Buckshot Roulette is Russian Roulette with a 12-gauge shotgun

Posted on April 5, 2024

I wake up in a public bathroom. The words ‘Afraid?’ are scrawled on a mirror, teasing me. Opening the door I find myself on a balcony, high above the dancefloor of a moving and bustling nightclub dancefloor. The music is pulsating, filling my ears. Walking past the guy leaning on the railing, smoking, I open one of the backroom doors and am greeted by the sight of a 12-gauge pump-action shotgun on a table and an ominous man on the other side awaiting me. I sign a general release of reliability. It’s time I play a deadly game of Russian Roulette. It’s time I play Buckshot Roulette.

Buckshot Roulette has just recently graduated from being a sole release on itch.io, now arriving on the Steam storefront. Developed by Mike Klubnika, the game is exactly what it says on the tin, proving to be a very short experience that doesn’t outstay its welcome. However, it will certainly stay with you.

Buckshot Roulette is made up of three overarching rounds. Each round will likely have a few different games of Russian Roulette in there, as you work to whittle down your opponent’s hit points (labelled as charges) before yours run out. Do so and you progress to the next round. Each shot to yourself or the enemy takes out one charge. Like with the original game, one to several bullets are loaded in the shotgun chamber. The good thing is that ahead of time, you’re shown how many are blanks and how many are live ammunition. You and your AI-controlled opponent just don’t know the order to which they are loaded. Let the counting of bullets and numbers game begin.

This counting is the cold and calculated part of the game. Buckshot Roulette already does such an effective job at mood setting, whether that’s the droning distant nightclub music, the CRT monitors communicating the remaining charges you have left, or the ugly masked face of your competitor peering across at you from the darkness. You’re already that little bit on edge. Now that feeling grows tenfold, wincing every time a shot could be coming your way. It gamifies this risk vs reward feeling and plays with the nerves you’ve probably got circulating around your body while playing really well. Every blank shot you fire at yourself not only spares you but skips your enemy’s turn.

Now you’re really in the meta. You’re thinking to yourself things like ‘That first shot was a blank. I know there’s now 3 live shots and two blanks left. How do I like my chances?’  You’re thinking this while your hand is on your mouse, hovering over the shotgun, unsure whether to take the safer shot at the foe or risk it all, shooting yourself and hopefully drawing out your turn for longer control. This is how Buckshot Roulette not only keeps you on your toes but entirely vested.

Following the first round, you’ll get two usable items each time a set of roulette is played and then in the third and final round this goes up to four items. These items are essential in playing the game of push and pull. The fight for dominance. Items such as a magnifying glass will grant you the ability to view the current bullet that is about to be fired. Handcuffs can restrain the opponent for a turn, saving the risk of trying to get a blank on yourself. Using a smoke on your person heals one charge. A pocket knife can saw off the edge of the shotgun, making it a sawed-off shotgun for this shot only and doubling the charge damage to two. You’re not limited to how many of these items you use in one go, as long as it is currently your turn. I’m sure you can only imagine now the chaos you can wreck.

You hear the descriptor of Buckshot Roulette being “a video game featuring a deadly tabletop game with an ominous setting while your opponent leers at you from the other side,” and your mind probably goes to the excellent 2021 video game Inscryption. Honestly, this comparison is fair and not too far off once you also consider the item usage. The atmosphere is also comparable, both sporting a striking low poly art style and an environment and situation that just gives you general unease. However, there’s largely no greater mystery or little puzzles to solve in Buckshot Roulette. What you see is what you get.

Buckshot Roulette is also considerably more forgivable than Inscryption can be. There are no roguelike elements found here. Thankfully, if you die from a shotgun round to the head in the middle of a round, you’re brought back to life by a defibrillator (trust me, you’ll be suspending disbelief a lot) and only have to do that same round again rather than start from the top. I completed the experience in about 20 minutes, with some achievements I haven’t yet popped indicating there’s half a secret or two to find if I perhaps click about better in the environment or engage deeper with the ‘Double or Nothing’ gameplay that unlocks upon your first clear.

Simply put, there’s nothing secret under the hood of Buckshot Roulette. It is a small project that originally premiered on itch.io and feels very much just that; a polished and moody idea that despite its simplicity, is well worth your time.

Buckshot Roulette is available now on Steam and, of course, on itch.io. Go check it out.