For some odd reason, we here at the office have never considered careers as serial criminals. After all, we’d be so good that we’d put all the other career criminals out of a job. Fortunately, we have video games to simulate our thwarted ambitions; although we’ve never staged a robbery ourselves, there are plenty of video games which allow us to do just that, and show us how terrible we would be if we ever tried to do it for real.
One such game is Getaway Shootout, which comes to us from New Eich Games. New Eich is a Minnesota-based racket (keeping up with the criminal terminology) which, in the past, has given us such excellent titles as Ping Pong Chaos, Rooftop Snipers and Tube Jumpers. Its latest effort shares a distinctive art style with those games, all flailing 2D pixel models and retro-style backgrounds.
It’s not just the art style, though. Getaway Shootout is described by its creator as “a chaotic race to the finish game” in which players can either choose to race AI opponents or a second player in local competitive multiplayer. Just like New Eich’s other titles, this game places a pretty large emphasis on its central mechanics as opposed to any artificial framework; you won’t find a serious single-player campaign here, and you won’t find much in the way of a supporting game structure.
What you will find is a fun, surprisingly deep and consistently hilarious experience which rewards careful learning of its core mechanics. Getaway Shootout is, at its core, similar to physics-based racing and puzzle games like Trials and Joe Danger, but its nearest neighbors could be said to be controls-based games like QWOP and its ilk. The idea is to reach the getaway vehicle (or “get to the choppa” in the game’s quaint ‘80s homage parlance) before your compatriots do, for you are not a good criminal if you do not betray those closest to you.
To accomplish this, you’ve effectively got two tools at your disposal: movement and weaponry. This might not sound particularly revolutionary, but holdeth yon horses, for Getaway Shootout has a trick up its sleeve. You see, it’s not actually possible to move left and right in the game, which is to say that walking, running, striding or any other form of lateral movement are all impossible.
Instead, you have two keyboard keys, each of which is used to make your character jump either left or right. Pressing and holding the key will “charge” the jump, so it’s more powerful, but the characters in Getaway Shootout are tricksy blighters who can’t be trusted to stand on their own (darned criminal class), so the longer you wait to jump, the closer to the ground you’ll be. The game thus becomes one of trades; do you make that high, short jump, or do you catapult yourself forward to try and get a power-up before one of your rivals does?
It’s these miniature decisions which are shot through the entirety of Getaway Shootout. Each round consists of a number of stages, and the first to reach the escape vehicle in 3 of said stages is the winner. The AI isn’t pulling any punches here, so you won’t have much time to get used to the controls, and since they’re quite different to anything you’re likely to be accustomed to, expect to lose a few times before you get that all-important grasp. Getaway Shootout might have benefited from a dedicated tutorial stage which allows players to get to grips with its mechanics before being let loose, but it’s not a deal-breaker.
Getaway Shootout appears to have been designed with fun in mind rather than fairness. Many stages will quickly descend into farcical battles over a power-up (more on which in a moment), and if an AI opponent gains the upper hand, you’re unlikely to see them again as you’re left scrabbling for their leftovers. That’s fine, though; seeing the AI claim another victory was more than enough to spur us on to try harder. It’s testament to Getaway Shootout’s dedication to organic tutorials that it never stops the action to crowbar in control instructions for the player, choosing instead to let them take their losses on the chin and try harder next time. Perhaps, in hindsight, a tutorial stage would run counter to the design philosophy of the game.
Each stage isn’t just jumping for your life. There are also power-ups to collect, which range from your standard pistol and shotgun through to cartoon cherry bombs and shields. Each of these power-ups adds a new dynamic to a battle, whether that be fleeing in terror from the criminal clutching the pistol or piling onto the person with the bomb so everyone goes with their unfortunate victim. Grabbing a power-up turns the tide of a stage if you’re clever with it; the game’s physics mean that it’s never easy to use weapons, so the power-up is both a blessing and a curse, a new set of controls to struggle with and a weapon to help you win.
In short, Getaway Shootout is a blast. It’s probably better experienced with a human opponent rather than the AI, if only because these kinds of games live and die on their water-cooler “remember when we did that” moments, but the single-player is great for passing a lunch break or two. Here is a game with fun at its core; it may not always be fair, but it’s always a laugh.