A few weeks ago I reviewed the awesome The Hong Kong Massacre, a game which took inspiration from a John Woo movie and Hotline Miami to deliver an action-packed top-down brutal bloodbath of a game. The last few days I’ve been playing a similar game, only this time it’s the gameplay of Hotline Miami, the visuals of State of Anarchy, and a similar setting to Red Dead Redemption – 12 Is Better Than 6 is one hell of a love child!
Developed by Ink Stains Games and published by HypeTrain Digital, 12 Is Better Than 6 launches on the Nintendo Switch on the 5th March, just over three years after it’s initial release on Steam. With a creative art style, addictive gameplay, and an intriguing story, Nintendo Switch owners are in for a treat!
It’s better to be judged by 12 than carried by 6
The above saying is a popular one, it’s meaning is that you’d rather commit a crime (such as murder) and face a jury of twelve people (which may lead to imprisonment), than to be killed yourself and carried off by six people (the number of people who carry a coffin). This phrase, aptly, ties in perfectly with the plot of the story. Our protagonist has been wrongfully incarcerated and forced to work mining duties, along with a bunch of other imprisoned fellows. Knowing that you’ve done no wrong, you are practically forced to take matters into your own hands and escape in order to seek revenge on those who put you there.
Set within 1870’s USA, as a Mexican on the run, you must fight to survive throughout numerous small enclosed areas as you make new allies, engage bloody-thirst foes, and help out those in need. Just like the games its taken heavy inspiration from, this isn’t going to be a walk in the park as it’s very brutal and unforgiving. However, with the brilliant handheld nature of the Switch, 12 Is Better Than 6 is a perfect ‘short bursts’ game; let’s find out why…
12 Is Better Than 6‘s gameplay will be very familiar to those who have played the recent Hong Kong Massacre, or Hotline Miami (I know I keep referencing these but they’re the best comparisons I have!). It’s almost a rogue-like game in that if you’re hit once within an area, it’s game over and you must play the entire section again. This isn’t as bad as it sounds though as the game is broken down into over 50 small sections. So, just like the aforementioned games, your main skills you’ll need in order to master 12 Is Better Than 6 is your memory and good reflexes.
Thankfully, reloading the mission, upon your inevitable failure, takes no time at all. This means you can get straight back into the action almost as soon as you bite the dust.
However, unlike The Hong Kong Massacre, you don’t have any fancy time-altering skills to help you out on your journey, this means your reactions must very fast as the game doesn’t really show you a lot of what’s going on. This was my first issue with the game, I feel the game isn’t zoomed out enough. As such, you will constantly be caught unaware by someone slightly off screen who you can’t yet see. You even have the option to sneak up to enemies and knife them before they can alert others to your presence, yet I found this impossible to use on anyone other than sleeping enemies as I could never plan out my sneak attack enough in advance.
Speaking of the weapons, 12 Is Better Than 6 has a few you can pick up and use through the course of the game. You’ll be able to equip either a mining pickaxe, revolver, shotgun, rifle, or bow and arrow, along with your knife. Each weapon has its own noise, clip size, and reload speed. However, you can only carry one of these, along with your knife, this means ensuring you have the correct weapon is all part of the strategy, especially when you know you’re about to enter a populated area.
This brings me onto the first confusing element of the game, the reloading mechanic. In 12 Is Better Than 6, you can’t just walk over to another gun and pick it up. Well, you can, but you won’t gain the bullets from the gun. What you need to do is, you hold down Y on the controller in order to tip all the bullets out of your current gun. You’ll instantly pick these up and add them to your inventory. Then, you pick up another gun (the same preferably) and tap Y to reload the gun to fill up its empty barrels. When you pick up a gun it may have a few bullets within it, so after fully reloading, you now have more bullets – if that makes sense?
It confused me at first, but it’s a rather interesting mechanic which other games don’t take into account. If you have a fully loaded gun and you swap it for one on the ground, you are leaving the bullets within that gun which you dropped. So, you empty out the chambers before you pick up a new gun! Common sense yet no other game (which I can think of) does this.
Also, the actual combat mechanics are quite unique. You can’t hold down ZL to lock on and keep pushing ZR to fire. You have to release ZL each time in order to cock your gun, then hold ZL to lock on and hit ZR to fire. This does mean you can’t go in all guns a’ blazin’ and expect to come out alive, you need to be cautious and reserved with your bullets.
Pretty much 90% of the areas you’ll enter will be combat zones, small 3-5 minute areas where you’ll by killing anything that moves whilst following the arrow to either a goal or the exit. However, you’ll also have a few areas which are mini-hubs which will let you swap out your weapons, buy upgrades and even engage in bounties. That’s right, seeing as these hubs are very far apart, and there’s no guarantee it’ll be here in a few chapters time, you have the chance to go bounty hunting if you lack the cash for an upgrade at that particular moment.
Choosing a bounty will place you within a seemingly randomly generated area which is populated with enemy goons and a chest, as well as buildings and hills. Your task is to make it to the chest, alive, and steal anything that’s inside – then return to the hub. You can do this as many times as you want and you can even return and take a new one without penalty should the one you’re placed in turn out to be too hard for you. The upgrades you can get range from increasing the number of bullets a weapon holds to increasing the damage you deal.
You’ll also bump into friendly allies as you enter the hubs, as well as on the field, these people will sometimes offer advice or have a chat with you about what’s been going on, but most of the time they deliver one-liners in the vein of “go away”. This was the second issue I had – when you’re in the midst of battle, you can’t see who is an ally or who is an enemy, as the view is top-down and everyone looks the same. The simplest way to tell is, can you lock on with ZL? If not, they’re friendly, if you can, kill them. There’s no penalty, as you can’t kill friendlies, but I’ve had a few missions where I’ve purposely sneaked past someone and spent ages avoiding eye-contact, only to find out that they are my friend and I need to talk to them to move on!
Okay, so I think it’s time to talk about the elephant in the room, and the reason I compared 12 Is Better Than 6 to State of Anarchy – the visuals. The whole game looks like a biro-drawn image which has come to life. This was exactly the same with State of Anarchy, only that game was more child-friendly as it didn’t have blood within it. Speaking of, as you can see by the images, 12 Is Better Than 6 is a very bloody game – this is exaggerated even more by the fact that everything is black and white other than the crimson red blood splatter which paints the environment as you slaughter your opposition.
Seriously, if Dexter Morgan was a real person, he would love this game as each and every enemy creates their own blood splatter which varies based on the weapon you use and how far away you are when you take the shot. For example, an arrow to the face will have them falling down with an artery spouting blood in long, thin splatters, yet the shotgun will create a more condensed and thick pattern.
I really enjoyed the overall aesthetics of the game, even though they are rather simplistic and the locations don’t vary a lot (due to you mainly being in similar locations as you travel the USA). The gameplay does get a little bit repetitive, as it’s the same mechanics in every single area, but it does try and mix it up a little by introducing new weapons and exposition to the story in order to keep you engaged and hooked. I personally became addicted to the game since I first installed it and started playing it. I’d not heard of the game before and thanks to recently having the chance to play and review The Hong Kong Massacre, the game felt very fresh, yet familiar, to me.
As a side note, I played the game mainly in hand-held mode and it looks great on the small screen. But, I did experience a few minor slowdowns when there was a lot of action on the screen. It never got so bad that it was impacting my enjoyment or making me lose due to affecting the controls, but I did notice it for a few seconds here and there.
First 15 minutes (no commentary):
What’s Black and White and Re(a)d all over? No, not a Newspaper, 12 Is Better Than 6! The simplistic hand-drawn artwork, combined with the crimson red blood splatter and interesting story, creates a rather creative and enjoyable action game which will have you hooked from your first kill. Though over fifty small missions over a number of chapters, you’ll not want to put the game down as you give it ‘just one more go’ wherever you are, either at home or whilst you’re out via the hand-held mode. The music perfectly captures the atmosphere and the dialogue will have you chuckling to yourself in certain areas.
12 Is Better Than 6 is a game which doesn’t take itself too seriously, yet it offers brutal and satisfying combat mechanics which you’ll quickly pick up yet spend the whole game trying to master. Maybe not recommended to those who don’t like games which have you retrying segments over and over again, but everyone else should check it out upon release.
One additional point, on Steam there is a DLC pack available to purchase for the base game. This doesn’t appear to be part of this product. It would have been nice if this version was the ‘definitive edition’ and included the extra content, but as it’s not, I hope we get the chance to buy this DLC later on.
12 Is Better Than 6$9.99
- - Very interesting aesthetic
- - Brutal, yet fair, gameplay
- - Great music and an interesting story
- - Perfect for short burst gameplay, something the Switch is perfect for
- - Very addictive
- - The reload mechanic is a bit confusing at first
- - The locations don't vary a lot in terms of the visual aspect
- - There is a little bit of slowdown when the action gets really intense
- - I feel the game isn't zoomed out enough for strategic planning