Michael Cimino's seminal 1978 drama The Deer Hunter may feature mesmerising performances from the likes of Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken and the late (and criminally underrated) John Cazale, but perhaps its most famous contribution to modern cinema is that scene where De Niro, Walken and John Savage's characters are forced to play Russian Roulette in a Vietnamese prison camp.
If you've ever watched that movie and for some unknown reason thought to yourself, "You know what, I'd love to be in that position", then you might be interested to know that a Kickstarter campaign has launched for a NES title which aims to recreate the tension of potentially blowing your brains out.
Super Russian Roulette uses the iconic Zapper and loads of sampled speech to create the ultimate high-stakes multiplayer party game. You and two friends pass around a Zapper which has one "bullet" in the chamber. As each player pulls the trigger, the on-screen cowboy comments on the situation via over 4 minutes of speech in 8KHz delta pulse code modulation, all made possible thanks to the cartridge's 1 megabyte size.
Developer Andrew Reitano explains how the project came to life:
The NES has a special place in my heart. So when I set out to make a game using the zapper, my intention was to work deliberately: to push its limits and show what it could do. I thought the result might be funny, but I didn't think it would be fun. Along the way, my technical endeavor turned into a project designed to amuse my friends. I worked on it with their input, and the game skewed dark and weird. We got a lot of satisfaction out of creating an NES-centered social experience that let people bond over discomfort.
We also liked the idea of a shooting game where the non-player character is on the same footing as the players. Besides giving the monitor a seat at the table and a cowboy hat, I used every 6502 assembly programming trick I know to make the cowboy lifelike. The cart's designed to have room for a bunch of stuff too impractical to have ever been on an actual game—like a huge on-screen character with AI and over four minutes of a crazy human's cowboy impression. Finally after almost no discussion, my friend Rob sent me an email attachment with 100 .wav files named "cowboy.zip." Super Russian Roulette was born.
All of the (many many) late nights I spent programming were instantly validated the first time I witnessed the cowboy turn friends against each other, slamming their fists against the table and chanting in unison with a fictional character. I've heard the cowboy-assigned nicknames stick with people long after the game is over, and the players looked at each other as much as they looked at the screen which really is something magical.
I was floored to hear about how many people still had their NES hooked up in their living rooms, and many asked me for a copy but I had no plans to release Super Russian Roulette. Until Fantastic Arcade. Super Russian Roulette won the Fantastic Arcade 2015 Audience Choice Award. It was a huge honor to be considered alongside some of the best indie games of the year.
The campaign has 32 days remaining and has raised over $11,000 of its $20,000 goal.