It’s 1979–motorcycles can hover, everyone appears to be living 3000 miles off the ground, and there’s crippling unemployment. In Blendo Games’ latest title, Quadrilateral Cowboy, you take on the role of a female electrical engineer that’s joined her two friends with similar credentials to make a living as sophisticated thieves. Using an array of retro-futuristic tools, the game’s primary mechanic is to interact with a portable computer terminal called a deck. Through typing out a series of simple inputs into your deck, you’re able to interact with the environment and use your gadgets to steal vaults, acquire secret documents, and occasionally thieve some brain data.
In Blendo’s typical fashion, any hint at the game’s backstory can only be inferred through the interstices between the jobs that you perform. You can catch a glimpse into the lives of these women by looking around in their headquarters, or in the sequences that occur after every job is complete. For those that just want an old-school hacker-style game set in Blendo’s blocky style, the story is completely optional. But even if you go looking for it, you really won’t find much. In comparison to Blendo’s previous titles (Gravity Bone and Thirty Flights of Loving), I’d say that this game contains their most cohesive narrative yet. At its core, its about stickin’ it to the man as three badass female hackers. But cohesion doesn’t necessarily mean quality, nor total clarity. There were some surreal moments in these cutscenes outside of the jobs that were notable, but there was no clear beginning to the game. This gave way to a stale ending that also offered little resolution. Overall, the narrative wasn’t anything special (save for its scavenger-esque presentation).
I will say that Quadrilateral Cowboy is one of the few games where they can feasibly get away with a lackluster story through offering solid mechanics. The game’s sense of progression in terms of difficulty and gadgets also felt right. Because most of the game revolves around inputting codes that deal with seconds that a door is open, or angles of your deployable turret, and a tiny four-legged robot companion named Weevil, the game is very exacting and the processes are repetitive. However, all the codes that you input onto your deck are saved in your machine for level replays in case you screw up.
While there is a diverse offering of missions, the majority of them require you to replay the same map 3 times under differing sets of circumstances. I would normally say that this borders on lazy level design, but the puzzling design of each job in the level was worth going back into them. It’s mix of gadget implementation, feedback, and response created some very intricate levels, but I felt that the game was just too short. I wanted more. Luckily, Blendo has decided to appeal to potential content creators and integrate Quadrilateral with Steam Workshop.
Though Blendo likes to toy with different genres, they are known for their simplified and cubist art style. Again, personal taste comes into play. Because of their attention to asset and level lighting, it worked out well. There were no glaring faults in the overall level design, but there was no single level that really stuck out. At any point, you were allowed to go into a no-clip mode to see the entirety of the map, but you couldn’t clip through sections you were stuck on. I’m not quite sure why they added this, and I felt like it ruined the suspense of the more tightly-timed levels.
The sound design was a mixture of OK foley and an opera soundtrack from the 1900s-1920s that hurt my ears. I don’t quite understand the significance of the mix, aside from the fact that most of it could fall under free use and public domain. Other than that, sound effects and foley worked well in creating bizarro sequences and heists with nonsensical outcomes.
If you want a nonsensical story with a serious focus on terminal-based gameplay, you’re going to find yourself pleasantly surprised with Quadrilateral Cowboy. Some of the puzzles felt well thought-out and made the most out of the mechanics and nifty gadgets they presented. You might find the environments bland, and you probably won’t find the story to be all that engaging. In hopes of seeing a surge of content for this game on the Steam Workshop, I would wait a while and gauge player interests in the Steam forums. Otherwise, its severe lack of replayability would prevent me from shelling out $20 USD.
Quadrilateral Cowboy was reviewed on PC with a copy provided by the developer.
Developer: Blendo Games | Publisher: Blendo Games | Genre: Indie, Hacking, Puzzle| Platform: PC | PEGI/ESRB: N/A | Release Date: July 25th, 2016