The premise for this arcade-style shooter sounds like the greatest Futurama episode that never was. After the animatronic robots at a cowboy-themed amusement park go haywire, a rootin’ tootin’ cowpoke – the titular Dixie Dash – is called in to save the day. Why the metal menaces were given live ammo in the first place is a mystery, but regardless, it makes for a fun set-up.
Dixie – who’s appearance weirdly isn’t shown until late into the game, painting a blank canvas early on – carries a trio of weapons, used against precisely the same amount of enemy types. Dual pistols are the default, with every shot requiring a push of the trigger button, as well as manual reloading. By the end of the third and final stage, we inadvertently discovered that finger fatigue is a thing.
The shotgun packs a punch and is best used against the kamikaze robots, while the sniper rifle can clear an area effortlessly thanks to some remarkably generous auto-aiming. The sniper robots themselves constantly respawn on high ledges, while the common soldier enemies always dash to nearby cover after teleporting into battle. For those not keeping count, three weapons and three enemy types are all The Copper Canyon has to offer – nothing new is added along the way.
Just to hammer home its arcade-like nature, the three stages – a town, canyon and a mine – are linear in design. Narrow battle arenas are common, and usually, the only reason to explore is to replenish health. It was saddening to find the developers didn’t expand on the amusement park idea – there are no interactive rides and side stalls, or even a typical wild west saloon for that matter.
The colour palate is quite garish too. Presumably to make up for the predominately brown backdrops, most explosions are of contrasting fluorescent green hues. Lighting effects are overly exaggerated too, suggesting the team are yet to master the Unreal Engine. See also: texture pop-up.
If you’re thinking three stages amounts to three different boss battles, step right up for more disappointment – the same boss is re-used at the end of each stage, only becoming more resistant to bullets. He’s a chubby four-armed sheriff with a few different attack patterns, the third iteration taking around 10 minutes of constant shooting to defeat. Our poor trigger fingers.
A bleak picture so far, but The Copper Canyon isn’t entirely without merit. The ability to dash through enemies to chain a combo adds a layer of depth to score-chasing – as well as being a means to reach sniper nests – and performing this manoeuvre at the right time can save your hide. Lending a smidgen of personality, the rickety robots will occasionally tuck their heads to avoid a headshot or spin around with flailing arms when decapitated.
The framerate never falters either, although to be fair, the backdrops are entirely static and you’re rarely up against no more than six enemies.
Perhaps the biggest blunder here is that, despite some passing similarities, this isn’t an authentic arcade experience. Everything from the length of the waves to the boss battles is drawn out in order to artificially extended the runtime, which in turn prevents it from providing a quick five-minute shooting fix.
When the score tally appears at the end of a stage, I found it hard to care – I never felt like I was being rewarded for headshots or for taking little damage, as so much filler had occurred in the meantime. Due to the lack of interactivity within the environments, I also felt like a passenger rather than a participant for the entire 2-3 hour duration. Trying to squeeze additional playtime is a somewhat arduous task.
We love the idea of a shooter set in an amusement park, so it’s a shame this example is lacking in amusement in general. Never mind the lack of a shootout in a saloon – it doesn’t even have the decency to throw a few everyday explosive barrels into the mix. A missed opportunity, in all.