Thieves And Cowboys: Local Multiplayer Shoot-o-Bluffs


One needs real guile to pretend to be as stupid as a background NPC. Can you mill about seemingly at random while still accomplishing goals? Can you fool someone else trying to catch you at? You may think I’m asking about Spy Party but no, I’m thinking of other new-ish games floating around at the moment. Both are competitive local multiplayer games where all players are pretending to be NPCs while trying to sniff out and murder the others. Contact Cowboy is a free two-player same-keyboard game, while Thief Town is paid but more elaborate. I’ll explain.

So, Contact Cowboy puts both players in a room with a small crowd of pixel people. One, armed with a knife, needs to collect a bomb, plant it on a statue, then rendezvous with their contact, a cowboy. The other, armed with a gun, needs to stop them first. Though you’ll need to figure out which pixel person is you first, and ideally which is your enemy. Pixel people mill about aimlessly, so you need to fake that until you’re ready to move. You can watch the other person’s hands, sure, but can you watch the screen at the same time?

Made for the latest Ludum Dare game jam by Jonothan Rubock, the chap behind interstellar panic simulator System Status 100, Contact Cowboy was released for free this morning, playable in your browser.

Thief Town, meanwhile, is a more elaborate affair. 2-4 players are thrown into wild western towns filled with identical characters, trying to kill each other across several modes. One’s straight-up bluff-o-murdering, one adds gadgets like smoke bombs and teleporters, and one has a lone sheriff sniffing out the unarmed others. It’s local multiplayer-only too but a bit more liberal, supporting multiple controllers, LAN and local WiFi, and even pocket telephones. I suppose you might be able to trick it with LAN emulators to play online, but pssh.

Glass Knuckle Games first released Thief Town in September, but it came to my attention through its Steam release last week. It’s £1.86 on Steam, thanks to a launch discount, £2.99 on the Humble Store, or $3.99 (£2.50) direct from the devs. They have a silly trailer too:


  1. David Bliff says:

    The Ship also has elements of pretending to be an NPC! The original Half-Life mod did this better than the full-release Source Engine sequel (which is criminally under-appreciated and probably would’ve benefited from releasing a bit later, as it was one of the early indie games on Steam, andalsoAssCreedrippedoffitsmultiplayerjustsayin’), I’d argue, but a key part of the game was pretending to be non-human. They even made pushing the E key say some of the things the NPCs would say, which was great because these were lines of dialogue lifted from Dr. Kleiner in Half-Life, I think.

  2. CannedLizard says:

    That trailer is less “silly” and more “claw your eyes and ears out terrible”. Just goes to show that parodying bad old ads is a lot harder than people think.

    • Ksempac says:

      I have to agree.

      Parodies of bad video games have been done before, so the devs don’t even get points for originality and have a high chance of making it bad (since after all, they are basing it on something that was awful).

      I had to fight the urge to close this trailer right away, just to get a glimpse of a game. When you’re trying to sell something, making your potential customers flee away is not a good idea .

  3. Clone42 says:

    An article about the “pretend to be an NPC” genre without mentioning the gold standard, Hidden in Plain Sight, should be a crime.

    • Scrobbs says:

      A million times this. Hidden in Plain Sight is one of the few games to make me gurgle with laughter. Quick, easy game that lends itself to a roomful of semi-inebriated people for hilarity.

    • NotInventedHere says:

      Yes! At 69p on Xbox Live Arcade, Hidden In Plain Sight remains the single best value videogame ever in terms of price to hours of entertainment.