From bar brawls to dungeon crawls, Paint the Town Red wants to do it all.
Now, before we begin I will confess – I have never been in a bar fight. Truth be told, I have never been in a proper fight that has lasted longer than a couple of punches, and even then I’m talking fisticuffs on the playground as a child.
So, with that off my chest, I think it’s fair to say I am no expert when it comes to brawls and bar fights, which is the whole premise of Paint the Town Red, in which you find yourself in a range of different scenarios where your job is to beat every bugger up. I can say with some confidence, however, that real-life fights and this game have nothing in common.
Release Date: July 27th, 2021
Developer: South East Games
Publisher: South East Games
Availability: PSN (Digital)
Clearly, Paint the Town Red does not take itself too seriously. It throws you in a range of different scenarios where you’re tasked with clearing each section using your fists and any weapons you can find lying around. Most objects in a given level can be used as weapons, either by throwing them or picking them up and using them as melee tools of assault.
Out of the scenarios on offer, there’s a bar, a prison, a disco, a pirate cove and a wild west saloon – all ideal settings for a bit of wanton violence. They’re all available from the beginning of the game and you can switch between them however you fancy.
The controls are simple, in that you can punch and kick, or throw and thrust when equipped with a weapon. Special moves can be unlocked as you defeat enemies, and these are mapped to the directional buttons. These do offer a little bit of variety but have to defeat so many enemies to even unlock them that they are quickly forgotten about.
These simple controls are matched by the simple graphics, which use a fairly distinct voxel style. In the context of the game, this art style works, framing the ultra-violence as comical rather than realistically gory.
Each locale has a variety of weapons, some of which are specific to that level such as pool cues in the bar or shiv’s fashioned from toothbrushes in the prison. Finding weapons is the key to success, and it was in exploring each level that I found my enjoyment – even more so than the simple fighting mechanics that the game employs.
Weapons only have a set number of uses before they break. Finding powerful weapons is a strategy that is required to beat each level, as relying solely on your fists is not only time consuming, but you’ll probably lose, too. Searching each level and locating weapons that are both fun and efficient is essential.
Sadly, Paint the Town Red is fun for about five minutes (it takes a bit longer to beat, though.) Once each level has been explored and the more unique and powerful weapons have been located, the game quickly loses its appeal, with its only saving grace being that there are five locations on offer, but even then they give up the goods quickly.
There are mods that can be turned on or off to further milk each level, but after each one has been used, these feel like a novelty and don’t add anything much to the game other than making you feel overpowered. For some that might be enough, but turning on mods is essentially cheating so it doesn’t count towards actually “completing” a level should you beat it with mods turned on, even the one that turns the whole thing into SUPERHOT.
On paper, the whole idea of Paint the Town Red sounds like a home run, and it should be – who wouldn’t want to go back in time to the wild west and start a mass brawl in a saloon? The thing is, Paint the Town Red just isn’t very good. Lacking depth, the game quickly loses its appeal, and fighting just doesn’t feel satisfying.
In fact, there’s no real depth to the fighting at all. Finding a weapon is definitely the way to go, as using your fists just doesn’t feel satisfying. In the few instances when I found myself without a weapon my strategy was always the same – get one as quickly as possible.
When this wasn’t possible my go-to was to run in for a quick punch, retreat a few steps to allow my victim to swing into thin air, then rush in and hit them again. Rinse and repeat until they were defeated, then do that another 70 more times. Without a weapon, it really isn’t a good time.
Alongside these scenarios, there are a couple more modes to play with, like Arena, which plays exactly as it sounds in that you find yourself in a gladiatorial Arena as wave after wave of enemies attack you, and Beneath, a roguelike mode which is a better game than the main scenarios are.
In fact, Beneath does have much more potential than the scenarios, which funnily enough are sold as the “main” part of the game. Beneath mixes the gameplay up significantly in that you can choose a class, with each having unique abilities.
Having settled on a class, you then venture off into some underground caverns, defeating enemies and unlocking upgrades as you progress further.
There is a range of different enemy types too, and Beneath feels like a complete package compared to the scenario mode. A fair bit of grinding is needed to unlock permanent upgrades, and it is here that the combat holds it back because it really just isn’t fun.
Paint the Town Red plays more like a weird sort of tech demo. Some elements seem to work on their own and the game does throw plenty of modes and at you to try and drag it all out. Ultimately, these are let down by lacklustre combat that is neither satisfying nor enjoyable and as the whole game relies on the combat to do much of the heavy lifting, the overall result falls flat.
Paint the Town Red PS5, PS4 Review
- Overall - Bad - 4/104/10
Paint the Town Red has some interesting scenarios and a surprisingly decent roguelike mode, but it’s all let down by the shallow and unsatisfying combat which strips away any fun.
Review Disclaimer: This review was carried out using a copy of the game provided by the publisher. For more information, please read our Review Policy.
Primary version tested: PS5. Reviewed using PS5.