Flyhunter Origins was a game that seemed to contain a fair amount of promise. Four ex-Pixar employees had combined their talents to put together a platform game. The intriguing promise was for an ‘indie’ platformer with fantastic animation and graphics. It was with this in mind that I looked forward to playing this game when it released on PSN.
The premise of the game follows the adventures of Zak, in the words of developer Ripstone, ‘a bumbling alien spaceship Janitor and wannabe fly hunter’. Zak is an alien caretaker, who works on board the fly hunter Crew’s legendary spaceship; ‘The Frog’ but deep down longs for an exciting adventure of his own. When the Frog’s cargo of super-important insects from the latest hunt is mysteriously jettisoned into Space, crash-landing back on planet Earth, it seems that clumsy Janitor Zak is the only one around to save the day…
What this means for Zak, is that he must negotiate a series of 2D platforming adventures in the traditional vein. Zak, and then later other members of the crew, must make their way through a series of platforming levels, avoiding enemies which seem predominantly to be oversized insects (Zak and his race are miniature, you see), making impossible leaps, jumping across moving platforms and through gaps etc. It’s all very standard stuff, but lack of originality is rarely a problem in this genre so long as the game plays well.
There is a fair bit of substance to the game. For €6.99 you get 5 episodes split into 21 stages. This seems like reasonably good value. It’s worth noting however that with Rayman Origins and Legends, plus Little Big Planet Vita there is some pretty exceptional platforming on the platform. All of the above titles have a fair bit of value for their admittedly increased price.
The game controls much as you would expect, with the left d-pad or analogue stick controlling movement left or right, and the X button used for jumping. In addition, your character can use a flyswatter, or a laser that appears to be set to ‘stun’. These facilities unlock as you progress through the game, albeit that they unlock too early and then seem to make precious difference to the way that the game plays. I did not come across any points where it was absolutely necessary to use either of the implements. There is a bit of an opportunity lost here to create puzzles based around use of the items you are supplied with. As it is, they feel like an afterthought.
Graphically the game is mixed. The in-game cut-scenes are exceptional for an indie game. There is real character to the 3d models that also animate very well. However, the game may fall victim to its own hype here. It was heavily advertised as being produced by ex-Pixar employees. When these high standards are set as a selling point in the game, to then see the 3D models break down, jerk, use poor textures etc. adds to a sense of disappointment in the game, that unfortunately doesn’t seem to let up.
Lush garden environments abound and are filled with secret areas. In a manner reminiscent of older games, however, the game does seem to run out of ideas in the later stages. Intriguing garden and cave environments give way to basic ‘space station’ environments, with bland walls and repetitive backgrounds. The environments in these later stages are so repetitive that it is actually easy to get lost and forget which way you are supposed to be going.
In fact, in general the gameplay starts off interesting, but rapidly becomes repetitive as the lack of a ‘hook’ to pull you back in the game becomes apparent. There is a fair length of platform game here for the price, but there is a real lack of variety really prevents this game from becoming addictive. You simply progress from stage to stage, fall down or get eaten by an enemy, work out the best way to progress, and on you go. It neither feels clever, nor paced well, just repeat, regenerate until you get it right. I rapidly became bored with the game as a result.
At the end of each level there is an into-the-screen 3D section, where you fly to catch up with an insect and swipe away until you have ‘swatted’ it. These should be impressive, and add a bit of variety; however in actual fact these sections feel tacked on. I found it almost impossible to control these sections, and yet despite the fact that I seemed to spend all of my time crashing into the surroundings, not once did I fail one of these sections. This felt as if I was playing through a technical demo, kind of ‘look what I can do here!’ moment that never found its way out of the game.
The key problem with this game, however, is the ‘glitchy’ feel to the animation. It’s not clear whether this is actually as a result of a problem with the game, or just an issue with the animation. Either way, the game feels jerky and as a result unresponsive when you are playing. Playing constantly feels like a battle against the controls. This is not the way a platformer should play out and just adds to the feel of ‘trial and error’ in the gameplay.
It hurts to say this, particularly as I detest the constant quoting of ‘frame rates’ in modern gaming discussion. Some great, playable titles have sold less well and gained bad reputations as a result of often erroneous discussion of frame rates. However, there is no ignoring the fact that this game simply feels laggy and unplayable. This is unacceptable on a machine as powerful as the Vita, which should be able to cope with basic 2D platforming with ease.
As a result, I find it difficult to recommend this game, even at the relatively low price, given the fact that there are such stellar platforming alternatives available on the Vita. If you are a platform enthusiast, have played every part of both Rayman titles, and are now bored with the user-created content for Little Big Planet, then there may be room in your life for some Flyhunter Origins, so long as you can see past the stalling animation and lack of variety. For everyone else, this is an unoriginal, poorly executed, visually disappointing game, and you can and should do better on your handheld.
At A Glance
- Title: Flyhunter Origins
- Publisher: Ripstone Ltd
- System: PS Vita
- Format: PSN Download
- Cross Buy: No
- Online Multiplayer: No
- Local Multiplayer: No
- PlayStation TV Compatible: Yes
- Memory Card Space Needed: 492Mb