Indie Quickie: Probably Archery

It takes a lot longer to fully review a game than it does to get a good sense of what a game is. Even with a full-time staff of writers it would be impossible to fully review the thousands of games that are released every year. Indie Quickie is our way to offer snap impressions of the countless indie titles small teams and one-man game studios are releasing literally every single day, and to help guide players to worthwhile games they may not have heard about before.

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What is it? The hardest goddamn archery simulation you’re ever going to play.

Who made it and where can you get it? South East Games originally created Probably Archery as part of last year’s 7 Day FPS game jam, but the full version is now available on Steam and Humble Store for $11.99. (A 25% off launch week discount is available until February 13th.) If you prefer to try before buying, the original prototype is available for free download from the 7DFPS game page.

How much did we play? After a fair amount of time on the practice range, I attempted all eight play modes at least once, replayed a few multiple times, and managed to successfully finish them all except for the berserker wave survival and the flying egg shoot. Attempts to find matches in the game’s multiplayer modes–Team Deathmatch, Co-op Horde, and Zombie Soccer–came up empty as the servers have been completely dead the few times I’ve checked.

Any technical concerns or hardware requirements you should know about? Control options are available for gamepads, as well as mouse and keyboard. Both schemes are complicated, but for me mouse and keyboard felt most natural. Frankly, the only real requirements for playing this game are patience, persistence, and nimble fingers and hands. Hardware requirements should be the least of your concerns here.

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Why should you play it?

    • Drunk William Tell Simulator: As lousy as Nigel is as a surgeon in Surgeon Simulator 2013, the playable avatar in Probably Archery is an even worse bowman. The controls for nocking an arrow and letting it fly at various targets laid out in the environment before you are similarly clumsy and complicated, resulting in a play experience that is equal parts aggravating, hilarious, and strangely fulfilling. What makes firing arrows so challenging is the way you have to individually manipulate each arm, and each arm’s joints, into place. Without pressing any other buttons, scrolling the mouse bends and rotates the right hand (which draws and holds the arrows) at the wrist. Holding down the E key while scrolling bends/rotates the right elbow, and holding down Q allows you to make broad arm movements from the shoulder joint. Maneuvering the left arm holding the bow follows the same combination of keys, only you have to simultaneously hold down on the Shift key to activate the opposite limb. Once the arms are in position, you press and hold on the left mouse button to draw an arrow from your quiver and then do the same with the right mouse button to nock the arrow, pulling back with the mouse to draw the bowstring before releasing to fire away. Just getting an arrow in line with the bowstring is the hard part, and you will likely find yourself fumbling over your mouse and keyboard (or gamepad) for at least 15 minutes until you’re able to achieve enough comfort to actually attempt shooting targets for real instead of practice. Once you understand the positioning and get a feel for the little game of finger Twister that’s required to man the controls, it’s actually not that difficult to begin hitting stationary targets with respectable accuracy–even if the bow and arrow are completely cockeyed. Graduating to moving targets and action oriented challenges that demand quick bow and arrow alignment, however, won’t come as easily. But, for the type of player who embraces the challenge of mastering a game’s quirky intricacies without any form of handholding, there is great satisfaction to be had by overcoming these intended hurdles.

    • Like an Egg in a China Shop: Dealing with the purposefully clunky controls is made less infuriating by the game’s prevailing sense of humor which makes it clear up front that you shouldn’t be taking things too seriously. Comedy comes in large part through the various types of modes the game throws at you, beyond the stages that involve aiming for the bull’s-eye on red and white circular targets. For example, one mode recreates the legendary tale about William Tell shooting an apple off of a person’s head, only in this game you’re shooting the apple off of a foolish buff guy who himself has an apple for a head, and who also happens to have gulped down a few bottles of liquid courage before agreeing to the stunt. The feats of Robin Hood would seem to be the inspiration for another mode which involves interrupting a hanging by splitting the rope used in the execution to free the poor chap being killed off before he runs out of breath and his balloon head with a smiley face on it explodes. Another mode sees similar apple-headed buff dudes–this time armed with swords and shields–charging at you in waves like those headless kamikaze bombers from Serious Sam. They even belt out an eerily similar wailing battle cry as they come blitzing in. And then there is the egg shootout, which places you inside a china shop filled with tables and shelves of valuable dinnerware and tasks you with shooting a total of 10 winged eggs which fly around the shop one at a time. But there’s a catch: A dollar counter gradually ticks down over time and drops in larger chunks whenever you miss your target and destroy any of the surrounding china. So, the objective is to crack all of the eggs with an arrow before the allotted wallet of cash hits zero. After four or five tries, so far the best I’ve been able to do is two eggs. I suck, but at least I’m having a good laugh while I suck!

Parting Thoughts: If you’re looking for a realistic archery sim supported by intuitive controls, you’re looking in the wrong place. Probably Archery serves its purpose as a goofball archery shooting gallery, but in no way would I ever describe it as realistic or easy to pick up and play. But that doesn’t mean it’s not a quiver full of fun. Like Surgeon Simulator, Probably Archery succeeds mostly as a comedy of errors, with gameplay that is only as rewarding as the amount of effort you put into feeling out the awkward handling. Once you figure things out, there is a sense of pride and accomplishment that washes over you whenever a target is hit. It’s not an easy game to get along with, but I say nock your arrow (if you can) and give it a shot!

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!