Publisher - Ripstone
Developer - Steel Wool Games
Reviewed Platform - PS Vita
Price - $6.99
Also on - PC, iOS, Android
There is not much in here for parents to be concerned about. Mild, non-graphic violence between bugs and one-eyed aliens.
Let’s start off with the positives. The story itself is very basic, but the approach is comical. If Zak, the lowly janitor of a Flyhunter ship isn’t inspired by one of Gru’s minions from Despicable Me, then he at least has the intelligence of one. One day when Zak is being particularly clumsy, he accidentally jettisons the entire ship’s cargo and crew.
Because he is the only remaining crew member, the AI of the ship naturally recognizes Zak as the highest-ranking “officer” on deck. The ship AI then proceeds to teach Zak the basics of being a Flyhunter so that the cargo and crew can be retrieved before he loses his job. The tutorial levels consist of funny conversations from the AI. At one point, the AI cannot even finish his instructions due to Zak consistently dying while the AI is mid-sentence.
After finding Ara, the original captain of the ship and Zak’s personal love interest, she starts to play a role in the story too. Flyhunting is illegal, but profitable, and the game’s cast is being tracked by a government drone. The captain goes off to slow the drone to give Zak enough time to retrieve the cargo and save all of their jobs.
Here is where I ran into the biggest problems with Flyhunter Origins.
The game is your basic side-scrolling platformer for much of its duration. You play primarily as the above-mentioned Zak with a few levels playing as Captain Ara. The basic actions are jump, swat enemies with a fly swatter, and stun enemies with a shock gun. The goal is to get from Point A to Point B while avoiding different insects and plants that want to do you harm. There is little challenge in the game as there is no consequence from dying. Death simply brings your character back to the most recent of frequently encountered checkpoints.
Outside of avoiding enemies, the Flyhunter also tries to encourage the collection of small, white insect eggs. Using these eggs at the end of a level allows the player to upgrade the power of the swatter or the battery of the shock gun. Unfortunately, I had the weapons fully upgraded before the end of the third chapter without really focusing on hunting eggs. There is no further purpose for collecting these, so I didn’t bother looking hard for them during the remainder of the game. Alternate outfits are also available to find for Zak, but mostly consist of simple color palette swaps.
I will admit that there are parts of the game that do have that nice “platformer flow” of running through a solid section of a level non-stop. That is, at least, when the game is stable. The first noticeable problem that I encountered was that I could remove the ant enemies by jumping on them a couple of times. No, not defeating them—they would simply disappear. This is a reoccurring issue in the game. In a later level, I discovered that I was actually pushing them through the floor.
The more severe game-breaking problems that I ran into involve the environment more than the enemies. Wall jumping between two close walls is a standard move in platformers. However, some walls are able to be vertically scaled by simply jumping repeatedly.
The biggest glitch of them all happened in one of the levels with the captain. A section late in the level invilves ridding an elevator up while avoiding red blocks which cause damage. If Captain Ara hits one of these red blocks, she is sent flying down through the bottom of the elevator shaft and the game is thrown into limbo. The only way to resume play is to restart the game. This happened to me multiple times and is frustrating.
At the end of each chapter, Zak must capture a fly. At this point, the game changes from a 2D platformer to a 3D chase. The goal is to get close enough to the fly to hit it with the swatter and reduce its stamina bar. The controls are poorly managed here, but it is of little concern as there is no way to lose these levels. While it is meant for the player to dodge obstacles during this, in reality I found myself clipping through logs and rocks.
Flyhunter Origins has five chapters in total with each chapter having 4-5 levels. Each level takes between 3-6 minutes to complete depending on player skill. This has Flyhunter Origins running about 2 hours in start-to-finish gameplay.
The graphics themselves are on par with a typical iOS game. The visuals look nice in still shots. While there are only a few different character and enemy models, they are all distinct from each other.
What a still picture cannot show are framerate issues. With random drops in framerates it is hard to appreciate the visuals as they are. These problems even affected gameplay with delayed input times on a limited number of rough patches.
Much of the music reminded me of the PS2-era Ratchet and Clank games. Each track has a sort of sci-fi/alien vibe to it. The most notable track in Flyhunter is the theme: a kind of twangy and catchy song that is heard on the title screen and at the end of every level.
Overall, Flyhunter Origins is a game that is safe for kids to play, but cannot be recommended for anyone looking for substance and stability in their gaming experiences. The best excuse that I could give for this game is that, perhaps, it is a bad port of the mobile game.
*Review copy provided by Ripstone
*All images used are from Steel Wool Games official page and press kit.
+ Funny writing
+ Catchy theme song
+ A few levels have designs that are satisfying to speed run
- Multiple game-breaking glitches
- Inconsistent collision detection
- Little incentive to collect the extras