Tin Star (SNES)

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Prediction

I’m sorry everyone, I have failed you! When I started playing Tin Star, I did it with the intent to beat it and give it a proper full review. Now I’m half way through the game and I’m calling defeat. I simply can’t keep up with the game and it is too much for me to beat without cheating. I know I already use infinite lives cheats to get through most of the games I play, but I draw the line at infinite health. Still, I already have a few hours invested in this game so I’m going to review as much as I’ve seen.

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If you’ve never heard of the game, let me give you a quick introduction. Tin Star is a Western themed game except for the fact that everybody is a robot. You play as the title character Tin Star, the new sheriff ready to clean up the town. Ideally you would play the game with the massive SNES Super Scope light gun, but without that you can also use the regular controller to play. Of course, playing a light gun game with a typical controller has its downsides. But I’m jumping the gun, let’s get to the game and see what it’s all about.

Gameplay

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The game takes place over the course of Tin Star’s first week in town. Before we start each day we get a little bottle shooting practice game. Shoot the bottle and then continue shooting it as it bounces around the screen for more points. It’s a great way to warm up for the day, and more importantly it’s an easy source of cash early on. You’ll need as much money as you can get since you have to pay every time you want to save your progress.

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Now that we’re properly warmed up to the controls, let’s jump into the real story. Tin Star and his companion Mo Crash are waiting to catch the next stagecoach into town when they strike up a conversation is a very googly eyed and manly looking old lady. She recognizes him as the new sheriff in town, to which Tin Star adds a terrible pun about also being the new “Head of Sanitation”, because he’s going to “Clean up the town”.

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After a terrible pun like that, I can hardly blame her for insisting he ride up on the roof with the baggage. In the end it’s for the best since the stagecoach is almost immediately under attack. You’ll have to do your best to shoot all the bad guys as they try to climb aboard and kill you.

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As I mentioned earlier, this game is ideally meant to be played with a light gun, but it can also be played with a regular controller like I am. In this case, a cursor shows up on screen which you can control for your targeting. What’s really interesting about this game is that despite being a light gun game, you can actually see your character Tin Star on screen while you’re playing. You can’t control him at all, but it’s odd for a light gun game not to be in first person perspective.

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Tin Star will be jumping all around the stagecoach in true action movie fashion, and after taking out a few waves of enemies you’ll face the game’s first boss, Joe Twiddley. Joe isn’t a particularly hard boss to fight. He’s somewhat fast and agile, thanks in part to his spring legs, but he only needs a few shots before he’s defeated. It is only the first level after all, so you can’t be expecting too much.

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I’m not entirely sure how you unlock it, but sometimes after you finish a stage you’ll be able to do a bonus round. In those bonus rounds, you have to shoot star targets from around a busty female robot as she spins around on a target board. These stars are small, so hitting them is rather difficult, but they are worth a lot if you do. Either way each stage will end with the undertaker assessing your performance and paying you accordingly. You’ll also be brought back to the stage select screen to be allowed to save your game should you so choose. It would be wise to save often, but as saving costs money, you may want to consider risking it.

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Once we get to town, Tin Star does the gentlemanly thing by offering to carry the Old Lady’s bags for her. However, the Old Lady wants nothing to do with him and says she can manage fine on her own. Tin Star is rather insistent about being a gentleman and tries to forcefully take the bags from her. During their disagreement, the Old Lady eventually shoves Tin Star away, causing him to knock over a potted flower which was sitting in the middle of the road.

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Apparently that innocent looking flower was actually Tiny Johnson’s prize geranium. And in true western fashion, Tiny Johnson doesn’t take kindly to people messing with his prized flowers. This whole thing is starting to feel like a set up. However, it looks like there’s no time to contemplate the situation as the mayor informs us of more pressing issues. It would seem the troublemaker Black Bart is currently busting up the saloon. As the new sheriff in town, we can’t just let that happen. So off we go to the saloon, Tiny Johnson will just have to wait.

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Inside the Saloon, the gameplay is a little different than the first stage. This time it is a first person perspective, but we still have no control over the camera angle. Instead the camera will slowly shift from side to side and you’ll just have to shoot all the enemies as quickly as you can. There are a lot of targets, so you’ll have to be quick about it. I also love the fact that a lot of the background items are interactable. You can shoot the bottles off the bar counter if you want. Or if you shoot the piano it will start playing. You can even shoot up the moose head hanging on the wall for some quick entertainment.

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After clearing out the saloon, Tin Star’s attention is quickly drawn to a pretty female robot outside. She seems to be quite taken by Tin Star as well, judging by the hearts that float up past her head. Unfortunately the romance has to be cut short when Mo arrives with some bad news. It looks like some rustlers have tied up Macnulty and they’re stampeding his cattle.

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This stage plays a lot like the first stage on the stagecoach. The screen will then scrolling right along with the action and you simply have to try your best to keep up with all the enemies. And trust me, there are going to be a lot of enemies trying to kill Tin Star. In addition to all the rustlers, you’ll also have to keep an eye out for sticks of dynamite that are randomly thrown at our hero. There are also quite a few vultures that for some reason have taken offence to our hero.

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Once again, do your best to survive the waves of enemies and you’ll be thrown into yet another boss battle, this time with Bareback Jack. We’re still only on the first day, so Bareback Jack isn’t much of a threat either. When you shoot him it will cause him to go spinning, revealing a nice target strapped to his back. Shoot that too and he’ll go for another spin. Just keep the bullets flying and he’ll be defeated without much trouble.

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With the cattle rounded up, it’s time to head back to town. Unfortunately, Tin Star just can’t catch a break today. No sooner do we get back into town do we hear that Tiny Johnson is also in town and out for revenge after we knocked over his flower. Seeing as we’re in the old west, there’s only one way to settle an argument like this, a good old fashioned quick draw.

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The quick draw stages of the game are the most obvious examples of where having a light gun is vastly superior to using the controller. In these stages, you’ll have to wait until the chamber of your revolver shows up in one of the four corners of the screen. When it does, you have to quickly shoot it to draw your gun, and then quickly aim your shot at the enemy. This can be quite the challenge with the controller since its movements are not nearly fast enough or accurate enough for the task at hand. But I don’t have a light gun to play it with, so we’ll just have to do the best we can.

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Tuesday starts out innocently enough. The town is going to be welcoming its first ever train. Back in western times that was probably a really big deal. While I’m sure it has great significance to the rest of the town, Tin Star is such a hero that he’s only happy to hear he’ll be connected to every jail in the territory now. The mayor however seems to only be concerned that the train will be bringing his caviar. I didn’t know robots ate caviar. Maybe it’s like some weird robot fish eggs. But wouldn’t that just be ball bearings? Whatever, we’re getting off topic now.

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Tin Star and the Mayor ride off together to greet the train, but it looks like Black Bart has his own plans for the train. And so we start our first stage of the day defending the train. Even though it was clearly morning just a second ago, it is now dark out as if in the middle of the night. Chronology aside, you’ll have quite a hard time defending the train. Especially since the bad guys seem to have rented out a few of the cars to set up stationary mini guns.

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Death Count: 1

Lucky for us, Tin Star is quite dexterous. He can jump from car to car without much trouble at all. In fact, at times he’ll even be hanging onto the side of the cars with one hand while shooting the bad guys with the other. And there are A LOT of bad guys this time. It’s honestly hard to keep up with just the controller.

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When you finally make it to the front of the train, you’ll have to face off against Black Bart himself. Somehow the fat bastard has wedged himself inside the smoke stack of the engine car. From there he’ll occasionally pop his head out to throw bombs at you. Once again, a real light gun would be much appreciated here. Because you have to shoot Black Bart to beat him, but you also have to shoot the bombs to avoid being blown to pieces.

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Eventually, you’ll have defeated Black Bart and the train will have successfully reached East Driftwood. All thanks to the actions of Tin Star. He deserves whatever reward he wants after that fight. Unfortunately, while we were out defending the train, the Bad Oil Gang went out and started attacking a wagon train in the area. It looks like we’ll have to take a rain check on that reward until after the Bad Oil Gang is taken care of.

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This is another stage like the saloon from the other day where the camera slowly moves side to side and enemies will pop up from every corner of the screen. There’s really nothing more you can do but to shoot as fast as you can and hope you hit everyone.

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After defending the wagon train, a robot named Schemp comes to tell us that Snake Oil is in town looking for us. However, Tin Star seems more concerned about the fact that Schemp looks suspiciously similar to his sidekick Mo. Turns out the two of them are actually brothers.

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And so we enter another of the quick draw stages. These are already starting to get really hard with the controller. It simply doesn’t move fast enough to draw the gun and then center back onto the relatively small target of the enemy before they draw their own gun. But somehow we manage it, and bring an end to the second day in town.

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Snake Oil is unfortunately still alive after our little shoot out the other day, but thankfully he is safely behind bars where he belongs. Of course, Tin Star has the worst of luck, as Snake Oil’s men are already planning to break him out of jail. As the acting sheriff, we can’t let that happen.

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Death Count: 2

This stage gave me no end of trouble. It’s another one of the side to side levels, but with a twist. This time, in addition to the waves of enemies that usually flood the screen, there are also a few enemies that are trying to blow up the jail. The problem is that they are a blink and you’ll miss them type enemy, and missing them is an instant failure for the level.

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Death Count: 13

This leads you to a tough balancing act between the normal enemies and the instant failure enemies. If you focus on the normal enemies, you’ll more than likely miss your tiny window of opportunity to actually prevent the destruction of the jail. However, if you focus too much on the jail, you’ll be shot full of holes by all the other enemies on screen. This stage alone was enough to make me want to quit, but after a handful of attempts, I somehow managed to beat it.

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Turns out the whole stage is kind of pointless in the end. Even if you successfully defend the jail, Snake Oil still manages to tunnel his way out to freedom anyway. In the end we have to chase him down again anyway. So saddle up on your horse Aluminum and go after him!

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Things just keep ramping up faster than I expected. On top of all the bad guys trying to kill you, there are dozens of sticks of dynamite flying through the air ready to explode in your face. These are just such small targets moving very quickly, it’s nearly impossible to hit them. And you can completely forget about hitting ALL of them.

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When you’re not avoiding explosions, you have to keep an eye out for dive bombing vultures. The problem with these guys is that they simply move too fast to react to. By the time you see them and get the cursor over towards them, they’ve already hit you and flown off. Then there’s the fact that they usually fly in groups. After being hit by one, you’ll be momentarily stunned and have no hope of recovering in time to shoot any of the others.

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In the end, you never do manage to recapture Snake Oil. To make things worse, you’re confronted by Bugsy as soon as you get back into town. So get ready for yet another quick draw, all because you knocked over a stupid flower back on your first day in town.

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Death Count: 15

This is probably going to be the last quick draw I can manage with the cursor. The amount of time you are given just isn’t enough anymore to accomplish with the cursor alone. I need to invest in the super scope at some time. Wouldn’t that be a sight? Doing a quick draw with a bazooka!

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The next day starts peacefully enough. Tin Star is bathing, while at the same time insisting to Mo that too much bathing will weaken a man. Also that he can’t wash his hair, because he only takes his hat off on Sunday, and it isn’t Sunday yet. Also I thought everyone was robots, Tin Star is pretty ripped and muscular for a robot.

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Anyway, the peaceful bath time is quickly interrupted by a bunch of Women and Men shooting up the town. At least that’s what Tin Star thought, Mo was quick to correct him that it’s actually the Bad Oil Gang in disguise. Looks like we’re going to have our hands full today as well.

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However, Tin Star is a good guy, and the Good Guy Code says never to shoot women and children. So it looks like Tin Star might be helpless to defend the town at the moment. That’s when Tin Star notices a convenient loophole in the rule. It clearly says not to shoot Women AND children. But these are just women with no children in sight. So grab your gun and start shooting!

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The journey through town is going to be a dangerous one. There are just so many members of the Bad Oil Gang it’s unbelievable. They’re around every corner. They’re on the roof tops. They’re bouncing around on springs. They even have stationary mini guns set up.

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Death Count: 18

With so many enemies, Tin Star is jumping all over the place. Occasionally he’ll be running from rooftop to rooftop. At one point you even manage to dive off a roof and into a water barrel down on the ground. Good luck keeping up with all the action.

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If you somehow manage to survive the journey through town, you’ll face off against the Blousey Bros! These criminals dressed up in flowery dresses and are prancing around between the water barrels trying to hide from you. What makes this so hard is the fact that for some reason there are innocent old ladies also hiding in the water barrels.

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Death Count: 23

If you shoot them while they’re trying to offer you some cake, you’ll end up taking damage for you error. Not only that, but you’ll fail to shoot the real bad guy and end up getting shot by them as well. Then of course there are the instances where two of them pop out of the barrels at once. Throughout the whole game I’ve been complaining that you simply can’t move fast enough to hit multiple targets with the cursor, and this is just another example of that flaw. The only redeeming quality of this boss fight is that it is perfectly patterned. There are no random elements to trick you up, and after enough failures, you eventually memorize the pattern well enough to beat the level.

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After finally making it past the Blousey Bros, we find out that the rest of the gang is busy trying to rob the Driftwood Savings and Loan. What is wrong with this town that there is this much crime?! So we saddle up again and head over to defend the bank now.

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Death Count: 28

This is another side to side shoot out where you can instantly lose at any moment if you fail to shoot one of the bombers. And you know what, I quit now. This is all just too much to keep up with. Are there any people in this town that aren’t criminals? Haven’t I already murdered hundreds of bad guys already? Is it possible that this town is populated entirely by criminals? In which case why am I bothering, I quit!

Verdict

Price – $10.47

It’s not a bad price, and it is a very innovative game. But I would highly recommend only buying it if you have a super scope and a CRT TV.

Play Again? – Maybe

This game frustrated the hell out of me. But I would LOVE the chance to play it with an actual super scope. I can imagine this becoming one of my favorite light gun games if I actually HAD a light gun to play it with.

Total Deaths – 28 Deaths

I’m blaming a lot of those deaths on the cursor. It simply isn’t fast enough or accurate enough to keep up with the action on the screen.

Fun Rating – 7 / 10

Most of my review of this game has been complaining, so I want to take this moment to say that I actually did really enjoy this game. It is hard, and very frustrating, but it is also a lot of fun. I’ve said it way too many times already, but this is a game that clearly needs to be played properly with an actual light gun to get the full enjoyment from the game. However, I do want to praise it for even giving it a controller option of play. Most light gun games don’t even consider the controller as a possible alternative play mode. The action might be a little too much for the cursor to keep up with, but at least they tried. The story segments are also fairly funny, with a lot of fun wordplay. I honestly do wish I could finish this game because I’m curious to see how the whole thing ends. The graphics and animation were also top notch. Everything has a very cartoony look to it, and all the movements are very fluid. It’s also interesting in the approach to the genre. Even though it’s technically an on rail shooter, it’s interesting to actually be able to SEE your character on screen. Usually these types of games would be in first person with the enemies shooting directly at you. In the end, everything blends together to a rather unique and fun game. It’s just unrelentingly hard at points when you’re trying to play with the controller. Even so, it’s not an overly rare or expensive game. Why not pick it up and see if you can make a better sheriff that I did.

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You can keep the town! I don’t care anymore!!

 

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