I grew up a devout Western fan, and watching Clint Eastwood, John Wayne, and Gary Cooper shoot their way out of trouble was my version of cinematic heaven. Black Water, a new game littered with bandits, gunfire, and explosions, definitely passes the eye test. If violence is the name of your game, then Black Water delivers as a mindless shooter. But for $0.99, Black Water is not exactly the fastest gun in town.
If you love cut scenes in-between all the action, then Black Water delivers the goods with a beautifully rendered, comic strip panel type delivery. Between each mission, the story slowly develops, as you play a gunslinger who becomes Johnny Law after the death of a sheriff. Your task is to protect the denizens of Black Water, a town overrun by greedy outlaws waiting to kill you on the spot. The panels truly pop out on the iPad, and this is Black Water's major strength.
But if you want eye catching artwork, staring at your screensaver or reading a virtual comic book should suffice. Black Water fails to distinguish itself as anything more than a standard shooter, which is completely fine if collecting bullets and eviscerating dozens is your measuring stick of gameplay greatness. One specific mission has you tracking down ten shotguns to give to a blacksmith as a way of upgrading your weaponry. Instead of turning this mission into some nuanced battle, the developers decided having a plethora of gunslingers descend on you at a moment's notice. The key is to strategically kill them at different corners of town before they take you down, but the outlaws come at you from everywhere, and instead of the feel of a spaghetti western, Black Water, at least in this instance, resembles a zombie horde film. Ample use of your explosives is paramount to your success, as relying on just your bullets will lead to a quick death.
Black Water's controls are fairly simple. With the use of a finger, you draw a line to lead your gunslinger into any desired direction, and firing your gun requires a simple tap on the screen. If you want to punish your enemies with a stream of bullets, feverishly tapping on your iPad is a must, an activity which grows absolutely wearisome. As for your sticks of dynamite, place your finger on the screen and make a circular motion around the area of intended impact. Once you master the controls, you get to ride a horse for a requisite bonus round, which, thanks to The Magnificent Seven inspired score and the change in gameplay, is highly welcome.
If you don't mind getting your fingers a little sore from the constant tapping of the screen and are a patient gamer, Black Water is actually a decent enough Western to recommend. For a buck, it's definitely worth it for the panels, and you also get a solid selection of weapons upgrades. I just wanted something a bit more inventive, especially since Western themed titles are few and far between. Black Water may have a dark and threatening name, but unfortunately, its waters don't run deep.
App Store Link: Black Water for iPad | By Brisk Mobile Inc. | Price: $0.99 | Version: 1.0.1 | 136 MB | Rating 9+