Being dead should be easy. Life is filled with endless problems, chaos and disorder reign, the pendulum swings between moments of happiness and despair, and then finally along comes death and it’s time to rest. Except no, that would just be too incredibly easy. Purgatory, Wyoming is the gateway between the world of the living and the unknown destination of the dead, and what should be a brief stop between two opposing states has now become clogged up, with no passage through. William Mason is one of the souls trapped in the weird western limbo, memory almost completely gone but armed with one of the most dangerous weapons known to mankind, the voice of Ron Perlman. He doesn’t know what happened but does know his way around a shootout, so sets off to investigate where the afterlife went wrong.
West of Dead is an action-roguelike rendered in a Mike Mignola-like art style, set in a nightmare world of 1800s westerns. The gameplay is heavily cover-centric, with each room holding several breakable barriers that are just strong enough to withstand a few rounds before they start disintegrating. The layout changes from one encounter to the next so you need an adaptable strategy, managin cover to avoid return fire while lighting lanterns to illuminate darkened corners. It’s hard to accurately target an enemy in pitch black, after all, even for a gunslinger with a flaming skull. It doesn’t take long to get a handle on the controls and the first level of the run is relatively forgiving, so there’s plenty of time to get your feet under you as you make your way down into the pit, constantly searching for the next upgrade to raise the odds of survival a little more in your favor.
West of Dead had an open beta back in April and, with launch coming just around the corner (date TBA on June 6) the beta lives again. You can get it simply by hitting the Steam page and downloading, and anyone participating gets a nice bonus of 15% off the price for up to a month after launch. It’s a moody shooutout through a not-quite-afterlife filled with all the freaks and weirdness one could hope to find, and definitely worth a free playthrough or two. If that seems a lot of trouble there’s an old trailer from November that’s also worth a look, but maybe not quite as morbidly fun as the hands-on experience.