Death Call

I'm not sure about other gamers, but if I've been promised a game that's wild-west themed, I feel a little short-changed when the game in question doesn't contain any shooting, or at least a bit of gun toting to make sure it's in keeping with the western theme. It may seem strange but there are a fair few games that are cowboy or western themed yet don't involve any good, old-fashioned shooting: Cover Orange: Journey Wild West is one, as are Amigo Pancho and Aurora. Thankfully for the shooting-game enthusiasts out there, Death Call is a game that incorporates both the puzzle-solving nature of games like Amigo Pancho with the first-person shooting exploits of 1997 PC game Outlaws. Needless to say the result it favourable; Death Call is therefore  worthy of some lengthy comment.

screenshot of death call

Firstly, Death Call is likely to be one of the few flash games you play that manages to intersperse sections of first-person shooting with brain-teasing tile puzzles. When you start the game you may be under the impression that it's just another first-person shooter set in the wild west, and you wouldn't be silly for thinking so. You're playing as Jedediah Wolfe, a marshal sent to bring peace to an unruly town and bring a notorious arms dealer and his cronies to justice. It's classic wild-west storytelling with comic-book like cut scenes, and the gameplay is just as characteristically western in its presentations as well.

You'll begin in a classic saloon-based shootout, all in the first-person perspective and toting nothing but a fairly basic six-shooter pistol to start with. You just have to use the mouse to aim the crosshairs, the left mouse button to fire, and the R key to reload your gun. Those experienced in the first-person shooter genre will instantly be reminded of Lucasarts' western FPS Outlaws, not just because it's a first-person shooter but because its style is quite similar to it, albeit requiring less hardware and only a browser window to run.

The shooting dimension of Death Call's multi-genre approach is executed remarkably well. You are in a fixed position while enemies pop up in various locations in front of you. They have counters that appear above them that indicate when they are going to attack you; when their bar is full it means they will begin shooting. You simply have to take down all of the enemies in each of the waves that make up the shooting levels, reloading at opportune times and also buying health if needs be with the money you get from killing each enemy.

In addition to the first-person shooter aspect of the game you also have a progression system whereby you can purchase better weapons to use against your enemies. Though you start with a basic pistol you can buy weapons called Bertha and other guns such as shotguns, rifles, better pistols, and eventually a gattling gun. Weapons can be attained more quickly if you acquire weapons permits, which are basically the tokens you get when you gain enough experience points from your kills to level up. Though this classic levelling-up system isn't unique to this game, it is fiercely addictive and will make you want to unlock each and every weapon to use against your enemies.

Where Death Call definitely departs from the norm in terms of what it has to offer is in its intermittent puzzle sections that are dotted between the shooting scenes of the game. Once you've cleared the waves in any given level, you must then follow the procedure of decoding a message by solving waves of tile puzzles, each increasing in difficulty as you solve them. The beginning puzzles are fairly simple and involve getting a certain tile to a certain place on the board, but the later puzzles become quite intricate as you have to do things like connect pipes of different colours through complex networks piping. The puzzle element of the game gives you a welcome reprieve from the relentless shooting, and it works remarkably well.

There's much more to Death Call's gameplay as well, including achievements that you can unlock by meeting certain criteria (killing a preset number of a certain type of enemy, for example), power-ups you can pick up during levels to earn you more money, faster reload, or the freezing of all the on-screen enemies, and there's even a temporary shield you can activate by pressing the Spacebar or clicking on the on-screen icon with your mouse. Though the individual elements within the game aren't unique by any means, the way they are fused together in Death Call most certainly makes it one of the most original wild-west games you can play. The graphics and sound are also of high quality, and there's even Death Call for iOS that you can download for your mobile.

Bebop Rating: 8.6/10