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Publisher: Pangea Software    Genre: Arcade
Min OS X: 10.2    CPU: G3 @ 500 MHz    RAM: 128 MB    Graphics: 8 MB VRAM

Billy Frontier
August 7, 2003 | Galen Wiley

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Pangea Software has always been synonymous with "great Macintosh gaming." Whether it's the great action of titles like Otto Matic or Bugdom 2 or the addictive puzzle solving of Enigmo, Pangea Software has taken the idea of independent Mac game development and turned it into something everyone can enjoy.

So naturally, when Pangea announced earlier this year that they would be developing Billy Frontier, a non-stop action game featuring a space-faring cowboy, people were intrigued. With the recent success of Enigmo behind them, this looked to be another excellent title from Pangea.

With its addictive and simple formula, coupled with its four, count 'em four, modes of play, Billy Frontier is the answer Mac gamers have been looking for a simple, no hassle, arcade action experience. Want to learn more? Read on.

Game play
Like Enigmo, Billy Frontier is a considerably different game than Bugdom 2 or Otto Matic. Rather than being given a rather large quest to complete (getting your bag back, saving the world from alien invaders, etc.), Billy Frontier presents the player with four relatively simple mini games: Duel, Shootout, Stampede and Target Practice. All of these are available right from the start. While some may not be used to Billy Frontier's more arcade-inspired qualities, all of the mini games are extremely top notch, featuring everything from multiple difficulties to score boards.

In truth, the game really has only three "real" mini games. The fourth, Duel, is not so much a game as it is a key if you will, to unlocking the others. The rules and game play are simple; a cut scene plays on the screen while different arrow combinations appear in the bottom middle corner. Combinations range from three directions all the way to eight, depending on the difficulty of the desired level. As the player, you must match the arrows by pressing in the various key combinations in order. After completing one set, a small sphere lights up, indicating how many sets are left (there are always 16, no matter the difficulty). If you happen to mess up or take too long, you lose one sphere and are forced to start over. Should you complete the 16 spheres in time, you're treated to a rather Matrix inspired duel out with up to three opponents and the desired game is yours. Of course, should you not succeed (usually the case when you're trying to unlock the final level as just a beginner), you'll be forced to witness Billy bite the bullets. How could you, you monster?

While Duel is merely a game of reflex and coordination and not so much strategic skill, beating one is ultimately rewarding, especially the more difficult ones and leaves you with even more goodies to unlock. While I found some of the later duels very difficult to pull off, practice makes perfect, as the old saying goes, and before I knew it, I was able to pull it off. I don't have any major gripes with Duel at all. It's definitely one of the more fun ways to unlock extra goodies.

Billy Frontier's first mini-game is Shootout. In lieu of 1990s light-gun arcade games, Shootout is quite simply a non-stop action fest. Armed with only your trusty revolver, your mission is to wipe out all enemy scum in the area, watching out for your own hide as well. Players can travel through the game's rich environments gunning down the baddies and picking up power-ups along the way. Although you cannot directly control Billy's foot movements, once you've cleared an area out, simply pressing the Apple key will progress you to the next area. Expectedly, each area gets more difficult through the game and players must view the area from all 360 degrees in order to survive. Enemies are cunning, they'll hide behind boxes and tables, popping out at just the right moment to strike. Although most areas of cover can be destroyed (some even containing point-earning coins, extra ammo or health), sometimes striking at just the right moment when an enemy pops out is the only way to do the trick. At the end of the Shootout, players are faced with a challenging boss character, one that won't go down with just one shot.

Overall, Shootout pays a classic homage to the Western shooters of the mid to late 90s. Game play is fast-paced, reflex heavy and quite enjoyable. My only gripes for Shootout are minor ones. Firstly, there are only two kinds of enemies per level (disregarding the boss), which can sometimes seem a tad repetitive at times, fighting the same blue skinned alien or brawny bull at every corner. Also, it would be a great feature if Billy could also use objects for cover, rather than just lying out in the open to be shot at. However, because Billy has quite a lot of health, and the enemies have none, the game might have seemed too unbalanced if a cover feature was available, which is understandable. Other than that, Shootout plays like a charm.


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