Every so often you come across a game that makes you question what drove the developer to make it. Something like McPixel comes to mind as its bizarre, chaotic nature seem born out of a fever dream more than anything else. Buckshot Roulette feels like it’s in a similar vein, although the developer’s history of making dark, industrial themed horror shows a penchant for making these kinds of things. This game came to me via YouTube Shorts as I saw a few gameplay clips, the combination of RNG and horror seemingly ticking enough boxes to make it a viral hit. It’s certainly something, probably best played with a bunch of mates and a few beers.
You’ve come to a derelict industrial area, the rapid pulse of muffled dance music thumping away in the background. You’re steeling yourself for what’s to come, taking the ultimate risk in a new twist on the old classic: Russian Roulette. You kick your way out of the bathroom, passing by a single stranger who’s cradling a cigarette whilst watching the revelers below. He knows what’s behind the door, and so do you. A horror faced entity that will give you the chance to win big or, if the tables don’t turn you way, pay with your life.
Buckshot Roulette has this ultra-low fi industrial aesthetic to it, kind of like all those PS1 demakes that you’ll often see doing the rounds every so often. It certainly helps sell the horror element well enough, feeling like you’ve found something that’s gone undiscovered for a long time. It’s deceptive in its presentation, the amount of effort that would’ve gone into creating visuals like this would be right up there with making things much more modern.
The developer describes the game as a variation of russian roulette that will be unpredictable yet fair in its mechanics. To their credit this feels quite accurate, the AI seemingly not cheating and instead making decisions based on the information knowable to both of you. The challenge is simple: you’ll either shoot yourself or the dealer. Should you shoot yourself with a blank you’ll skip your opponents next turn, giving you an advantage. You have hit points so you can take a couple rounds before the game ends. So the first round is a straight up game of probabilities: figure out when the odds are in your favour for a particular outcome and point the gun in the right direction.
The next 2 rounds mix up things a bit, giving you access to a number of items that you can use to give you an advantage in one way or the other. Using as many of these items as you can is probably the best move each round, given you’ll get a new round of items each time. The probability equation isn’t as simple this time around, but it still boils down to the fundamental question of what probability is highest. The final round includes the added danger of no-resurrection beyond a certain point, making it a one shot kill if you get to that point.
Playing with the AI it’s clear that they’re making decisions based on probabilistic outcomes too as I have had the dealer shoot themselves or shoot me with a blank. They are, however, at a little advantage given their perfect memory and better overall strategy when it comes to item use. Of course these aren’t insurmountable obstacles for us mere humans, so strategy is a core part of the experience. You can be ruined by RNG of course, but it seems fair overall.
I can certainly see why it became a viral hit, the combination of RNG and horror elements are done exceptionally well. For someone like me though there isn’t a ton of replay value, a couple rounds is more than enough for me to get what I wanted out of it. That’s not to say that there isn’t for others, especially with some of the other modes that are included, but it’s not something I’ll find myself coming back to once the pen is down on this review. Still it’s very much worth the asking price, even just as one of those curiosities that you only play a handful of times.
Buckshot Roulette is available right now on PC for $1.20. Total play time was approximately 40 minutes.