It was a different time. Unfulfilled by the opportunities available to them at home, young men and women struck out into the world to seek their fortunes. Often with nothing but a handful of quarters to their name, these intrepid souls migrated in hopes of manifesting their destinies with three letters and a high score. It was the time of the arcade. And in this time, the allure of full-motion video still burned bright, and games like Fast Draw Showdown offered players the chance to duel their way through a Wild West outpost full of cheesy, costumed actors. More than 15 years after its arcade debut, Fast Draw Showdown offers the same opportunity, albeit with the PlayStation Move controller instead of a plastic light gun. Unfortunately, this old-timer is out of its league on the PlayStation Network. There is definitely some nostalgic fun to be had with this blast from the past, but $9.99 is too much to ask for a game this shallow and repetitive.
The name of the game pretty much says it all. With Move in hand, you select your difficulty and embark on an eight-round tour through a dusty Western town full of people with death wishes. Each round is made up of six gunfights that all play out in the same way. You see your opponent in front of you. He or she delivers a cheesy line that may involve a threat, a pun, a movie reference, or any combination of the three. The townsfolk scatter, and at the insistence of a big red prompt, you tilt your Move controller down to holster your weapon. The tension builds. Suddenly, the prompt proclaims "Draw," and you whip your controller up to aim and fire as your opponent draws and attempts to gun you down. If you lose, you see a cracked screen with bullet holes and are possibly taunted by the victor. If you win, your enemy crumbles to the ground, possibly uttering some silly parting words. The score screen comes up and gives you points for speed, accuracy, and bonus (awarded for headshots). This score is added to your running tally, and it's on to the next fight.
That process repeats until the round is over. If you've won every duel, you progress to the next round. Otherwise, you go back and replay the fights you lost at the cost of one life. Run out of lives, and it's game over, unless you've selected infinite lives, in which case you just continue repeating the round until you beat it. Every character does the same thing every time, so once you've lost to an opponent, it's much easier to win the second time through. Things are a little different when you duel more than one character, because you have to shoot the one who draws first. The aggressor changes randomly, but you can usually spot a telltale difference that reveals which of the few options is going to play out (for example, a windblown jacket or a quick hand movement).
Yet even when you know who is going to shoot you, it isn't always easy to plug that opponent first. You must keep your controller tilted below a certain angle, or else you get chided by Wes Flowers, an actual quick-draw specialist and the host of Fast Draw Showdown. If Wes has to speak to you a second time, it's a foul, and you forfeit the duel. Drawing reasonably quickly and aiming true will likely get you through the first round or two, but some of your opponents make things tougher. One fellow stands at the end of a long alley, making for a very small target, while others won't go down with one shot. And as you progress, Fast Draw Showdown regularly demands reaction times of under one second. The visual "Draw" cue can help, though only on the easiest difficulty level, so your best bet is to watch the actor closely and listen for the audio cue of the gun leaving the holster. Even when you're tuned in, however, some opponents are just too fast, forcing you to resort to repetition and anticipation rather than a sharp eye and a quick arm.
Fast Draw Showdown doesn't get repetitive only when you're trying to beat one tricky opponent, however. Even when you're progressing quickly from one opponent to the next, there's just one thing to do in this game: duel. Online leaderboards might entice high-score hounds, and the two-player mode lets you share the limited fun by taking turns or competing simultaneously to see who is faster, but you're still just dueling. The campy acting and nostalgic appeal of full-motion video definitely provide some amusement, but the enjoyment subsides as you realize that in this decade, Fast Draw Showdown is little more than a minigame. It's possible to spend hours beating the toughest opponents in the game, but the paltry amount of content and entertainment simply doesn't justify the purchase price. Even if the hokey antics of a bygone era trigger a nostalgic yearning, be warned: Fast Draw Showdown is an overpriced and underwhelming tourist attraction.