Quadrilateral Cowboy

I started Quadrilateral Cowboy on Sunday, and finished it Tuesday. “Well then,” you might be wondering, “If you finished the game so long ago, why don’t you have a post about it up?” To which I would replay “Great question, theoretical fictional person who most likely does not exist outside of my head, but also somehow reads these posts and has an internal sense of how many articles should be posted on this blog per week. I’ve been wondering that also.”

I really like Quadrilateral Cowboy. I think you should play it. However, I’ve had a very hard time trying to figure out how to tell you that, because Quadrilateral Cowboy is supremely weird.

Quadrilateral Cowboy is made by Blendo games, a smaller indie dev that has an aesthetic of strangeness, and a catalog of other games I haven’t played. I’d say this aesthetic might honestly be the biggest thing that would prevent you from picking up the game, because it gives off a very “indie” vibe which I honestly sometimes confuse with entries in the “Move Around and Look At Things That Tell a Narrative” genre.

Some people call these walking simulators, but honestly, I don’t think that’s realistic. Death Stranding simulated walking, as did QWOP and both those games were hard.

So, if you get past the aesthetic and into the game, congrats! The game only has one other small ask of you: to learn a semi-fictional command line programming interface along with a variety of other programs/mild programing, and to be able to execute these with speed, precision, and accuracy.

As such, the game’s primary audience appears to be the coveted overlap of “People who are comfortable engaging with narratives and designs featuring non-traditional protagonists and stories” and “People who are willing to learn fictitious scripting languages and solve fairly tricky and convoluted puzzles.” I’ve provided a visual aid below in the form of a Venn Diagram I’ve titled “QuadCowboyMarketShare.png”

It’s the bit where the circles are touching. I should also note that I’m most definitely in that overlap.

Okay, so you’ve survived this extended intro bit. What is Quadrilateral Cowboy, and why should you play it? Well, primarily it’s a puzzle/heist game. But it has some of the most fun tools I’ve ever seen in a game like this, and they are some of the most satisfying things to use I’ve ever gotten in a video game.

You’ll unlock additional bits and pieces as you go through the game, but the primary way of interacting with the world short of just walking around and grabbing things is your Deck, a portable laptop-esqe chunk of hardware that allows you hack open doors, turn off guard lasers, and other functionality. And when I say hack, I don’t mean some lame minigame. I mean “telnet door2.open(3)” style stuff. Hope you like the command line!

There are other tools you’ll get as time goes on, but I’m gonna focus on the two other big ones. The Weevil, a very small remote control robot that can be used to sneak into areas that you can’t fit through, and the Autocase, the most satisfying gun to use that I’ve ever seen in a video game. More on the Autocase later. Let’s talk about the Weevil first.

Just like above, you don’t get a remote control for this thing. You’ll need to plop it down, pull out your Deck and micro-cctv monitor, and then use a series of commands to find and connect to it. Then, you’ll be able to instruct it to walk around, again via the command line, turn left and right, and jump. You might be thinking “That sounds difficult and mildly frustrating,” and you’d be right! Which is why getting it to do what you want is so satisfying.

On a side note, of the two minor gripes I have with the game, one is related to the Weevil, and more specifically, the fact that many situations where you use the Weevil feel a bit too “designed” to be solved in that manner.

Of course, then there is the Auto-case. What is the Autocase you might ask? Why is it great?

The Autocase is my favorite item in the game, and I feel like could sell the entire cyberpunk theme to the game on it’s own. It’s a command line controlled, remote deploy-able, briefcase packaged gun. And it is awesome.

The Autocase doesn’t feel like it suffers from the same problem as Weevil of being designed to solve specific problems. To give an example, sure, you can use the Autocase to just shoot things open, but you can also use it set off triggers and various other things that you would be able to do by hand, but remotely. And this sets up some exceedingly satisfying moments where you remotely can remotely blast buttons to open doors, shatter glass to jump down and escape from an airship, and remotely trigger an emergency release to launch something skyward.

If I have any gripes with the game, it’s that it feels short. I want to play more in this world, and more with these tools. But it also means that the game only feels like it drags a little toward the end, where it introduces a few new mechanics, only to more or less throw them away afterward. These levels were some of the least interesting, at least for me.

Quadrilateral Cowboy is a short game, and I still couldn’t quite tell you the plot, but it’s a fun game, and more importantly, it is a game. You can buy it on itch.io, here, or on Steam here. It looks like the normal price is about $20? The price does feel a little high, but its fun, weird, and worth playing. And if you don’t want to pay that much, wait for a sale. It’s definitely worth $10.