12 is Better Than 6 is a vaguely named game seeking funding on Kickstarter as I write this, and I had an opportunity to play an expanded version of the alpha build. What I found was an action packed, pencil drawn, top down shooter in a western setting. And that’s a list of words I’ve never used in that sequence before, or even in the same sentence. It’s a culmination of features that have been used on their own plenty enough but never quite so lumped together. This is the kind of project that comes from fresh minds in an old industry, and for the three person team (aptly named Ink Stains Games) behind it, it screams with potential. And while that potential is mostly positive, there’s room in what I played for some rough edges arising as well.
The name of the game is in reference to the chief mindset of the protagonist. He is a wrongly incarcerated man who would rather face a jury of twelve, than die to be carried in a coffin by six pallbearers. Named thus far as the ‘Mexican’ (as well as by a slew of ethnic slurs), he would rather kill to live and face the courts than remain innocent and die. And kill, he does. Unfortunately, at this stage of the presented story, he lacks much depth beyond this. This wouldn’t be so noticeable if the world around him didn’t have it in such abundance. For a game that looks drawn onto the screen, 12 is Better Than 6 feels alive. It’s a strange, brutal, and sometimes funny place that never betrays its own ill tone. I look forward to a build where I can explore a couple more friendly town sides. And I hope for a splash of colour in the personality of the protagonist to flesh out his part in a world of white, black, and blood red.
“The game doesn’t use brutality to drive home a point, here; the world it exists in is just brutal.”
On the subject of blood red, you’ll see a lot of it. It stands out amongst the distinct lack of colour otherwise, and Ink Stains Games weren’t shy about spreading it around. With a focus on guns, the game shares a point of view and enemy lethality with Hotline Miami. Only, thus far, without a scoring system or pre-level ability selection (though the finished game promises to have upgradeable equipment), and without the ironic use of ultraviolence. The game doesn’t use brutality to drive home a point, here; the world it exists in is just brutal. It fortunately stands out from being a setting jumping Hotline Miami clone with more than just graphics by way of how its guns work. Staying somewhat true to era requisites, stay ready to recock your guns manually between shots – with the exception of the shotgun, TNT, or knife (obviously). It’s unironic brutality but it’s fun unironic brutality, whether you live by the stealth demanding knife, or enemy summoning blast of the gun.
Not only is the game fun, but it looks good. Really good. The pencil drawn aesthetic is awash in character when the slice of a knife or a gunshot sends a swath of red across the landscape like a colour-by-numbers book that asks only for the one shade of red: blood. And, much in the way that retro electronica suited Hotline Miami to a ‘T’, 12 is Better Than 6 is graced with a well composed soundtrack of minimalist strings that set the tone of the old west, only to transition to boot thumping guitar playing as the action heats up. The music and visuals are a treat on their own, but together they are a match made in heaven.
As of me writing this, the game is not yet fully backed. But, it has enough going for it, and enough of a draw to have a chance. We’ll be holding off here, on the final word for worthiness of purchase until we see the whole thing in action. But, for those of you who want to add to its funding, there’s a chance to get the game for cheap. Though the backer positions for low funding are limited, and the lowest quantities available for getting a copy of the game are selling out as every minute passes, the cheapest price started at $4. While that particular steal is gone, a lot of low cost options for getting yourself a copy remain which makes for simple math with even most budgets. If this game makes its funding goals we look forward to seeing the outcome.
*** Pre-Alpha press code provided by the publisher ***