Voxels. Despite their apparent simplicity, they’re a lot more complicated than they look when it comes to in-game visuals. When used properly, they can give a game a classic pixelised retro feel, or a stunning visual treat, laced with remarkable effects that only voxels can bring to life as was the case with the astonishing PS Vita port of Resogun. This brings me neatly onto the budget platformer Pixel Hunter which recently landed on the PSN store with little fanfare…
On first glance Pixel Hunter looks like a retro-styled side-scrolling platform game in a similar vein to Super Mario Bros or countless games that have followed the Nintendo classic. The only difference when it comes to it’s appearance is that instead of pixel art and sprites for all of the characters, everything is voxel-based giving the game a 2.5D look. As you’d expect, there’s a story behind the game and this time our hero, the hunter from the game’s title, is in pursuit of a number of creatures who have stolen a number of his most prized posessions – various weapons that he owns (seriously?!). Pursuing them across different areas, encountering and avoiding or defeating different animals along the way, he has to beat each of the animals who stole his weapons (read: bosses) to get his weapons back.
The game is as strange as it sounds and while this could have worked, it’s sadly let down by the gameplay. First, the platform side of things offers very little in the way of a challenge. It’s really just a case of moving from one end of each level to the other with no real need for precision jumping, critical timing or any of the real skills demanded of players in most platform games. The only time the game really challenges you is each time you come across some of the animals that block your route – usually those that are armed to the teeth – and this is often for all the wrong reasons. Defeating them is often a case of jumping and shooting your current or default weapon and hoping to shoot them while avoiding their oncoming shots but with no patterns to learn or discernable gaps in their assault, it’s luck more than anything as to when you get in a lucky hit.
And sadly those are the creatures that won’t be the ones that will prove to frustrate you the most. There are ones you will encounter who will appear – such as snakes hiding in trees in the earlier stages – that can’t be killed when they are in the trees and who need very deft footwork to defeat them before you get near them as colliding with them loses health. I’m certainly not expecting handholding, but something a little less forgiving wouldn’t hurt either or some forewarning to the player wouldn’t go amiss.
Killing any of the creatures along your path results in them dropping meat (gross, I know), or a health boost. The meat serves no real purpose than to act as currency to “buy” continues at the end of the game and feels like it was included and the developers just didn’t know what to do with them at the end. Rather than a display of hearts or anything similar at the top of the screen, your health is represented by your character himself. On the first collision with anything he will lose his hat, and then his hair and each subsequent health pickup will find these items again. While a novel method it does make it harder to keep track of your health while playing and maybe a simpler way would have been better rather than something visually clever.
There are five weapons at your disposal in the game, unlockable on completion of each level (which is made up of three relatively short stages) but to select these you have to pause the game. A simple press of the L or R buttons to cycle through them would have worked much better. Each does seem to be more powerful than the ones before them butdon’t really make the game any more fun to play… and that’s the real crux here.
Being brutally honest, Pixel Hunter is just dull and a chore to play, even when faced up against the end of level bosses which don’t feel particularly imposing. The voxels look nice but that just serves to distract from the biggest weakness which is the bland and very short game that lurks below the surface. Even at the price it’s a hard game to recommend, even more so after seeing games of a much higher standard that were released through PlayStation Mobile for less.
At A Glance
- Title: Pixel Hunter
- Publisher: Lemondo
- Format: PSN Download
- Cross Buy: No
- Cross Play: N / A
- Local Multiplayer: No
- Online Multiplayer: No
- PlayStation TV Compatible: Yes
- Memory Card Space Needed: 80Mb