Inspired by art styles reminiscent of cyberpunk, Blanco Games delivers a blend between a heist game and a puzzle game. Quadrilateral Cowboy is a first-person game where players must break into simulated locations in order to steal various goods. Instead of simplifying a hacking interface like Watch_Dogs or Deus Ex, Quadrilateral Cowboy manages to make an authentic command line whilst maintaining a hilarious amount of fun.
IntroductionQuadrilateral Cowboy is a hacking/heist puzzle game set in a cyberpunk world. Running on the idTech4 engine, the game doesn't reach for an authentic appearance, but instead trades it for an aesthetic one.
Blanco Games have developed games with similar art style to Quadrilateral Cowboy, but none of them have had such heavy emphasis on environment. The atmosphere invokes that of Kadokawa Shoten's Cowboy Bebop, a 1997 Japanese cartoon. Criminals living on the fringes of society - and the adventures of said criminals - acts as the central theme in both works.
The game is available on Steam for $19.99.
STORYThere isn't much of a story in Quadrilateral Cowboy, at least in the traditional sense. That's not to say the game doesn't have interesting storytelling, though. In between each level, the player gets insight into the lives of our all-female band of criminals, and the world they inhabit. The characters never speak verbally, but the visual clues as to the lives of the individual characters are far more effective than words would have been anyway.
For example, there seems to be a morning carpool before the characters go to their hideout to plan their prospective heists. This process witnessed 3 times, for each step in the carpool rotation. Of course, instead of actual cars, the characters seem to travel using some sort of flying motorbike, and the apartments they live in are very compact low-end living locations. This sort of contrast between the technology and the quality of living contributed perfectly to the Robin Hood feel the developers are striving for.
Many other story scenes exist in Quadrilateral Cowboy, which leads me to my only real complaint. Since the story scenes are so much shorter than the puzzle levels themselves, it gives the impression that those scenes act more as a reward for finishing the first level. Using cutscenes as a reward certainly isn't a bad idea, but it's definitely not the most effective way of telling a story. Because of this, there seems to be a thin line separating story from gameplay.
GameplayQuadrilateral Cowboy plays via the traditional first-person perspective. Cutscenes always preserve this perspective like in that of Half-Life. Most of the game time, however, will be spent in the virtual environment HeistPlanner. As our band of criminal cowboys lives on the fringes, their main source of income is heist jobs. The role of our particular character is to simulate these prospective heists using a computer. Inside these simulations, the player is loaded into a small environment or 'level' and is given an objective. Almost always being "Steal this safe" or "Download this data". Since the challenge is only a simulation, the player can restart at any time, and execute the heists at their own pace. The levels employ the same types of first-person spatial reasoning that can be found in games like Portal or The Talos Principle. Each level has 3 objectives that the player must complete before proceeding to the next one.
Between each level, there is always a small cutscene about the lives of the dialog-less characters, as well as an introduction to a new gadget, The game has an arsenal of neat gadgets for various security bypassing purposes. First is the Weevil, a small 4-legged machine with a camera on the front that can navigate through small shafts. The Autocase, a remote controlled rifle that comes out of a suitcase. And lastly the Launcher, a fan that is capable of launching the player over great distances.
These tools are all controlled from the Deck. The Deck is a small portable computer running an imitation of a DOS command line. For example, in order to use the Weevil, a player would have to place the Weevil, place the Deck, and then begin interacting with the Deck in a manner that involves the player manually typing out the commands to be sent to the Weevil. go 120; turn -90; go 45; turn 90; etc.. This technique does wonders for the immersion in the 80's atmosphere, and honestly just feels comfy.
In order to view the camera footage on the Weevil or Autocase, the player will need to set up a vertically stacked pair off CCTV screens, and manually connect them. This causes heists to be slow paced, methodically planned executions where a player will set up a small workstation wherever they want. This gives this heist game a particularly dark and quiet tone.
GraphicsThis piece of software is easy to run. Only requiring 1 GB of video memory, the game runs on the dated idTech 4 engine. Its human aesthetics mirror the simple polygon look that has been spawned by Minecraft. The environments never have a very large draw distance, so naturally the space elevator level is a little bit immersion breaking.
Though not impressive from a benchmarking standpoint, it would be foolish not to look at the visuals from an aesthetic perspective. The game elegantly captures the 80's era future in its simple-polygon approach, and every environment is filled with mechanical detail. Very clear and legible warning signs that subtly give hints to the player, or logical indications such as oxygen supplies. The world of Quadrilateral Cowboy comes to life so effortlessly that it brings to question the value of high-budgets graphics.
MusicWhen playing Quadrilateral Cowboy, I was frequently asked why I was listening to "Opera Music". The music from the game is eccentric, to say the least, but it works. And it works surprisingly well. Much like the throwback tunes used by the Fallout Franchise, Quadrilateral Cowboy reaches back in time to give its world a more humane feel.
Of course, opera isn't the only type of music found in the game. Retro swing music and relaxing blues tunes can be found on the Music Player, an item the player always has in their inventory. At any time during the levels, the player can switch between a small variety of songs to listen to while they work. By the end of the game, however, the small variety of songs wears thin.
ConclusionIt's tough to balance interesting story and interesting gameplay, and at first, Quadrilateral Cowboy feels like two separated halves. Gameplay, then a small intimate moment, then back to gameplay, etc. At the end of the game, though, the retrospective lens makes the gameplay moments, the 'jobs', seem so much more significant to the character's lives. It is a natural blend that makes the game feel just right.
|+ Art Style||- Inconsistent Pacing|
|+ Intuitive Puzzles|
|+ Amazing Atmosphere|
GAME SCORE: 9/10