From the people who brought you Yohoho! Puzzle Pirates comes yet another wholesomely absurd video game with a taste for camp: Bang! Howdy, an online, real-time strategy game based on—you guessed it—cowboys. Players can customize their own cowboy/cowgirl profiles and explore their tiny western town (rusted, dusty, and ripe for tumbleweeds), but the real action takes place in the saloon. There, the game pits players against each other for ranked sessions out in the field, where they might wind up in a shootout, a gold rush, or a mad cattle-herding dash. All the scenarios use character teams, plotted movement, and a time-sensitive equivalent to turn-based gameplay. By competing, players can even win gold of their own, useful for buying objects and upgrades.
Bang! Howdy is in its beta stage, which means that, while it's open to all, it's still working out its kinks. New players trying to learn the ropes in the tutorials are bound to get stuck halfway through, left endlessly roaming a tiny landscape with four gold pieces and nowhere to go. Hopefully, at Bang! Howdy's official release, we'll see a more user-friendly game.
Beyond the game: The whole cowboy idea may seem hokey, but the execution is top-notch. Even if real-time strategy isn't your thing, what player doesn't have a soft spot for snazzy graphics, ridiculous text ("Get along, little doggy!"), and music so addictively kitschy that it sends all cowboy boots a-tappin'?
Worth playing for: The authentic Wild West experience. Herd huffy cattle merely by touching them and turning them different colors. Just like in real life!
Frustration sets in when: You've played out the same scenario with the same opponents on the same playing field three times today. With a small server population and a smaller list of options, things can get repetitive.
Final judgment: Somewhere out there, there's someone who's always dreamed of a cowboy-themed real-time strategy game. Hey, you: Go nuts! For the rest of us, unfortunately, Bang! Howdy is just as limited as it is fun.