Review: Johnny Hotshot

JHS_TitleScreen

After mixing it up with Mr. Wang in some side-scrolling kung fu combat, the spiky-haired blonde dude they call Johnny is back on the Nintendo 3DS eShop, six-shooters loaded up to gun down bandits in a Wild West showdown.

While playing his favorite arcade game, Cowboy Hotshot, oh Johnny boy here spills his soda on the cabinet which somehow triggers a rift that sucks him into the game world, where he becomes the new sheriff in a town teeming with outlaws that need to be rounded up. These bandits are, of course, led by none other than Mr. Wang. Who is this Mr. Wang? I honestly have no idea; I just know that’s his name from the provided game description.

This incomprehensibly quirky plot unfolds over five stages, each dedicated to bringing an outlawed bandit to justice. Each stage is broken into three different gameplay sequences: Shooting Gallery, Saloon Shootout, and Catch ‘em All.

JHS_Gameplay01

Shooting Gallery is just as you would expect, a bar room light gun style shootout where up to six cardboard-cutout targets pop into view on the upper screen while on the bottom screen you tap with the stylus to aim and fire. (You can also aim with the circle pad and fire with the A button, but this isn’t nearly quick enough on the draw to keep up with the speed of the targets.) Obviously, you want to shoot any bandits that pop up and not the innocent bystanders that get mixed in to throw you off (although there doesn’t seem to be any penalty for hitting civilians).

Saloon Shootout is similar to a shooting gallery, except you gain third-person control over Johnny and scroll him side to side with the circle pad or d-pad to line up with the targets that flood the screen in different patterns.

Catch ‘em All, however, goes in a completely different direction, saddling Johnny up on his trusty steed to gallop after the wanted outlaw in a side-scrolling horseback chase. The objective is to shoot the bandit to wear down his health bar, at which point you mash a button to fill a meter and then time a single button press to lasso the bandit for the final capture. During all of this, you have to dodge incoming fire from the outlaw while also navigating Johnny’s horse clear of obstacles like boulders and cacti.

JHS_Gameplay02

These three gameplay styles are a lot of fun, both individually and collectively, but there are two problems. First, is the forced unlock system. Two levels are available when the game begins, but to unlock additional stages you must first earn a certain number of stars. Up to nine stars can be earned in each stage (three per gameplay segment) based solely on completion time, which means you’re often stuck in situations of needing to replay one particular level over and over again to memorize the target patterns and shave off that one lousy second that’s separating your two-star performance from the three stars needed to proceed to the next outlaw. This gets annoying fast.

This unlock system leads to another issue. Because the main objective in every level is to shoot/capture the wanted outlaw within a certain time limit, the whole idea of a high score shooting gallery is rendered pointless. Sure, you can replay levels to improve your score and earn in-game achievement medals, but the main purpose of shooting the standard bandit targets is to clear the space so the outlaw appears quicker. You can shoot a bunch of targets and build a great score, but if the timer runs out and you haven’t hit one specific target, it’s all for naught. Score just doesn’t seem to matter at all.

JHS_Gameplay03

Basically, instead of providing a lot of different levels and a strong high score hook to make you want to replay the game on your own, the developers provide only five stages and force you to replay each one repeatedly until you’ve earned enough stars to unlock the next. Even with this forced replay, the levels fly by so quickly most players will be able to round up all five outlaws within an hour. After that, there just isn’t anything left to do or any meaningful reward to lure you back for more.

Johnny Hotshot is a fun, charming Wild West shootout while it lasts, but I just don’t see the value in spending six bucks for no more than an hour of entertainment and little to no replay incentive. It’s certainly not a poor game, just one that would be much better suited to the 99-cent smartphone app market.

SkipIt

Pros:
+ Fun mix of shooting gallery gameplay styles
+ Charming, quirky characters and presentation

Cons:
– Star unlock system forces replay of stages ad nausea
– Earning a high score just doesn’t matter

Game Info:
Platform: Nintendo 3DS via eShop
Publisher: UFO Interactive Games
Developer: UFO Interactive Games
Release Date: 11/8/2012
Genre: Arcade Shooting Gallery
ESRB Rating: E10+
Players: 1
Source: Review code provided by publisher

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!