At Sundown: Shots in the Dark is a thrilling top-down competitive title that sees players use its own distinct mechanics that will challenge players unlike any other challenge they’ve ever seen before. But can Mild Beast Studios deliver the experience one would want through online and offline play?
+Tons of local multiplayer custom options for matchmaking purposes
+Player levels allow for progression and unlocks to be earned
+Offers up to four player same-couch local matches
+Every weapon offers a completely different playstyle than the others
-Online multiplayer is a hard sell due to an almost non-existent player base
-A steep learning curve that will require others to learn how to play locally or otherwise
When I was little, there was something to be said about how awesome same-couch multiplayer games actually are. Over the course of my first thirteen years of life, I’d play them on a consistent basis with my best friend Eric and my little brother Shane. Some of those games, somehow, have managed to defy their age and continue on.
Isometric titles such as Bomberman, Diablo and even Super Smash Bros. continue to keep that very legacy alive. Inspired by such games comes the indie title At Sundown Shots in the Dark from indie developer Mind Beast Games, a title that sees stealth, spy style action that sees players move across each of the boards using light to reveal them and their foes.
But the bigger question yet – does it actually work?
Bomberman and Laser League, step aside, there’s another contender on the market
Whether you’ve heard about this little indie title or not isn’t all that surprising. It’s one that easily flew under the radar for PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, and PC gamers. One of the biggest quirks to the game is it’s an ode to games of yesteryear. It’s not ashamed at the idea that it’s a same-couch local multiplayer game if you aren’t going online and facing down other players.
The highlight of this game is its local play that allows you and three of your friends to gather around the couch, grab your controllers, and get ready for hilarity to ensue across one of the games many, many, maps that you can play at the very start or unlock as you progress through the game. Yes, there is progression, and that progression unlocks new weapons and even brand new maps to enjoy.
Unlike Laser League and Bomberman, At Sundown: Shots in the Dark is a stealth-based isometric shooter that allows players to hide in the shadows, only being spotted when they fire off a weapon or if they run through the light. When you’re on a couch, it’s an amazing title to experience once you and your friends get into the game itself.
Sadly, online play was spotty at times, with lag being present due to peer-to-peer networking, which heavily relies on all users having a steady internet connection. But, if that’s not a problem for you, trust me when I say this. It’s a party game at its core and it works very well as such a title.
There’s a plethora of unlocks you can earn while playing with your friends
With any game that has a progression-based system, there’s quite a few unlocks you can earn through your time with the game. Various unlocks include weapons and maps to look forward to thanks to the games unique approach to how bots and local multiplayer works. While this game is certainly a centerpiece for a party no matter the platform you play it on, it shines, and the progression carries over towards your save – win or lose.
This approach even applies to the tutorials which are separated into two separate categories – normal and advanced – that challenge you to achieve certain records that range from bronze to gold. The tutorials don’t just teach you the basics of the game, but rather, they help familiarize yourself with what the game has to offer and reward you with your overall progression level.
Weapons and characters are selected before each and every match begins, allowing you to take on every match. Each weapon themselves feels entirely unique from one another; each requiring their very own approach to combat; a gamechanger if you ask me. Revolves, for me, dominated in the arena thanks to their rounds ricocheting around the map while shotguns blast enemies in a cone before you.
Other weapons such as SMGs offer a satisfying rain of rounds as you move about the map, using your dash to get around as quickly as possible, giving you a perfect flanking position to eliminate any enemies you can and even using lights to the best of your ability across the dozen or so playable boards.
Fundamentally, however, this also means that things don’t change all that much – player progression or not. Combat remains much the same. Dodge into the shadows, fire a few rounds off and ultimately dart back into the shadows for cover if you are unfortunate enough to get caught in the light. It’s a fast-paced blood bath, just in case you were about to ask. It’s a chaotic mess at its finest. It’s quite the endeavor with a proper group of friends.
In your first couple of matches, you’ll unlock items such as swords, a subway tileset and new training missions to give the new unlocks a chance.
There’s a surfeit of hosting options
One of the best things about the game is that there’s an overabundance of options for you to sort through. You can change the timers, the number of kills needed, how fast people do or don’t respawn, and even the option to turn the hud on and off via the cinematic option. Trust me, give that one a shot, you’ll absolutely love it. Turning off the HUD takes the core mechanics to an all-time high and raises the tensions beyond belief.
With the variety of options at your whim, the wide array of weapons for players to use and each person playing completely different than the other; you’d be amazed at just how well-designed the game actually is. Not a single one of my matches have ever played the same. I’ve yet to find a match where I’m not entertained or even diving into another match to face off against the bots who give me almost as much challenge as a legitimate human.
Every match is thrilling and with the ability to alter the rules on the fly – that’s something unprecedented in most modern game releases. It’s a rather satisfying experience, to say the least. I can’t say I regret it by any means.
Now here’s how the game actually plays and it’s quite unique all things considered
Now, let’s be clear here. I’ve played my fair share of games like this. I’ve played titles like Paperbound which combines its own unique mechanics for a same-couch competitive title while also turning around and giving Laser League a whirl. Then there’s At Sundown: Shots in the Dark.
It’s a different beast altogether and has almost no relation to those couple of games I just gave a mention. Sure, the idea of playing a game similar to them sounds amazing all things considered. While I do like the idea of a similar title, I’m glad that At Sundown: Shots in the Dark is a completely different animal from the others.
Gameplay is quite simple when explained. You use your left thumbstick to move, right thumbstick to aim, right trigger/R2 to shoot and even use left trigger/L2 to dash about. Simple, right? No, not really. Sure, you have an idea of where you are once you spawn. You’re highlighted on the map based on the color you were assigned.
From there, things go dark and then it’s up to you to make your way about. The catch to all of this? You’re truly playing in the dark. You can’t exactly see where your character is. The only way you can even get an idea of where you are is to either shoot your gun, slash your sword, dash around – the latter leaving you vulnerable as it gives players an idea of where you are – or simply by stepping into the light.
I don’t advise the very last one. Everyone will know where you are and that’s when the hunter becomes the hunted. Even with a dash and dodge mechanic, you’ll still find yourself trying to get out of a tight spot when you can.
Again, it’s a great idea to dive into all the tutorials you can before inviting your friends over and explaining how the game actually plays. You’ll also want to consider letting them play the tutorials as well in order to let them get the hang of things. The learning curve can be quite steep.
Sadly, matchmaking is a problem and finding a match is an even bigger problem
One problem I’ve run into with At Sundown: Shots in the Dark is one I’d hope wouldn’t actually exist. I’ve struggled to find a single online match when I’ve decided to humor the idea and give it a chance. I’m not sure if it’s the lack of coverage the game received, the lack of a singleplayer story, or it released at a time when games like Apex Legends, Resident Evil 2, and Monster Hunter: World are hitting their noteworthy strides.
Sadly, I’ve found that the local play with bots or a couple of friends is the only way to truly enjoy the game at the time of writing this review. Luckily, however, that’s a common occurrence and I’m more than happy to sneak my way through the shadows, besting a pal, through the chaos that ensues match-in and match-out.
Now, it’s t time for the conclusion
At the end of the day, At Sundown: Shots in the Dark is a well-crafted title that works best when considered a well-designed party title. It’s one that serves up everything you would hope for in a game that offers plenty of reason to try and best your friends to the best of your ability.
At Sundown: Shots in the Dark
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch
Version Reviewed: PlayStation 4
Developer: Mild Beast Games
Publisher: Versus Evil
Release Date: Available Now
Those looking to get the game as an online title may want to consider doing otherwise and give the idea of it as a local multiplayer shot a chance. If not, it’s a hard sell when there are plenty of online-focused titles on the market that includes a steadily growing multiplayer base.
Our review is based upon a retail version that was provided to us by the publisher of the game. For information about our ethics policy please click here.
Final Score: 7 out of 10
About the Writer(s):
Dustin is our native console gamer, PlayStation and Nintendo reviewer who has an appetite for anything that crosses the boarders from across the big pond. His interest in JRPG’s, Anime, Handheld Gaming, and Pizza is insatiable. His elitist attitude gives him direction, want, and a need for the hardest difficulties in games, which is fun to watch, and hilarity at its finest. You can find him over on Twitter or Facebook.