- The Washington Times - Monday, December 26, 2011

It’s time to take a “freemium” ride back to the Old West, courtesy of Apple’s gaming tablet, in an adventure that mixes life as a gunslinger with the dangers of the supernatural.

A player takes control of Buck Crosshaw (yet another grizzled warrior with the familiar Hugh Jackman persona) in Six-Guns (Gameloft, reviewed with iPad 2, rated 9+, free) and roams an open world loaded with outlaws, bandits, damsels in distress and, oh yeah, vampires.

Historians obviously have forgotten to mention that in 1800s, the wild frontiers of Arizona and Oregon were infested with assorted demons and creatures of the night.

Within the action, a player spends his time walking, ducking and riding a horse (nine trusty steeds to choose from, for a price) through towns and open plains as he liberally shoots (even on horseback) everything from unsavory cowpokes to floating witches to hostile bears and mountain lions.

Moving the hero with a virtual analog stick, clicking on an on-screen gun barrel to shoot and tapping on “hand” icons to interact with the environment are just some of the thumb-and-finger combos used to enjoy the game.

A collection of slider puzzles breaks up the gunfights and requires a player slide blocks to open a path for a key to unlock chests and doors.

Within the 40 primary missions currently available, Buck rides to hotspots such as Sister Ingrid’s Mine, Guttermouth Gulch and Williamson’s Ranch.

He may need to save a kidnapped female from some thugs, protect a sacred Indian shrine from robbers, take some target practice at Al “Three Fingers” Stand, challenge a kid to a scavenger hunt in a cave or stop by to clean out bloodsuckers in Cemetery Catacombs.

Side missions, such as hunting down dreamcatchers, confederate dollars and chicken god totems, also give a player ample opportunity to explore regions.

Buck is rewarded sparingly for success with coins, sheriff stars, experience points and junk to fill his saddlebag. This bag, by the way, never has enough slots to hold everything one needs to survive, so start making coin quickly.

Of course, with the nonexistent price point, no one will confuse the graphics with an Xbox 360 title, but they look pretty good.

Moments to savor are riding into the sunset, killing a vampire and watching him burst into a blue puff of smoke, engaging in a gunfight by the light of a full moon, and witnessing some stunning rock formations, waterfalls and active creeks.

Now, I’ll admit that customization and upgrades rule and hinder the game. It’s great to eventually have access to 20 weapons, including an Impaler Gun or Gatling Annihilator, but I’ll be in a nursing home by the time I actually collect enough stars or cash to unlock these beauties.

So, I am tempted many a time by Gameloft to open up my wallet and purchase items such as the Bandit Pack (including a Mexican clothing set, Longshot repeater 1887 and Appaloosa horse) for $8.99 or buy a barrel of 55 stars for $9.99 or a wagon of 180,000 coins for $49.99.

Despite some of the heavy-handed buy messages, anyone familiar with the Red Dead or Call of Juarez video game franchises will find Six-Guns an amusing foray into the familiar, with a price that can’t be beat.