From the studio that brought us such eShop disappointments as Zombie Slayer Diox, Samurai G and clear game of the year contender Chuck E. Cheese's Arcade Room, we now get a Western-themed mess called Johnny Hotshot. And it manages to feel almost consciously terrible.
The story of this game is irrelevant, but since the developer saw fit to include a long and sloppily rendered cutscene explaining what happened, we'll let you know that a young man spills some soda on an arcade game and gets sucked into it, which is a scientifically sound plot development if there ever was one. Unfortunately the game he was playing was a really bad one, so now you're stuck with Johnny Hotshot.
Why we'd need a story for what's basically a poorly-designed shooting gallery is beyond us, but there you go.
As Sheriff Hotshot you'll be able to play five smaller shooting galleries — so, wait, there are shooting gallery machines within the shooting gallery machine? — but the majority of players won't bother to play anything more than the first two. After all, additional galleries are only unlocked by perfecting previous ones, which would be a difficult enough task even if the game wasn't so terribly handled. As it stands, investing the time to ace these mini-games is an act of wilful insanity.
Each of the galleries consists of three sub-stages. In the first sub-stage, you'll move a cursor around and shoot targets. In the second sub-stage you'll move a different cursor around and shoot targets. In the third sub-stage you'll move a third cursor around and shoot a different target. It's a similar approach no matter what you'll be doing, and it never gets any more fun.
If there's one thing that unquestionably should work here, it's the controls. After all, aiming and shooting isn't going to be much fun if you don't hit what you're aiming at, and programming a simple cursor shouldn't be all that difficult. Leave it to Johnny Hotshot, then, to show you just how wrong it's possible to get things.
For starters, you don't really move the cursor so much as you snap it to different positions with the circle pad. You can only aim at pre-determined points on the screen, and the cursor "hops" to those spots in a pretty jerky way that's difficult to get used to. What's more, it doesn't even behave in a consistent way; move it left or right and it'll snap back to a central position when you take your thumb off the circle pad. Move it up or down, however, and it won't snap back, making it needlessly difficult to get used to the game's behaviour, particularly in the heat of battle.
You shoot with A and reload with B. That much is fine, but the firing — while it feels responsive — is cheap and spotty. Press A and you'll hear the gun go off, but it may or may not actually hit the target depending upon what the game feels like doing at any given time. Clearly you didn't miss the target since the pre-determined firing points makes that impossible...it's just shoddy programming, and it gets particularly irritating when it prevents you from blasting through a level, which happens often.
However, we are going to give you a very valuable tip: you can fire by tapping representations of the targets on the touch screen. Yes, this Johnny Hotshot has an entire secondary control scheme that is neither mentioned in the game nor the manual. We learned this only after struggling with the terrible analogue controls to the point of madness, and declaring it was impossible to ace certain levels that way. Sure enough it was...you need to tap the touch screen instead, despite the fact that the game explicitly taught us a completely different set of controls. Well done, Johnny Hotshot.
You move from sub-stage to sub-stage when you shoot a special target, which represents the main villain for that gallery. Oddly, though, the game requires you to hit him as early in the match as possible in order to ace the level and therefore unlock the rest. The reason this is strange is that it causes the match to end early, which prevents you from building your score. For a score-attack game, that's a pretty bizarre requirement, and the two goals — finishing the level and getting a high score — are mutually incompatible...something that wasn't taken into account at all when designing the game, and which leaves it feeling like an uncoordinated mess.
What's more, if you miss the target, there's nothing you can do. You simply have to wait out the level until it ends, because it only appears at certain times and if you miss it, you can't move on.
Of course you can reset the level and try again, but doing so requires a lengthy reload as Johnny Hotshot is absolutely packed with loading screens. Precisely what the game is loading we can't say — it's certainly not better graphics, good music or any fun — but it sure loads a lot of it. And as if to add insult to injury, reloading a sub-stage actually requires the game to cycle through the lengthy loading animations for all the previous sub-stages as well. It's absolutely awful design, and considering you'll have to reload many times in order to beat the levels fully, it positively dares you to stop playing.
Additionally, the game won't save your progress automatically; you need to remember to press a "save" button, which brings up another loading screen and then drops you right back at the same "save" button with no confirmation that any progress was retained.
Each of the three sub-stages in each of the galleries offers up to three stars, depending upon how quickly you clear them. If you collect enough stars you can unlock three other galleries, but the barrier for entry here is so steep and the game's interface so difficult to fight through that we can't see many people bothering to do that. Five tiny, sloppily-assembled shooting galleries is a paltry enough package as it is, and most players won't see more than two.
Johnny Hotshot is terrible.
Johnny Hotshot is more than just a bad game; it's a bad game that demands perfection, so that even those adventurous players who are willing to give this a shot are unlikely to see most of it. With a terrible control scheme, absurdly plentiful loading screens and an interface that seemingly keeps trying to shrug you off and discourage you from playing it, this is definitely a download you'll want to let ride into the sunset without you.