Every Monday, we’re going to take a short look at a classic game that redefined, embodied, or perfected a genre. This week, we revisit Hunter Hunted.
Side-scrollers come in all shapes and sizes, ranging from pure platformers (like Super Mario Bros) to puzzlers (like Braid) to action RPGs (like Odin Sphere) to adventure games (like Super Metroid). Hunter Hunted, released in 1996, is one of my personal favorites in the genre. Despite never getting much attention, it maintains a small yet rabid fanbase still enamored with its gameplay and visuals. I’ll let Wikipedia describe the setting:
The game is set in 2015, years after Earth is invaded by a race of technologically superior alien warriors known as the Masters. Following the rapid invasion of Earth by the alien race, the vast majority of humanity is exterminated, and the few survivors are enslaved and forced to fight in the ruins of Earth’s cities for the entertainment of the Masters. A fictional planet Kullrathe is also invaded by the Masters, and its Minotaur-like inhabitants there are herded into concentration camps, then also forced to play the “Hunter Hunted” game for the entertainment of the aliens.
Gameplay is very similar to Blackthorne, another side-scrolling classic. Firearms are your primary weapons (when playing as a human, anyway) and you have the ability to sidle up against walls, allowing you to dodge shots fired from a variety of enemies and environmental obstacles. Most of your enemies are mechanical in nature, providing a satisfying explosion every time you take one down. There isn’t a wide variety of weapons, but they’re all uniquely effective, offering up different approaches to navigating the levels. Speaking of navigation, the levels are populated with a variety of hazards, including (but not limited to) dripping acid, chasms, flame throwers, automated turrets, smashers, spikes, and more. Death awaits you around every corner in Hunter Hunted, and although the game isn’t overly difficult, you certainly aren’t going to be breezing through it. The balance between fighting, navigation, and exploration is almost perfect, with just enough time devoted to each. Despite the “avoid death, find keys, move forward, kill enemies, find exit” cycle of each map, the pacing is such that you won’t ever find yourself getting bored.
Even now, Hunter Hunted’s presentation still manages to be impressive, as you can see in this Youtube video. The animations are detailed and fluid, to the point where even the most jaded modern gamer will be impressed. The general lack of music subjects you to the environment, portraying the sense of despair the main character is likely feeling. Even though the silence is by design, I distinctly remember playing through this game while listening to “The Beginning”, by Brooklyn Bounce (how’s THAT for a 90′s reference?) While the whole album fit the gameplay quite well, it was the fast-paced tracks “Take a Ride”, and “Relax” that played into the gameplay perfectly. I don’t know why, but it’s true!
Hunter Hunted offers up a challenging, fast-paced sidescrolling experience, even when placed up against the gaming juggernauts of today. Luckily, it’s still relatively easy to find online, which is something you should do as soon as you’re done reading this article. If you love sidescrollers, you absolutely HAVE to play through this one.