You know what would suck even more than living in a town where everyone does not only own a gun and always walks around carrying it, but is also trigger happy? Being the person who is obliged to uphold law and order in such a town. However, in a computer game where the worst thing which can happen to you is the game over screen, it can actually turn into fun.
Law of the West puts the player in the shoes of the local Sheriff. Unlike most games of this type, it's not all about shooting people, though. In a series of eleven encounters with other characters, you get the full flavour of life: arresting crooks, getting tips about planned robberies, getting romantically involved with the ladies and, if anything else fails, gunfights.
An encounter always starts with a short verbal exchange, your side being handled by multiple choice selections. Depending on what you say, it might end good or bad. I.e. it might lead to any of the outcomes listed above (plus people just leaving). Dating women increases your score, just like arresting or shooting criminals. If it comes to violence, you usually have to draw quickly since it's kill or be killed. Or rather shoot or be shot. If the latter occurs, there's still a random chance that the town doctor is currently not drunk and will be there to save your life. You're still losing points, but at least you have survived.
If you're killed or when you make it to the end of the day alive, your score is constructed from seven categories: how well you maintained authority, number of arrests, number of dates, how many bad guys you killed, how many times you've been wounded, number of innocent people you killed and the number of crimes committed in town today without you noticing. There isn't really a 'perfect' way to end the game - you can't possible maximize your score on all counts. For example, if you're going for maximum head count, you'll never have time for a woman (and the other way around).
Although it is a fairly short game, this makes Law of the West quite a complex game in its ambiguity. Sure, your foremost goal always is to survive the day. But will you do it by being fast with your gun, by diplomatically talking bad guys into surrendering or by being a coward and turning a blind eye on their dirty deeds? The multiple choice answers provide enough dialogue branches to explore for some time.
The game's graphics look very attractive. The only exception is the Sheriff's hand - it's completely black for some reason. The only technical annoyance is the loading time: If you die and want to restart the game, you have to wait for a few minutes (!), flipping the disc a few times (in case you don't remember those times: 5.25" floppy discs could be 'double-sided', i.e. you would have to physically turn the disc around to access the 'other' side). Emulator users won't experience this problem, of course.
So that's it: Law of the West is a very good game, and even if it didn't have its other qualities, the fact that it's one of the few games which at least try paint a slightly less violent picture of the world (and reward non-violence) alone would make it one.
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"The Sheriff's hand - it's completely black for some reason."
Perhaps he's wearing gloves, a neat way of avoiding the problem of giving a character a skin colour that may differ from the player's.