Review: Buck Rockford Heads West, and westerns in general

I played “Buck Rockford Heads West” by @J_J_Guest a few times, another selection from the IF Short Games Showcase 2023.

I really liked the humor. I feel like this style of comedy is based on Chuck Norris jokes, but I’m not sure if that’s deliberate. Maybe there is something floating around in the collective consciousness, since Wikipedia says there are a few other types of joke like this.

The themes

“Buck Rockford” is not a serious game at all. However, the tongue-in-cheek ending in which the titular character “runs out of country” built up more of a punch each time I finished the story.

I read somewhere that there are mainly two ways to end a Western: somebody dies in a duel, or somebody leaves town. I think “Buck Rockford” kind of takes the second type of ending to its logical conclusion, even if the logic in this case is bizarre moon logic.

I also briefly considered whether “running out of country” was in any way a political statement about excess, but there’s not really anything in the text to support that. I guess the story is poking fun at overly macho cowboy tropes, but it’s not agressively satirizing excessive masculinity in the way that some Paperblurt games did during Twine’s breakout years.

The form

One more thing… Buck Rockford’s “running out of country” ending also meshes nicely with the form of the story. It’s an Ink game that unspools, so the player runs out of story or content by the end of the game in the same way that Buck Rockford runs out of country.

Incidentally, there was a Twine Western game called Even Cowgirls Bleed in 2014 that used the same unspooling format. It has the same sort of brevity and finality and (to an extent) the same irreverent humor as “Buck Rockford.” It has more explicit sexual/gender politics, more explicit violence, and is much heavier and darker in the end. It also has a unique “hover trigger” interaction style.

I’m curious to hear other thoughts on “Buck Rockford,” and more generally, thoughts on Western movies/literature/games/etc. here. Do you have any favorites and do you like the Western genre in general?

Note: This review has been cross-posted to IFDB with a 4-star rating.


I enjoyed G.M. Zagurski’s Tryst of Fate a lot. Typical Western tropes mixed with some headscratching huh?-thrown in. Good puzzles, good atmosphere.

Tryst of Fate - Details (


I’m not familiar with Chuck Norris jokes, so it wasn’t deliberate! My inspiration was pulp Western magazine stories from the '40s and '50s. I took tropes from those and just twisted them out of shape.

Thank you very much for the review! I’m glad you enjoyed it.


I thoroughly enjoyed Mike Carletta’s The Song of the Mockingbird, which placed third in the 2021 IF Comp. I wouldn’t call it a satire of Westerns, but it toyed with their tropes and expectations.