From the makers of Bendy and the Ink Machine comes a brand-new experience, that still feels familiar. On September 17, 2019, the first episode of Kindly Beast’s new game, Showdown Bandit was released and dropping around the same time was a demo, which I decided to give a shot.
What’s the Scoop?
Showdown Bandit is a bit vague kicking things off. According to the Steam description, a puppet show known as Showdown Bandit entertained many back in the day before it was abruptly cancelled. All of its props, sets, and puppets were left to rot, but yet, the show must go on.
We are abruptly awaken by a figure known as Miss Undertaker and from there, we just sort of wander around a decayed Showdown Valley. We move from set to set, reaching a doorway before the entire set on stage is changed. It’s like a stage play or puppet show in itself. What we’re doing isn’t very clear other than trying to figure out what is going on, but the setting and what little is presented is intriguing enough to pull you in.
Artistic Style and Presentation
Like Bendy, Showdown Bandit leans into its old school entertainment aesthetic, this time being classic puppet shows. Everything is like the old shows from the strings, the jerky movements, the fake sets, and so on. It paints a classic feeling if you’ve ever seen those old shows and like its predecessor, is also a twisted take. Not everything looks exactly right with how old and decayed everything is. There’s certain foes that are unpolished or unfinished, moving without strings themselves. The eerie emptiness of the settings outside of a few sets, the distant echoes in the background, and the simple stage lighting that follows you around just oozes atmosphere in a way that’s almost stronger than Bendy.
Other aspects really shine here, helping with tone and feel. The animations are very good, especially in the opening cutscene. They feel real, but stilted like the toys they are. Voice acting is well done, especially with the brief bits with Miss Undertaker freeing you at the beginning. There’s some light musical strings at a time that are nice, but haunting as well. There’s also a weird filter when a certain enemy attacks that shifts everything to an old black and white TV style. While I noticed some slowness in the frame-rate, it’s a beautiful and off-putting experience.
Gameplay and Issues
The gameplay of this game is very different than I expected it to be. Unlike Bendy, this is a point-and-click style game where you direct Showdown Bandit around each set with the object of reaching a door to continue. It works well enough, though the clicking feels like it needs to be more precise with where exactly you want to go. Bandit will take the quickest route to reach where you clicked, which can end up not being the obvious direction for where you want him to go. With the camera angle fixed in a certain direction, angled downward as if looking onto a set from a balcony, it can be hard to tell where things are and where Bandit can and can’t go.
There’s a few different mechanics to the game. You have pop gun sections where you step onto a certain circle in a room and pull out your gun. It shifts to a third person perspective where you fire at bells and enemies. It works fairly well, and I like how there is a bit of a reload time where the ball needs to be rewound back into the gun. There’s also some light stealth elements where you need to sneak around or dodge enemies in order to avoid getting hurt or killed. Still, with the movement controls and how Bandit goes around the stage, it can be a bit difficult to actually be stealthy. Outside of the instant kill enemy that randomly appears at times (sometimes right on top of you) it doesn’t get frustrating enough for this to be a big problem.
My overall experience with the Showdown Bandit demo is fairly positive. I have some minor issues with how the movement works, but I still enjoyed what I experienced. It’s a simple game dripping in atmosphere that feels very unique in the Indie horror landscape. If you’re looking for something new to try or not sure if you want to dive into the game head on, I say give the demo a shot. It’s about thirty or so minutes long and an intriguing time.