September 3, 2013 5:05 PM | Paul Hack
With "10 Seconds" as the theme for Ludum Dare 27, there have been several entries about dueling. My pick for the best of those is Jay Griffin's The Duellists. Portraying a gun duel in videogame form can be difficult. The mechanics can be far too simple to be interesting, or they can be too complex to effectively recreate the swiftness of the draw. The Duellists hits a sweet spot with mechanics that are easy enough to perform quickly but thorough enough to feel like cocking, aiming, and firing an old pistol.
The setup is that two generals have assembled 5 seconds each (yep, 10 seconds) to duel on their behalf. Best out of 5 duels wins. The names and appearances of the seconds are randomly assigned, and this is an equal opportunity bloodbath; both males and females appear. The character designs are vivid and distinct, and the pixel art is excellent.
You control the duelist on the left using the mouse. To begin the contest, click the box in the middle of the screen and rest your targeting reticule inside it as both duelists pace away from each other with their backs turned. Wait until your character turns around before moving the cursor, or you'll forfeit the round.
The instant your second turns to face their opponent, a box labeled "Load" will appear in the vicinity of your cursor. Cock your pistol by touching that box, then take aim. Your reticule will start out large and red, and shrink to small and green as your aim steadies. Wait as long as you can stand (you can miss or even misfire if you shoot too soon), then click to fire. If both seconds are still standing after firing, and you didn't cheat, the duel will continue until satisfaction is attained. A head shot will surely settle the matter, but it's possible to survive a chest, gut, or limb wound.
The Duellists is full of personality and employs interesting gunplay mechanics to make a set of simple, repeated actions a lot of fun. The developer has been improving the game since its submission to Ludum Dare, and you can play the latest version in your browser. The competition version is also playable in a browser, as well as downloadable for Windows.