The Nintendo Switch is the perfect local multiplayer machine as its convenience of play styles allows for linking up whether you’re on the couch or on the kitchen counter. The assortment of frantic party games make for fun times, but the number of shooters to offer that experience is often left in the dark. Thankfully, At Sundown: Shots in the Dark, developed by Mild Beast Games and published by Versus Evil, has you covered. At Sundown ticks all the right boxes that a shooter needs and can be the light within that empty void, but how long until it runs out? At Sundown has a unique hook that’s a blast to play. It will reward those who wish to master it while the casual to average gamer might have only an okay time.
Awesome weaponry, solid controls, flashy colors and speed. Just a few ingredients to some of the best arena shooters around. At Sundown: Shots in the Dark certainly blends those elements quite nicely. While being sneaky around a map is one way to take down opponents that never saw it coming, At Sundown elevates that idea by competing in dark environments where only light sources within the map reveal players. At times it may feel like running around blindfolded only hoping to not bump straight into a wall, but basic player instinct will guide you into the flow of things not before too long. Should you nudge a corner or any obstacle HD rumble is there to let you know that you did. Pressing B will also briefly bring up an indicator to where you are before disappearing, but of course that will also reveal yourself to other players as well. The concept of utilizing stealth in the shadows to play mind games with your opponents has its novelty. Across 11 different weapons to be proficient with, the potential for creativity is anybodies ballgame.
In an overhead perspective with both left and right analog sticks governing the twin-stick shooting mechanics for movement and aiming, it may take a few sessions for players to get their footing. No matter how you fair a simple progression system for leveling up and unlocking weapons & matchmaking modes will ease you into it. In fact, probably the best and most convenient way to get comfortable with the core mechanics and unlocking the goods is by entering the Training mode. Here, these are weapon-based challenges to help you learn by shooting targets in uniquely designed rooms suited for that exact weapon type. Each weapon has two sets of challenges in difficulty: basic & advanced. Completing them is based on clearing all targets and ranking is determined by bronze, silver or gold depending on hitting the time required for each. Getting a high score will net you plenty of XP, usually enough to get you to the next level and unlock something, but even a score that doesn’t even hit a bronze rank will still earn you a bit of XP.
If we’re to say “run & gun” then the run is just as important as the gun. In fact, basic movement is the first challenge. ZL allows the player to run with no limit until you need to reload ammunition by pressing Y. Pressing L will allow players to do a dash. In certain situations where turrets or laser beams are involved, dashing is necessary. ZR shoots; standard trigger stuff. Alternative fire is done by pressing R. Every weapon not only handles differently, but their alternative action – especially when used effectively – is a game changer. Take for instance the Revolver, a deadly classic. Powerful enough to ricochet off walls. A skillful shooter will likely take advantage of corners, hidden away from their opponents yet still be able to go for some kills. The alt-fire for the Revolver throws out a flare into the darkness revealing any and all players in its glow of light. It’s not all guns, either. The Shock Bow will shoot arrows and its speed is based on how long the fire button is held down. Its alt-fire shoots an electrified rope attached to it where players can attach two arrows to walls going from point A to point B. It’s bendy and can wrap around corners and small objects repeatedly if you wish.
It’s not all weapons that must be shot, either. Ninja style, players may us a sword for swift strikes of the blade. Perfect for those who enjoy lurking in the shadows and running up for a quick kill (Halo Plasma Sword anyone?!). I rather enjoy the megaton hammer that squashes humans like a press of the palm on a ripe grape against a table; the Juggernaut. This melee weapon has some weight to it, has a wide range attack and can pummel through walls. No matter what weapon fancies you, the amount of matchmaking options and modes are a respectable amount.
In local play, up to 4 players may battle it out across 6 differently themed arenas with their own layouts within them. Whether you’re in the Garden, Mansion, Factory, Subway, Reactor or Disco maps, they each have their own style and hazards. Light sources play directly off the environments. It’s an energetic time on the dance floor in Disco with strobe lights making the last call to reveal who’s up for a dramatic shootout. If there aren’t enough human heads to fill the party, no worries, At Sundown allows for bots with tinkering to your liking. Players may choose a bot’s skill level, weapon of choice, and more.
At Sundown is no slouch in customization. Players may participate in a free-for-all or team matches depicted by green, yellow, red & blue. King of the Hill, Capture the Flag, an all Swords showdown, it’s there. Manhunt is particularly interesting where it’s all dark and your own source of light is your flashlight able to be toggled on/off by clicking the right analog stick. It’s a hide & seek slaughter. Options to disable aesthetics that may be deemed too graphic, such as blood, can be done. When you felt you’ve got what it takes to take on the world, there’s even online matchmaking which is a nice plus. Unfortunately, at the time of writing this review before release being able to connect online resulted in failure. Even shortly after its launch, in order to give it the chance it deserves, it was still a no-go.
At Sundown: Shots in the Dark is one of the best top-down, multiplayer twin-stick shooters out for Nintendo Switch. In-game achievements and stats will say a lot. With a variety of fun weapons, plentiful customization & modes, and a unique shadow/light mechanic, it creates scenarios which can feel fresh. Anyone can hop in and have a great time. Pro players will certainly find enough to master here. That’s also where part of the fun might separate players. It’s a good party game until there’s 1 player who knows how to crash it by taking what’s yours and trashing the place leaving no one behind! The design in At Sundown are great, but may take time to adjust to. It also seems the idea on paper is a lot better than how it was executed.
In a game where all players need their screen time, adding darkness to that and plenty of barriers can feel cramped and guesswork as to where you are sometimes. Squinting and consistently bumping into walls may happen for some. There are camera options to help alleviate some of that stress, but it doesn’t always fix the problem. A standard camera will display the entire map and all players. A dynamic camera is initially zoomed in and will zoom out the necessary distance in relation to other players. One thing to note is that both docked and handheld mode have the same clarity. It’s no more or less difficult to see the action in your palms versus what’s on the HD set, so that’s good. A better assortment of map layouts could help this issue. They’re fun and created just fine, but they could be better in the long haul.