Version Reviewed: 1.0
App Reviewed on: iPhone 4S/iPad 2
Graphics / Sound Rating:
User Interface Rating:
Re-use / Replay Value Rating:
I would like to soundly punch in the face the wisenheimer who thought that virtual d-pads were good enough to make precisely controlling platformers a viable option on iOS.
Allow me to clarify. I don’t wish harm on the developers of Pixel Hunter over at Lemondo Entertainment; I’m sure they’re all great, hardworking folks. I’m really speaking in general terms of the main frustration that I have with this game and others like it. If old-school platforming is where timing and positioning are the difference between triumphant progression and a frustrating restart is going to be the crux of a game, then it either requires tactile feedback or needs to be extremely forgiving. Unfortunately, Pixel Hunter doesn’t hit the bullseye on either mark.
With a voxel-based aesthetic more similar to that of 2010's 3D Dot Game Heroes for PlayStation 3 than the chunkier Minecraft style, Pixel Hunter is a side-scrolling platformer that finds the titular hunter on a quest to reclaim his beloved arsenal of weapons. Apparently the various angry critters of the world, who may (rightly) be incensed that the hunter has been reducing them to undifferentiated chunks of meat, have absconded with them. This meat is also the player’s currency. Run out of lives? Cashing in 100 units of pixely protein will allow a continue from the last checkpoint. But soon one finds the initial allotment of meat burned through, leaving players grinding the early stages for enough kills to squeeze out another needed continue for a difficult boss fight or frustrating platforming section.
More meat can be acquired and levels prematurely unlocked via in-app purchases, which while not surprising, still feels a bit disappointing for a game that already runs three bucks. I know my tolerance (or lack thereof) for this business model may not be the same as everyone else, but it just feels like an extra kick in the pants when one may already be on the verge of pitching their phone toward the nearest wall.
But in the end, it comes back to the controls. The iPhone spacing feels right in relation where my hands rest, but that lack of physical resistance makes things feel slippery and uncertain. Meanwhile, iPad controls are spaced too far apart and a multi-finger approach is awkward. I also noted a weird iPad-only glitch where my character would randomly speed up for no discernible reason. I tried replicating it by holding down another button, Super Mario Bros-style, but no dice. At least the detail of the game’s visuals isn’t lost on iPad the way it is on a phone’s smaller screen.
Is Pixel Hunter fun? For a while, sure. The graphics will make any nouveau-retro aficionado's heart flutter a bit (even if the music can quickly grow grating) and the challenge is initially exciting. But after the umpteenth missed jump where thumbs slid just a bit too far off the virtual d-pad? It’s enough to make a pixelized Ted Nugent go vegan.