Version tested: Wii
A little bit Duck Hunt, a little bit Sunset Riders. That's the blindingly obvious recipe for Wild West Guns, a self-explanatory cowboy-themed shooting gallery game. There are six levels in all, each split into three shorter challenges. The first two involve shooting different targets, the last one lets you loose on gangs of bandits as they pop out of cover in a variety of predictable western locations.
In each case, your main concern is your score. Successful strings of hits raise the score multiplier, missed shots drop it back to zero. Should you take a hit from one of the bad guys, or accidentally shoot one of the obligatory screaming defenceless female hostages, you lose points rather than health. Progress to the next stage depends on earning silver or gold medals through your fancy shootin'.
That's all acceptable enough, as far as these things go, and there's an agreeably arcade-style sheen to the graphics that harks back to the golden 1990s age of light-gun shooters. What the game doesn't have is variety. Obviously, everything has to revolve around shooting to some degree, but when basic challenges such as shooting balloons or keeping cans in the air are being repeated several times in the six short levels, and the same handful of sprites are reused constantly, the incentive to go back and play some more starts to dwindle. Equally, there's little encouragement to see what comes next. With nothing particular to inspire either replays or progress, you're left with a game that's technically functional but never surprising or exciting.
Accuracy with the remote isn't really an issue, but the game helps you out anyway - offering a generous damage zone for each shot and gently tugging the reticule onto targets when you hover close by. You get so used to the game helping out in this way, that the occasional moments where seemingly accurate shots go wide are all the more annoying.
Livening things up are a two-player mode - which is only more lively by virtue of the other person, not because of anything the game does - and a rather cheeky array of Achievements, unlocked for feats of accuracy, consistency or just demolishing as much of the background scenery or local wildlife as you can. This isn't as much fun as it sounds, since trying to figure out which scenery items can be shot for bonus points is a great way to lose your score multiplier.
The prospect of a downloadable shooting gallery game on the Wii is utterly natural and, in theory, Wild West Guns should tick enough boxes to make it worthwhile. There's an inherent appeal in shooting targets that never seems to dim, but Wild West Guns is far too content to let that natural amusement carry the load for its own tepid design. Hobbled by an obvious lack of ambition, and by the foolish decision to release it at the top end of the WiiWare price scale, what should have been a rootin', tootin' party game is instead a rather limited and repetitive experience.
5 / 10