Deathwish Enforcers review for Nintendo Switch, PS4

Platform: Nintendo Switch
Also On: PS4
Publisher: Limited Run Games
Developer: Monster Bath Games
Medium: Digital / Cartridge
Players: 1-4
Online: No

While there’s been no shortage of “run and gun” arcade games across the years, few share the popularity and high regard that Konami’s western-themed Sunset Riders possesses. It’s one of my favorite action games of the era, both the arcade and console ports were great examples of that particular sub-genre of action, and it’s still a blast to revisit the game (especially with 4 players) even today. What is surprising is how few clones of Sunset Riders followed after. Sure, you can argue that games like Metal Slug or Rolling Thunder are similar, but the action of Sunset Riders was pretty specific, with a limited but functional weapon upgrade system, the ability to move between the top and bottom half of a stage when needed, and a fair yet tough degree of bullet dodging necessary to make it through the handful of stages Sunset Riders offered. Paired up with a really colorful visual style, anyone who may have played Sunset Riders in the past is sure to remember the experience.

So when Deathwish Enforcers was announced, a game that very clearly wears its Sunset Riders influence on its sleeve, I had to check it out. Published by Limited Run Games and developed by Monster Bath Games, Deathwish Enforcers is a 4-player run and gun 2D shooter, set against the backdrop of a gritty late 60?s city environment. Influenced as much by Dirty Harry as it is Sunset Riders, it’s an odd blending of the two that works pretty well. Much like Sunset Riders, you’ll have 4 characters to choose from, two with pistol style weapons, two with shotguns, featuring drop-in co-op with a challenging variety of stages culminating in some memorable boss encounters throughout. If you ever played Sunset Riders before, then you’ll be instantly familiar with how Deathwish Enforcers plays, as it does little to deviate from the gameplay found in the Konami classic, instead opting to change things up via the setting and attempting to amp up the humor a bit.

Whether or not the change in setting works is going to be subjective, but I certainly enjoyed the idea even if the execution isn’t always the best. Deathwish Enforcers shines when it really starts to deviate from the gritty cop aesthetic and gets a little weird with it in later stages, in a way that wasn’t entirely expected based on the first two stages of the game. I won’t spoil it here, but the change up in enemies was pretty neat, and certainly caught my attention more than just the urban locale set-up the game starts with. 

What doesn’t quite work is that Deathwish Enforcers never felt as smooth to me as the run and gun gameplay of Sunset Riders, which ultimately makes for a less entertaining experience overall. Having bounced back and forth between Deathwish Enforcers and the Arcade Archives release of Sunset Riders on the Switch, I think most of this comes down to your character speed, which feels a bit slower in Deathwish Enforcers than it does in Sunset Riders regardless of which character you play as. This makes the action feel a little sluggish overall, making it harder to avoid getting hit at various instances, and just doesn’t feel as precise or as nimble as you want it to be. 

Still, it’s hard to complain much when it comes to anyone trying to do anything with a Sunset Riders style of game, and for the most part, what Deathwish Enforcers brings to the table is pretty great. It evokes the Konami classic throughout, while still adopting a style and look that feels unique and stands out from the western aesthetics of the game that inspired it. If you’re able to get 4 players together to run through it, there’s enough mayhem on screen that you’re likely to overlook the somewhat sluggish controls while doing your best to stay alive. As a single-player experience your fun with Deathwish Enforcers might be a bit limited (as is the case for a lot of similar action arcade games), but with co-op it’s worth the asking price for sure. 

Note: Limited Run Games provided us with a Deathwish Enforcers Switch code for review purposes.

Grade: B