By Eric Pankoke on Thu, 05/27/2010
It’s a sad but true statement – if a dual stick shooter has you controlling some sort of character toting a gun, it will probably be compared to iDracula or Minigore. The reality is that these two games set the bar incredibly high for this style of game play, so it stands to reason the question would be “how does game X compare to the top of the heap?” Well, in the case of Demon Hunter, one of the newest entries in this ever expanding club, the answer is that it kind of falls short. It’s not bad,, but it’s not great either. And I’m a bit perplexed but the lack of demons in a demon hunting game.
You start off the game by playing Jonathan, an ex-marine that just wants to kill things (no wonder he’s an ex-marine). As you earn certain scores you can start unlocking additional characters, though some require in-app purchases as well as certain scores. Once you choose which character you want to use you get thrust into the fine world of demon hunting. The odd thing is that your hunting grounds are a cemetery, and for a good while all you’re fighting are creatures that look an awful lot like zombies to me. Given the graphical style, at this point it’s starting to feel like a Minigore-ized version of iDracula. Now don’t get me wrong – they actually got a bit creative with the zombies. After the first couple of iterations – we’ll call them “plain” and “faster than plain” – the zombies start coming out with armor. At first it’s a metal pot on their head, than a garbage can lid used as a shield, and finally a full sized wooden door. I’m still trying to figure out where all this stuff is coming from. I guess there must be a junkyard right next to the graveyard.
The thing is, by the time you get to a demon (I’ve only gotten there twice so far and each time there’s only been one demon) – the demon is so difficult that it wipes me out with little effort. That’s not very fun at all, especially given the slow pace of the game, which is negative number one (well, two technically, since I’m still not happy with the lack of demons for a demon hunting game). There’s no intensity to the game, which is negative number two. A couple minutes into Minigore and there are bunches of little critters swarming you. In Demon Hunter there are maybe 5 or 6 monsters at a time, and half the time they get in a nice little line for you. It’s like fighting undead conga dancers. This doesn’t mean the game’s not a challenge, because as you turn to get away from new zombies coming from different directions the ones that had been following you can get closer and hurt you. It just feels like it should be more “mass attack” than “single file servings”.
Now don’t get me wrong – there are some pluses to the game. I like the use of a health bar instead of just having 2 or 3 hits before you’re dead. I also like the iDracula style upgrade system, where after so many points you can bump a skill up to a new level. There are only 5 skills, and each can only go up two levels, but it’s a start. If you pick up a crate containing a weapon you already have then you just get some additional ammunition for the weapon, which is a small but nice touch. I do wish that when a weapon is empty it would automatically switch to a different weapon, or at least have that option as a setting somewhere. I think they need to get rid of the reload on the pistol as well, but that’s just for no other reason than it annoys me. This should be a fast paced action game, and with as slow as it is, the reload thing breaks up the action even more.
This is your standard dual stick game, with the walking stick on the left and the shooting stick on the right. It doesn’t seem to suffer from the “slippage” issues that a lot of dual stick shooters have, but I do notice times when I can’t see critters because my hand is blocking part of the view. Sadly, that’s pretty much the nature of the beast when it comes to on-screen controls. The only other control is the button that lets you switch between weapons. It’s tedious in that you have to constantly scroll through the list of available weapons to get to what you want, but at least it’s responsive. It would be nice if empty weapons wouldn’t show up when scrolling.
The graphics are decent, though nothing extraordinary. It does remind me a lot of the style employed in Minigore, complete with props like bushes and tombstones feeling more like two dimensional cardboard cutouts than 3D objects. The zombies and the one demon I’ve seen look cool, and I do like the accessories like the metal pot and the wooden door. There are times where the zombies’ faces bleed through the doors, though. The way the zombies fade into the ground after being killed is also a bit of an odd effect. There are some cool looking main character designs, but unfortunately the one you start off with isn’t one of them. Jonathan reminds me of an old mainframe programmer I used to work with, which doesn’t make for a very inspirational action character.
The sound effects are pretty par for the course when it comes to this kind of game. All the zombie moans and groans are there, though suspiciously the demon doesn’t seem to make a sound. I like how the bullets sound when hitting the makeshift armor. That’s probably the best part of the sound effects. The music is actually really well done. It toggles between suspenseful, adrenaline filled, and melancholy at a moment’s notice, and it all fits the mood quite nicely. This is one time where I wish the music in-game played during the menus, because I like the in game music much better.
I think Demon Hunter could be a lot of fun. There’s a lot of stiff competition in this genre, however, and as it sits right now Demon Hunter is just an average entry. There are a number of small things that could be improved to help it climb to the top, but two of the biggest would be making the game demon centric and not zombie centric, and balancing out the difficulty a bit. As I’ve reached the end of this review I’ve encountered a demon probably 5 times, and every single time the demon has mopped the floor with me, no matter how many times I’ve shot it. If it’s a matter of having a certain weapon, the game needs to make sure I have that weapon before the demon comes. If it requires me doing something special, give me a hint as to what I’m supposed to do. The game ramps up way too slowly for me to be interested in trying to hunt indestructible demons.
Overall Score: 5/10
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