Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.
I'd love to be able to claim I was introduced to this brilliant Spaghetti Western-themed team tactics game by a box of chocolate-flavoured puffed rice, but like most sensible cereal purchasers, in 2001 I was on a serious Shreddies bender.
It was actually an enthusiastic review by Chris Buxton in PC Gamer UK that persuaded me that I urgently needed to meet John Cooper (Eastwoodian bounty hunter, a dab-hand with knife or Colt) Doc McCoy (snake-oil salesman, medic and sniper), Sam Williams (Winchester-wielding, dynamite-hurling escaped slave), Pablo Sanchez (burly bandit, invaluable for room clearing), Kate O'Hara (garter-flashing saloon temptress) and Mia Yung (diminutive blowpiper with peanut-partial pet primate). Desperados doesn't have the multiple map perspectives or rotatable 3D interiors of its more famous WW2 cousin, but, for my money, its cast is more colourful, their party tricks more entertaining.
For the enemies infesting the twenty-five handsome-but-hard-as-nails levels danger and death can come from any direction and take dozens of different forms. Goons are distracted by musical pocket watches, glinting hand mirrors and dancing monkeys; they are KOed by high kicks, falling bales, flailing fists and balloon-delivered gas flasks; rattlesnakes bite them, crazed comrades turn on them, commandeered Gatling guns mow them down in droves.
Which isn't to say they're mugs. Warier than Pyro's German and Japanese sentries and sometimes guided to player characters by civilian do-gooders, they search intelligently and, on occasion, display a devastating instinct for self-preservation. In one of my most vivid Desperados memory movies my entire team is felled by a stick of Sam's dynamite kicked out of harm's way by a quick-thinking foe.
Persuading Desperados to do its thing on modern rigs can be tricky. Without Windows hooker DxWnd and the advice of Porchlight Silhouette your chances of collecting the bounty on notorious train robber El Diablo will be playing-card slim.