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“Dead, again,” growls Ron Perlman, the voice of West of Dead’s skeletal gunslinger. “But it looks like dying ain’t gonna take yet.”

In video games, death has been, more often than not, downgraded from a terminal affliction to a momentary setback. The delicious “do-over” – the chance to correct the mistimed leap, to retake the missed shot, to un-step the misstep that led to your undoing – is this medium’s great gift. The video game is a realm of new beginnings. So it is in West of Dead, a game in which you venture into a shadowy, musty maze and, room by room, work your way downwards, sliding from pillar to post in a series of shootouts until you inevitably lose the last of your health and find yourself returned to the beginning, to try again.

This is a Rogue-like game – a term for a game in which the world is randomly generated each time you play, named after 1980’s Rogue, a game played on room-sized university mainframe computers. Here, life after death begins in a purgatorial bar. Perlman issues one of his grizzled quips, then you head into the maze, filled with mythic monsters and gun-toting frontiersmen. Sprinkled among the combat rooms are pockets of respite, in which you can strengthen your character’s attributes, upgrade your weapons with currency collected from your opponents, and heal up. There is no time to rest, however; you’re drawn, inexorably, further into each maze, in search of an exit that will take you another floor deeper, where the greater rewards are matched by taller challenges.

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Combat requires both tactical planning and quick reactions; you must figure out the best places to take cover from incoming musket blasts, or cringe from fizzing sticks of dynamite, while using the gloomy environment to your advantage: smashed lanterns will temporarily blind opponents, and pillars provide a useful protective barrier.

While the game’s style is like a Homeric epic seen through the panel of a comic book, the soundtrack of melancholic twanging guitar complicates the theme to something new and unexpected, a kind of undead western. It’s slickly compelling stuff, if repetitive after a few hours and, invariably, punitive. Yes, in West of Dead, death is an inconvenience rather than a sentence, but it’s one that is often delivered quickly and without reprieve, which makes selecting a “New Run” a little bit harder with each cruel setback.