Bang! started life as a card game back in 2002, created by Emiliano Sciarra. It is played all around the world and is increasingly popular, as can be seen by the proliferation of tournament play. Thanks to this popularity, Bang! the videogame version was released in late 2010 on a variety of platforms (PC, iOS, BADA - with more to come) and just recently full multicross platform play has been added to the overall experience.
For those who have never played Bang! before (where have you been?) it’s a Western themed card game comprising of four to seven players where each player is a renegade (or outlaw), deputy, or in one case, the Sheriff. The aim of the game is to defeat all the renegades and outlaws and win out for the good of the world, or pick off each deputy and then tackle the Sheriff, ensuring victory falls on the side of evil this time around. The catch is nobody knows who anyone is aside from that of the Sheriff. As the game progresses you start to get an inclination as to players’ allegiances but there's no guarantee you’ll get it right.
In the digital world this chance is varied given you can’t see the expressions of your opponent’s faces when making their moves, but the AI is such that every time I played the game I was correct in my assumptions as to who was a deputy and helping the Sheriff for helping’s sake, and who was a bad guy trying to get rid of all the law enforcement’s support before they could shoot off their head. Of course, when moving to multiplayer the task of guessing correctly who is what becomes exponentially difficult given it’s real unpredictable people playing who could be anywhere in the world (as opposed to sat in front of you).
The game is transferred from cards to LCD very well. It looks smart enough with the bright cartoony graphics and colourful exchanges when cards are played and moves made. It’s a fluid game if one that has a set pace such are the disadvantages versus real life! Characters in the game are parodies of famous names, such as Calamity Janet as opposed to Calamity Jane, adding charm to the gameplay.
The actual game itself is easy to get into thanks to a tutorial system when you first start out, although this is limited to the basic gameplay and forgoes any explanation of what each and every card you can pick up does. At first this can be pretty disorientating but after one or two playthroughs all should be pretty well understood and then it’s just a matter of honing your strategy and intuition to try and end up as one of those last left standing. Certain cards seem more useful than others - for example a ‘missed’ card (allowing you to dodge a bullet when an opponent goes Bang!) is always better received when picked from the pack on beginning your turn than another gun allowing for shooting distance modification. Strategy however can run quite deep if you want it to, ensuring victory is always possible given enough skill.
The multiplayer support is excellent as the game is platform agnostic. If you play on PC, you can play other folk on iPad, smartphone and maybe in the future, console. However, connecting was not a straightforward affair using our PC copy. It was hit and miss whether a game could be found and connected to for play. This was most likely due to the review hardware rather than the game itself, but is something to be aware of (as it is with most online gaming today!).
For many this title will not be an obvious choice of purchase. It’s a card game - something alien to most of the younger generation of gamers - and to compound matters, it’s a card game on a computer. But it would be wrong to dismiss it out of hand. Each round of play entertains, and if you’re lucky enough to play with people you know it can be a relaxing way to enjoy some healthy competition with friends as opposed to the usual running, shooting and driving you otherwise might try. Like other card games which have appeared in the past ten years, such as Flux and Back To The Future, Bang! is different to the timeless classics people may remember from their childhood, has a sense of humour and in short sharp bursts retains it’s entertainment value on repeat play. On the downside, it is limited, it is a turn based card game and will not deliver radically different results the third, fourth and fifth times you play it. Keeping in mind it will only ever be a passer of time then, as opposed to a persistent hobby - and the wide variety of ways to play - Bang! may well be something for you to have at hand next time you head to the saloon.