12 is Better Than 6 is a 2D top-down shooter currently available on Steam, from first-time Russian developer Ink Stains Games. A first glance at the game in action inspires a close comparison to Hotline Miami, and the resemblance isn’t just passing. With a similar feel and pacing, it plays quite similarly to that game, particularly Hotline Miami 2 with its greater emphasis on shooting over melee. Enemies are plentiful and can drop you in a single unlucky bullet, but you can mow them down with quick and precise reactions and careful movement. The difficulty can seem extreme at first, but the right approach and split-second execution will get you through the level without a scratch.
So while 12 is Better Than 6 clearly targets a similar audience, it’s more than just Hotline Miami set in the Wild West. For one, the pen-and-paper art style makes everything look like a sketch come to life, and gives it a unique that looks really cool in motion. It also more successfully incorporates the possibility of stealth and silent kills to move through a level safely, though it’s always optional even when the game says otherwise. As well, there are perks and upgrades you can spend all the cash you acquire on, some of which make things interesting. Like enemy-seeking dynamite rats!
I liked a lot of what I saw at first with the game, but it gets bogged down by its glitches and sometimes unreliable mechanics. I’ve been shot through walls numerous times, or by enemies who completely ignored the dynamite I tossed at their feet. Doors work in a weird way that’s got me killed or made me nigh-invincible. The AI skill level seems quite random, sometimes downing you instantly on sight, other times missing you repeatedly from close range, or not even noticing their friends being mowed down by noisy gunfire right beside them. They also have a hilarious habit of mobbing together in one big cluster, then killing everyone around them while shooting at you, which has saved my life in most amusing fashion more than once.
When everything works smoothly, the game does a wonderful job making you feel like a badass vengeful gunslinger. Other times, it’s an exercise in frustration and unfair deaths from glitchy enemies or off-screen gunfire I never could have seen coming. And just what is up with that writing? Chock full of cursing and poorly-done adult humour, it stinks of trying way too hard to be edgy, and presents our ‘hero’ as a dreadfully unlikable character. That I noticed a since-removed “Adults Only” ESRB rating on the Steam store page despite the game not actually having an official ESRB rating at the time of writing reveals the possible unpleasant intent to lure in customers through forced mature content alone.
Still, even with all the bumps along the road, I found myself enjoying myself for the most part. 12 is Better Than 6 is a game with some good, some bad, and just a little ugly, and may very well be worth your time if you’re intrigued by its concept and style.