot of my quarters when I was little thanks to the pinpoint accuracy and one-hit death status. 12 is Better Than 6 feels like a gritty top-down shooter with a flair of old west that reminds me of my favorite Sunset Rider, thanks to the sombreros on most everyone. 12 is Better Than 6 is less forgiving, as it is harder to dodge bullets and the one-hit kills take you back to the start of an area. While it will appeal to people who like a speedrunning challenge and strive for perfection, some of it's faults may aggravate the average player.
The developers of 12 is Better Than 6 crafted a wonderfully unique art style, looking like a simple pen-on-paper sketchbook. The game is in black and white, with only a splash of red for each kill. While unique and pleasing to look at, it can be frustrating when you see new things and don't know what they are. Given that enemies and our "hero" all wear big circular sombreros in a top-down world and show none of their body until they are on the ground dead they all look the same. As I entered a new area I would have to double check which hat was me, or strangely enough whether it was an enemy or a landmark. Once I memorized the enemy layout I was able to play well, but then I was ready to start all over on the next area.
Our "hero" can lethally take down any enemy with one swipe of his knife or shot of his gun, though he can be taken down similarly. This leads to a "Super Meat Boy" style of gameplay, as you will die incessantly figuring out the level. One click takes you back to the start of an area. One unique twist of the control scheme is how you have to manually click a button to cock the hammer before firing. This led to a lot of deaths when I first played but eventually became a rhythm. I particularly liked how classic guns effect your enemies as well. It felt good to be bunkered down with an enemy raining bullets on you, counting to the six shots in his chamber and jumping out to get him while reloading. Players have to maintain their ammunition as well, scavenging from their enemies. At times I felt this got annoying because I'd have to pick up their gun, empty it, then pick up my old gun again.
Our story is threadbare, basically our "hero" is a slave before deciding to escape and take down everyone on his way to freedom. I constantly quote "hero" because there's no real impetus for him to kill other than the bloodlust. I'm sure most escapees running for freedom would stay on the down-low but our main character plans to kill everyone in his path. The story is told through basic text speech bubbles that are occasionally poorly phrased and disjointed as if English was a second language for the developer. I'm not sure whether this is a limitation or an attempt at hitting a theme, but it is jarring and distracting, making the game feel a bit rushed. By the way, the title eluded me for a while until I heard the old saying “better to be judged by 12 than carried by 6” meaning in a gunfight one would rather kill and be caught, going on trial with a jury of 12 than be the one killed and have six people carrying your coffin.
I do enjoy how you can try several ways to get through a scene, be it stealthily slitting throats of enemies while they sleep or sneaking up behind them, or going in guns blazing and hoping you survive. Enemy AI is rather simple. Find a bottleneck with some cover and you can take down the whole screen of enemies sniping them as they come around a corner. I'd get frustrated sometimes at the aiming controls. Given that we are all top-down sombreros in this game you only see a little speck of the end of your gun as you aim. Occasionally this led to me not knowing which way I was pointing. Camera controls follow your aim as well so at times I would be going through a door in a corner of the screen with no clue as to what's behind it because I was aiming the other way and couldn't tell. Once you get all the control and art style issues down, 12 is Better Than 6 can be a lot of fun, but it's up to you to decide if it's worth that learning curve. As a budget title, you won't lose too many pesos for trying.
-Unique art style
-"one more round" reset speed to deaths draws you back in
-Cocking the gun and firing makes for intense firefights
-Difficult to tell enemies from rocks at times
-Dying throws you back to the start of an area
-While fun, control scheme and character design make it hard to maneuver
Special thanks to Ink Stains Games and Hypetrain Digital for providing a code for review!