One of the things I’ve learned as a professional musician is that the more exposed you are, the better you have to be. What this basically means is that if it’s just a singer and an acoustic guitarist, they both have to be really good. If you’re listening to an eighty-piece orchestra, you may not notice a couple of players who aren’t up to scratch. To an extent, the same is true with computer games. If you have a game with really basic visuals, then the gameplay really has to be top-notch. The latest game I was asked to review for Nintendo Enthusiast was 12 Is Better Than 6. This is a game with a very stripped-down visual style. So, does the gameplay shine through and is it worth your money? Let’s have a look.
Black, white, and red all over
12 Is Better Than 6 is a hand-drawn top-down shooter. And this time when I say top-down, I really mean top-down. There’s no isometric view here. All you see of characters are the tops of their hats. There are only three colors: black, white, and red. (Yes, I realize black and white aren’t technically colors.) Everything in the world is black or white, and once you start killing swathes of enemies you’ll discover what the red is for. When I started the game, I wasn’t quite convinced by the art style. After a few hours, though, I really came to love it. It took me a while to be able to spot enemies in the levels. I soon figured out that everything is just an outline except for enemies who are shaded. This realization improved my progress through the game to no end.
You play as a Mexican who has awoken as a slave in a mine with no memory of his past or even his name. As you progress through the game you’ll learn your name, backstory, and motivations. You will face off against soldiers, rangers, American Indians, fellow Mexicans, cowboys, and pretty much anyone who can hold a weapon. Various real-world locations are featured, mostly centered around the Texas area. It’s not like the game features memorable landmarks, though. These could be any locations from the Wild West. There are saloons, local jails, small churches, tents, and various other places that help to place you in that time period.
Choose your play style
Gameplay is similar to in a twin-stick shooter. However, you can choose whether to play stealthily or just go on a full-out assault. If you decide to take the stealth approach, then you’re going to want to use your knife and (when you gain access to it) a bow. If you decide to go on the charge, then you are going to need twitch reactions. Most enemies are lethal and you need to approach them tactically to take them down. This is a one-shot kill game, not just for enemies but for you as well. Fortunately, levels are never that long, so if you do get killed, you don’t have to go that far back. Shooting enemies feels good and the lock-on targeting can be a literal life-saver.
Ultimately, I had a lot of fun with 12 Is Better Than 6. It’s not your standard twin-stick shooter. There’s a huge tactical element alongside the standard twitch shooting. The pacing adds to the depth of the game, with slow deliberate movement punctuated with flurries of sharp violence. It took me a while to get used to the reloading mechanics, but the functional way it works adds to the realism. Visuals may seem a little rough at first glance, but I really came to love them over my 6 (or so) hours with the game. The monochromatic look is great and the splashes of blood really help to elevate it. The story is likewise interesting, with fun and engaging characters. I came across a few frustrating levels, but these were rare and, at the end of the day, made me really appreciate the fun I had been having.
A review code was provided by the publisher.