Isometric bullet hells are a riot. From slaying unholy amalgamations of your mother in The Binding of Issac to leveling theological monstrosities in Cult of the Lamb, I adore their almost hellish creativity and lovingly horrific charm.
And yet, while I’ve sunk a lifetime into games like Hades, their repetitive reputation as roguelikes can grow exhausting in expecting you to waste hours upon end for the brief promise of progress. Enter Wizard with a Gun, an Isometric Bullet Hell with a Western-flavored open-world dancing upon a time loop, giving us five minutes to save the world before calamity strikes.
Though its story bounced off me, I was enamored with Wizard with a Gun’s satisfying time-loop system and fantastic visual charm that rewarded every step of progress with an exciting new area and enigmatic enemy. Overall, I had a truly magical adventure traversing its strange Western world, and I highly recommend it for fans of Cult of the Lamb or Weird West who want to ditch their grindy roguelike poncho for a magical open-world cape.
Still not convinced? Let me woo you with my enchanted six-shooter and review of Wizard with a Gun below.
A Messy Magical Tale
Despite its strong opening, I was disappointed with Wizard with a Gun’s magically meager story. For our part, we play a gun-toting Wild West magician on a quest to defeat the apocalyptic Chaos and end an insidious time loop in a weird world bustling with animalistic automatons, tentacle-bearded farmers, and Western-obsessed bandits.
Though this setting and the opening animatic of stoic Western magicians gambling aboard a magical boat thrilled me to sink my spurs into another Weird West adventure brimming with exciting eldritch saloons and magic duels at high noon, I was sorely mistaken. Wizard with a Gun’s story is told mainly through prerecorded messages, a few shallow characters, and confusing boss logs sure to turn away even the most narratively-starved cowpoke.
Even if the setting teased interesting reveals about the long-faded Imperium and the shattering of space and time, we’re never handed any interesting answers or characters for our trouble. Worse yet, ending our wizarding Western adventure with an unelaborated fade-to-black that felt like an utter betrayal, especially after such a juicy intro and ex cowgirl Hilda mocking the futility of our quest.
Maybe I’ve been spoiled by Blasphemous 2’s and Cult of the Lamb’s gorgeous animated cutscenes, or a story will make it into the next patch, but I still can’t overlook such a heartbreaking absence after all our Western wizard’s hard work.
All in all, while Wizard with a Gun’s fantastic gameplay can carry on without a strong narrative, I can’t recommend the game’s absent story in its current state. I hope later updates introduce impactful characters or more animated cutscenes to make my Western wizarding more worthwhile.
Western Wizards Gone Wild
Despite its absent story, I reveled in blasting through Wizard with a Gun’s magical wasteland. At its core, the game is a standard affair of survival exploration, giving us a barren hub world to craft magic bullets and potions with a five-minute-long portal to an overworld we can continually reset to explore for resources and defeat bosses.
Though other roguelikes like Cult of the Lamb’s hour-long crusades could feel tedious and grindy, especially if I died during the run and lost everything, Wizard with a Gun’s five minutes ensures our runs are brisk and succinct. While we could die and lose all our resources, the game takes abundant steps to eliminate any grinding by making elemental bullets produce their upgrade materials when used against trees, stone, and metal (i.e. shocking bullets created refined charged bars when destroying metal objects).
Besides eliminating grinding, Wizard with a Gun is highly customizable, allowing us to develop more nuanced guns and armor with our Subnautica scanner gun-esk First Edition book and alternate between over 16 elemental bullet playstyles that freeze, incinerate, and electrocute foes. While some of these playstyles are too powerful, and I stumbled upon a style that insta-killed most bosses and enemies, I appreciate the game gave us enough freedom to explore these playstyles without forcing us to grind for hours to try out a desired build.
My only complaint with Wizard’s nearly flawless gameplay was its extremely clunky Groundlayer gun that allowed us to recreate the floor and explore new areas. While I thought it was a novel concept to watch Chaos destroy the floors during the apocalypse and boss battles, using an analog stick to position each block felt awkward and annoying whenever I was forced to use it to reach a faraway area.
Overall, despite my gripes with the Groundlayer gun, Wizard with a Gun’s gameplay ranked among the best isometric bullet hells I’ve yet enjoyed. Even as I’ve finished my first playthrough, I’m itching to mess with the other bullet playstyles and see what other wild western wizardry I can concoct.
Wacky Wizards and Singing Robots
To complement its fantastic gameplay, the Wizard with Gun has an adorable cast of hand-drawn enemies doting lovingly-realized Western worlds. Though the game feels very much in the same style as Cult of the Lamb, with cutesy enemies and foes, I appreciate the detail that went into making the creatures feel alive, with tiny automatons that would dance and sing and snow warriors that would gleefully wave to as you’d pass by.
Exploring a new section of the world was its own reward as I marveled at pirate ships strewn across a desert or tentacled farmers tending to crops in a poison swamp. Even if the game reused a few enemies, chiefly the reoccurring bandits that employed the same moveset but with a different coat or cape, I adored the inspired enemy designs across each area.
All-in-all, I relished Wizard with a Gun’s breathtaking wizard wasteland and am excited to see what wild areas and weird enemies they add in future updates. Though I’d still like them to add more NPCs and create some quirky character interactions, like joining a wizard posse or dueling one of the robot dogs in karaoke, I was thoroughly satisfied with every eldritch bite and mechanical morsel.
One of the biggest standouts besides the combat and visuals was the smooth acoustic guitar that accompanied each area. Boasting some fine tunes that made each area feel soothing and welcome, listening to Wizard with a Gun’s sophisticated soundtrack was an utter delight that let me embrace my destiny as a cowboy wizard each time I shouted “DRAW” before laying my lightning rifle into an unsuspecting bobcat.
Even if you’re still on the fence about Wizard with a Gun, acoustic guitar fans owe it to yourselves to listen to this wicked western soundtrack.
Stilted Sorcery and Problematic Progression
Though I enjoyed exploring new worlds and absorbing each realm’s smooth guitar, I found Wizard with a Gun’s progression strangely stilted. To specify, progressing in the game requires defeating all the mini-bosses to return their wheels to the time machine, which unlocks new enemies, world features, and, eventually, the main boss gatekeeping the next area.
While this gives us plenty of time to learn creature’s attack patterns and explore new areas, we can only unlock 2-3 mini-bosses at a time, forcing us to head home at least seven spans across a single world before fighting the final boss. Frankly, I would like an option for masochistic-leaning wizards to challenge more dangerous creatures and risk making more progress at the cost of losing their materials.
Beyond that, weapon upgrading felt somewhat tacked on, as it usually meant scanning the same bandit-themed enemies with a different regional style before heading to the weaponsmith Joshua with new area materials. Though I appreciate that higher quality guns have more enchantment slots to augment our playstyle rather than a flat damage increase, I wish the game challenged us to obtain these weapons more creatively, like scanning different enemy types or battling chasing a rare creature.
Overall, though Wizard with a Gun’s progression felt less formulaic and embraced its weirder open-world elements, I’ll admit that it was a quick playthrough that may have felt too short had I been given too much freedom. Though I appreciated Wizard with a Gun’s expedient length and lack of grinding, the option to let me challenge myself more and explore more of the world before its destruction would be a welcome addition.
Magic Mites Infest the UI
Unfortunately, for my first playthrough, I ran into more than a few stutters and even a few crashes that took away some of my progress. Though the stutters were an uncommon occurrence that occasionally gave me trouble, the three crashes kept me on edge.
These issues never ruined any crucial boss encounters or took away meaningful progress, though they were nerve-wracking to deal with and will hopefully go away after a few patches.
Terrific Time Loops
Though there aren’t any new monsters to battle or content to see on a second playthrough, starting a new game can allow you to experiment with unique bullet playstyles and build a world with friends. I had a riot on my second playthrough, growing an army of mechanical dogs with a friend and gradually building a wacky world together.
Frankly, while replaying other open-world games intimidates me (chiefly Subnautica’s titanium grind and suffering through its later lava level), Wizard with a Gun’s material grinding reduction, expediently connected worlds, and cozy setting offer a comfortable second playthrough. The thought of existing in the warm Western setting or blasting through it with a friend sounds like a relaxing way to spend an afternoon.
Overall, while the broad strokes of unlocking new worlds and leveling your character may remain the same, exploring unique playstyles was a welcome feature a second time. I highly recommend a second playthrough of Wizard with a Gun if you have a good friend or two you’d like to slay mechanical monsters and eldritch enemies together.
Overall Pros and cons
- Adorable Enemies and Setting
- Diverse Character Creation
- Elimination of Material Grinding
- Masterful Acoustic Guitar
- Easy to Trivialize Combat
- Repetitive Exploration Steps
- Shallow Story and Characters
- Awkward Groundlayer Gun
Alternative Wizarding Wests for Your Consideration
Frankly, Wizard with a gun isn’t for everyone. The artificial progression, absent narrative, and quick playthrough can deter players looking for a more comprehensive story or extended playthrough.
Fortunately, various isometric roguelikes and weirder wests (especially Weird West) offer a more significant challenge or a more impactful narrative payoff. If Wizard with a Gun wasn’t you’re cup of tea; I highly recommend the titles below:
JT spent 14 hours across two playthroughs battling the forces of Chaos with a magic six-shooter and building a mansion sure to make the spirit of Clint Eastwood jealous. He collected every cogwheel, defeated every mini-boss, and broke the game with a lightning build so great and terrible that it insta-kills every enemy in its path.
Though he enjoyed his first playthrough, he plans to continue his Western wizard quest a second go around with a friend and build a magical posse to strike fear into any bandit or tentacled behemoth that terrorizes the town or cheats at the saloon.
Question: How Many Friends Can You Play with in Wizard with a Gun?
Answer: Wizard with a Gun lets you play with as around five players, though the developers could increase the player limit in future updates. All in all, it’s more than enough to build a sizable magic posse.
Question: How Long is Wizard with a Gun?
Answer: About 11 – 14 hours long. However, it might take more if you’re struggling with the game’s combat or want to spend more time building an elaborate Western wizard mansion.
Question: How Do you Get Better Guns in Wizard with a Gun?
Answer: Scanning the bandit enemies with the First Edition in each biome allows you to return to Joshua the Weaponsmith and craft the next tier of a pistol or shotgun. However, you can also loot better weapons from chests and dead enemies if you don’t mind fighting more formidable enemies.
Verdict 8: Great
All-in-all, I highly enjoyed exploring Wizard with a Gun’s wacky Western world and blasting adorable enemies to smithereens. Its shortened time loops and elimination of grinding removed the worst elements of roguelikes and open worlds while offering a fantastic slew of strangely charming robots, outlaws, and tentacled monsters from beyond the Pale.
While the game suffers from a narrative letdown in leaving all the interesting narrative moments in boss notes and text logs, it could still salvage its confused setting with its promise of new content and bosses on the way. I desperately hope to see more of the phenomenal animated cutscenes that characterized the intro and learn more about the shattered world I saved.
Overall, I highly recommend Wizard with a Gun’s adorable Western world for a compact Western adventure brimming with quirky delight. I genuinely hope more games take a page from this fast-paced open world, remove grinding elements, and reduce the length of roguelike runs.
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