The image of being sucked into a game or a movie we love is a lasting and appealing one. We all enjoy sitting around and discussing the shenanigans we’d get up to in our favorite universe. It’s always a neat way to fool around with the conventions of a genre or have fun with the rules of that specific universe. Of course, as is the case with Johnny Hotshot, it can also just be a great way to add an aesthetic and tone to the gameplay. Though little more than a glorified shooting gallery, Johnny Hotshot is a simple, yet well-made little game, the sort of thing that’s simple fun for a younger audience without being horribly condescending.
After being sucked into his favorite Wild West game, Johnny has to round up 5 main villains in the game across 3 level types.
The first type is a simple shooting gallery. Think of something like Hogan’s Alley- enemies and innocent bystanders pop up and you tap the bad guys to shoot them. There are only 6 places for them to pop up, but they can move pretty quickly, so you can wind up missing quite often. The second type is a more complex shooting gallery, with enemies popping up and then moving around and dropping down on preset paths. Both of these have a main goal- hit the main villain, helpfully bordered in black to distinguish them (though they move so fast it makes no difference). You need crazy reflexes to hit them, or you can just learn their pattern and hammer in the spot they’ll be until you win. Still, they pop up and go back down in less than a second in some cases, so it’s possible to find yourself shooting before they pop up and after, though you’re hitting fire as fast as you possibly can. You can combo the enemies together to get a high score, but since the progression is entirely based on hitting the main bad guy, it’s more or less pointless to even bother with that. It’s just mindlessly slaughtering a bunch of cardboard bandits when they’re not even the ones you’re after- and people are saying Hotline Miami is a good game to make you question the character’s actions!
The last type of game is a side-scrolling horseback chase through the desert as you go after your quarry. He fires at you, you fire at him and dodge, and when his health is gone you lasso him in and win. Since there are 5 wanted posters, that means 5 enemies and 5 times through each of these level types. Well, more than 5 times, really, because progression is based on how many stars you have, and stars are based on how fast you get the bad guy. The difference between getting the amount of stars you need can come down to a second, though, even if you’re chewing through enemies and hitting the boss as fast as possible. The only reason to shoot the no-names is because it makes the main guy come out faster, but even still, you can wind up with the fastest fingers in the world and still miss the guy because he’s up and down before your heart’s finished beating. I wound up having to replay each of these levels at least 3 times just to get all the stars I needed, and it’s so based on memorization that it’s impossible to get it just through mad skills, even if they pay the proverbial bills.
There are achievements to unlock along the way, but the short multiplayer is really all there is to it. It does last a little longer than I thought it would, but that’s also because it’s so difficult to get stars. It’s a little weird since a lot of games based on a “star” progression tend to be a little more forgiving- Angry Birds lets you get through the game with just 2 stars on everything, but this demands a much higher count, requiring a lot of replay until you finally luck into hitting the necessary dude.
This game really leans into its western shooting-gallery look with a lot of flat cardboard-cutout sprites moving around on a stagelike board. They even have little sticks extending out from under them where they move around. It’s also a very colorful game, with bright characters and backgrounds, and it really looks nice on the 3DS screen. The 3D itself is used alright, giving depth to the way the characters slide in and out. It’s well layered and the depth is integrated nicely, so I wound up using the 3D a lot because it was a nice effect.
This is a pretty simple game. You have 3 tasks, you repeat them 5 times, and then that’s all. Well, ideally you play them 5 times, but as I mentioned, you wind up playing all of them a few times just through the way the progression was designed.
In a game with deeper mechanics, this could be seen as a fun challenge to test your skills. No one complains that Super Meat Boy requires endless repetition, for example. However, the window between pass and fail here is so small that it feels more like an oversight to arbitrarily lengthen the game. With so few levels, even though it takes about an hour and a half to get through, you’ve already played them so many times by the end that you’ll likely not want to go back.
Still, it’s a well made game and I did enjoy each level my first time through. It’s just too repetitive and gets dull really quickly. Achievements aren’t good for anything and there aren’t any unlockables, either, so once you’re done you’re done. It’s alright for the cost, though, especially if you’ve got someone younger to entertain for a few minutes.
Despite being somewhat charming and well made, Johnny Hotshot is just too repetitive and asks you to go through each level way too many times for you to really wind up enjoying it fully. Had it eased down on the time demands, you’d have a little more fun, but in the end, it just feels pointlessly challenging in way that confuses itself for depth.