Pocket Cowboys is a turn-based multiplayer battler set in the Wild West. It drips with the sort of bullets and chewed-cigar-ends aesthetic that anyone who's seen a cartoon with stetsons in it is going to get right away. And, beyond all of its shine and swagger, it's actually a really good game.

At first glance you might think it's just another Clash Royale knock-off with bigger moustaches and slightly different hats, but it fits into another genre entirely from Supercell's lite MOBA, and it's all the better for it.

Howdy y'all

The game sees you building up a team of three different cowboys. There are different classes with different skill sets, but the twist is you're only ever controlling one of them at once - think Marvel vs Capcom but without tagging and also not a 2D fighter. Maybe don't think that, actually.

You're playing against three other player-controlled teams when you head online. The first team to kill three other players wins. Every turn you can choose to move, fire, or reload. But here's the second twist - all the players choose their moves at the same time, so you could be walking into a bullet in the head, or shooting at an empty space.

Battles take place on a grid, and when it's your turn you can see where you can move to, and where you can shoot. Tap on your character instead of a space and they'll reload. Pistols get six shots, but can only hit one tile. Shotguns can hit five, but they need to be reloaded straight after.

Pocket Cowboys iOS review screenshot - Playing as a sniper

Everything in the game is a balancing act, and piled on top of that is the tension of not knowing what the other players are going to do. Your best laid plans can get thrown by an unpredictable move, but you can also snatch victory from the gaping gob of tragedy if things swing back in your direction.

That unpredictability is what makes the game so much fun. Where other casual multiplayer games have moves or characters that are going to make your heart sink and your defences crumble when they appear, here you've always got a chance for revenge - other times you can sneak into a scrap and blast everyone.

The tiny slices of strategy that the game offers up are constantly shifting, so even though it's a small game on a small map, there's actually a massive amount of possibility. Battles are never the same, and if they're taking too long the game drops bombs onto the stage to keep things interesting.

Reach for the skies

It's always nice to find out that what you thought was going to be one thing is another, and that's definitely the case with Pocket Cowboys. It stomps around with all the charm of a decent cartoon, but it never out-stays its welcome thanks to short play times and clever progression.

Basically, this is a tight and taut turn-based strategy game that doesn't really have any right being as good as it is. But it is as good as it is, and we reckon it deserves a really massive audience, so pick it up and have a play.

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