Boot Hill Heroes Hands-on Impressions From PAX East

A spaghetti western RPG

PAX East 2014 featured a boatload of fun and exciting indie games to play and developers to meet. One developer that stood out from the pack is Dave Welch of Experimental Gamer thanks to his highly addictive and charming Boot Hill Heroes RPG for PlayStation Mobile and PC. We were fortunate enough to get some hands-on time with this Spaghetti Western inspired Wild West RPG while at the show, and got to check out the second entry in the franchise’s planned trilogy. After spending close to 30-minutes playing a few missions with the game’s creator, it’s clear that Boot Hill Heroes is a special indie title that deserves the attention of retro RPG fans across the globe.

Boot Hill Heroes is a planned trilogy (10-12 hours per entry), with the first part being completed, and the second part nearing completion. Its retro game influences should be immediately clear the first time you soak in its 16-bit visuals and sound. Secrets of Mana, Earthbound, and Chrono Trigger are just a few games that come to mind when you first see Boot Hill Heroes in action thanks to its brilliantly designed character sprites and game world.

Boot Hill Heroes offers a classic visual design inspired from the 90's era of console RPGs

Boot Hill Heroes offers a classic visual design inspired from the 90′s era of console RPGs

It should be noted that Dave Welch, the game’s developer, has created everything in Boot Hill Heroes by himself outside of its soundtrack, which is composed by industry star Jake ‘girt’ Kaufman (DuckTales Remastered, Double Dragon Neon, Mighty Switch Force, Blood Rayne: Betrayal, Retro City Rampage.) Dave even built his own game engine to design the game, so Boot Hill Heroes is the embodiment of the indie game movement, and just one great example of what talented game developers can do without the backing of a multi-billion dollar corporation.

Our playthrough began a few hours into the game to allow us to get the full experience of working as a team using Boot Hill Heroes’ drop-in/drop-out co-op mode, which works flawlessly to allow friends to jump into your game without breaking up the action. One player controls the party’s movements when not in battle, but once an enemy showdown takes place the three other players can get in on the action. Boot Hill Heroes features a real-time battle system, so at no point will any of the players be standing around waiting for their turn to perform an offensive, or defensive move.

Using Kid, Doc, Moon, or Rosy (the four main characters) four players can bang out some impressive strategies to combat the game’s rather difficult enemy encounters and boss fights. We personally controlled three of the four characters (I was in charge of Doc and Moon, while Ray was in charge of Rosy, and Dave controlled Kid) while in battle, and found the co-op system to work extremely well, with a heavy focus being put on teamwork. Each of us had to not only be aware of what the enemy was doing, but we also had to be aware of our fellow heroes thanks to the real-time battle system. Each fight is a frenetic exercise in teamwork that really engages you with the action, which in turn allows you to buy into the game’s world and characters.

Even casual enemies can challenge a team's strategies

Even casual enemies can challenge a team’s strategies

Each character can learn a bevy of new skills from wearing particular “job hats”, or equipping items, and these powers must be carefully utilized in battle to ensure the team can be victorious. For example, as Moon I had the ability to raise dead players from the grave, so I had to constantly be on the lookout for fallen comrades while also managing my own offensive maneuvers and defensive strategies. This dynamic completely sucks you into Boot Hill Heroes’ intense battles, and in turn builds a sense of community when played with three other friends. By the end of our demo it felt like we all had bonded over the experience, which is really all you can ask of a video game.

When not in battle the three other players who aren’t in control of the party can still manage their inventories and equip new items that the lead character picks up. Just be aware that these items can only be equipped by one player at a time, so make sure you become “that guy” each time a new item is picked up, and equip it as fast as humanly possible. Newly equipped gear will be reflected on the main characters as well, so there’s some variety to be seen in regards to your character’s appearance. In addition to changing the visual design of the characters, these “job hats” will also lead to new skills for you to use as previously mentioned.

Even though only one player is in control of the party on the main map tagging along is just as fun as being the lead dog thanks to the NPCs and visual design of Boot Hill Heroes. Nearly every non-playable character in the game has dialogue to share, and some even pass along new perks and side-quests. The 16-bit visuals add a nostalgic feel to the game giving it a special place in the hearts of gamers who grew up in the 80′s and 90′s playing console RPGs that still rank high on many gamer’s “Best Games of All-Time” lists. Regardless of its inspirations though, Boot Hill Heroes still manages to stand on its own thanks to its unique 4-player co-op mode, which is unlike any 16-bit RPG we’ve ever experienced.

One player drives movement on the main map

One player drives movement on the main map

Boot Hill Heroes is the game to play if you’ve been wanting to recapture some of the more memorable RPG experiences from your youth. Dave Welch is a serious talent as you’ll surely realize once you see this game in action and remember that he created nearly ever single thing about it by himself. Boot Hill Heroes and Dave Welch are what make the recent indie game explosion so much fun and exciting to explore. Its classic visuals and gameplay hearken back to some of the most memorable RPGs of all-time, but thanks to its Wild West setting it feels both fresh and new.

If Boot Hill Heroes sounds like a game that interests you make sure to hit up its Steam Greenlight page to give it some votes. You can also buy the game for PC through E-Junkie. Part 1 of Boot Hill Heroes can also be purchased from the PlayStation Mobile store using compliant devices, or the PS Vita (search the PSM store on the Vita’s PS Store App.) For more details you can check out the game’s official website. We’ve also included a trailer and some screenshots for Boot Hill Heroes after the break for your viewing pleasure.

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