Sombrero: Spaghetti Western Mayhem is a western-styled multiplayer platformer that’s big on shooting and even bigger on chaotic shooting. With over a dozen characters to choose from, and plenty of unique game modes to pit them against in, there’s plenty here for shooting fans of local and online play to gather friends and foes alike in any scenario. I’ve explored this genre before in the past and have always enjoyed the craziness that ensues when things get heated, but there seems to be a missing spark bringing this particular concoction to life.
Leaping from platform to platform, trying to keep track of bullets whizzing by, and swooping in to snatch up some loot for a chance to win the spoils of combat is what Sombrero is all about. It’s hardly a surprise there’s no ‘story’ to speak of as players are just tossed into the menu screen with a few options letting them join a match locally or online. This hands-off style suits the genre well as calm quickly turns to chaos within the first few minutes of starting a new match.
I enjoy a variety and choices in platformers since they offer a challenge when facing off against opponents. Sombrero offers a smidgen in those regards: available weapon grabs like dynamite can be tossed about to destroy other players in one hit…but also takes out chunks of platforms in the process. The addition of random blasts appearing in between the endless cycle of bullets and respawns popping each match makes it easy to get caught up in the excitement.
Several times I completely lost track of attempting to win matches and instead focused on firing off as many bullets as possible at my hapless opponents. Sadly, this is where the fun starts to ebb as endlessly jumping and firing does get old after about the first ten to twenty minutes into the chaos.
Strategy isn’t a big factor here and I wish it was. Spawn points are randomized, so when a player dies they lose their bearings during a match and usually end up being killed in those vital moments. There’s no ‘rest’ period where a player can catch a breath as they’re thrown right back into the melee. I died more than a few times due to this mechanic and assumed it was part of the experience, but again it seemed odd with this style of platformer.
The downside is the praise for what seemed to be a promising experience ended up falling short of my expectations. While the design of the characters is quirky, they don’t offer any special abilities. Even a boost in speed, a higher jump, or the ability for bullets to bounce off walls for some of the characters would have livened up the matches exponentially.
Sombrero isn’t especially complicated since there’s no real ‘end goal’ except to not get shot of course, but it’s hard to enjoy what little Sombrero has to offer when there’s so little information given about the controls, which aren’t very intuitive and there’s no optional tutorial to take to walk new players through how the game mechanics work. Instead, players are tossed into bullet filled battles expected to know how to work everything from the start.
While Sombrero lacks in variety when it comes to abilities and additional weapons, characters are vivid in design, each with their own personality in the way they’re dressed or how facial features were arranged. Some of them are a bit lacking, but overall most are a joy to look at.
Some of the environments feature vivid colors and art concepts; I’m a particular fan of the graveyard map. There are shades of dark purple, crosses lined along the platforms, and a massive grey moon looming in the background. The entire concept has a child’s drawing slant to each map which offered a simple charm that encouraged the chaotic matches. The artwork featured in the Salon map had none of the creativity or colors of the graveyard, but instead the hues of brown felt washed out and faded.
The downside is the design map felt copy and pasted. Bullets are able to travel through the platforms, which makes matches feel a bit stilted. On the other hand, considering the entire strategy of ‘jump, jump, shoot’ is all that’s left in Sombrero, I assumed the developers over at PixelMetal would have given combatants a chance to gain an advantage over their opponents in the environment (think Smash Bros). Instead, players are left with barebones platforms that offer no cover from oncoming bullets and they just have to hope they jump fast enough to avoid each one.
Another highlight is the music itself playing during the menu screen and selections. The classic ‘Western’ style soundtrack is present and accounted for, inspiring a sense of two cowboys standing off against each other in a tumbleweed town.
Sombrero: Spaghetti Western Mayhem gets brownie points for being a decent time waster, but beyond that there’s little substance to the experience. There’s too little variety in level design and strategy to keep anyone’s interest for long. With over a dozen characters to choose from, perhaps if each had a special or ability they could use, matches would be more interesting. The lack of a tutorial also felt as if the player’s experience could be cheapened since there’s no explanation on controls or even the different game modes offered. While I can’t call Sombrero a ‘bad’ game, it’s certainly not one of the better chaotic platformers I’ve had a chance to spend time with, either.