Flyhunter Origins is a new game from new development studio Steel Wool Games, whose resumés include lots of work at Pixar. I take their new hero, Zak, for a small walk in a giant park using my PS Vita (as opposed to the Android, iOS, and Steam versions) to see what the fuss is about.
In Flyhunter Origins, Zak is a bumbling janitor aboard some kind of spacecraft. I’m sure I’ve seen this joke before in another game. Something with Space…and Quests. I’m sure it’ll come to me. While en route to…somewhere…the ship’s precious cargo is “mysteriously” jettisoned, and since Zak is the only staff left aboard, it’s his job to go redshirt, get beamed down, and find the cargo. Which happens to include the crew. Weird. When you get down to Earth, it becomes abundantly clear that Zak and his fellows are not much larger than midges. Quite literally, they are “knee high to a grasshopper”. The scenery is ridiculously large, and your enemies are the bugs around you. As you proceed through the game, it becomes evident that Flyhunting is a…ahem…questionable pursuit.
In practise, Flyhunter Origins is a sidescrolling platformer. Zak has a few tools at his disposal, including a broom, a flyswatter, a jetpack, a zapper, and a snarky AI bot. Our monocular friend can collect biomass (needed to run the ship’s engines and Clone-O-Matic machines), and bug eggs (which serve as the game’s currency). I must admit that this is one of the few games I’ve played where the platforms will eat you should you hang around too long. Thankfully, there’s no lives system in place, and your checkpoints are the various Clone-O-Matic machines dotted around the landscape. I don’t think it’s ever made clear just who put them there.
The game is definitely aimed at younger players, and I’m reviewing it as such. It’s a fairly friendly platform game with lots of forgiveness, and plenty of checkpoints dotted around at regular intervals. As the levels progress, you’ll also find that checkpoints become fewer and further between. Adding to that, there are multiple routes through many of the levels, and you’ll have to explore quite thoroughly to obtain all the game’s secrets.
It’s fairly self-evident that the game’s characters and story are the stronger points. Zak, our cyclopean, silent, klutzy protagonist is endearing and inoffensive. He takes on the role of hero with some reluctance, and the world is definitely out to get him. It’s easy to empathise with the guy. And somehow, despite his inept nature in the cutscenes, it never comes across while playing. Gameplay, while not terribly weak, becomes quite repetitive early on. The environments don’t change that much from level to level, but you get a sense of a gradual change across regions. The boss battles, thankfully, are a complete change from the sidescrolling platforming, and take place as a third-person high speed air chase. The boss battles felt like they had less of a “lose” factor, and seemed to be just a way to end each set of levels. The Zak sections are broken up by the introduction of the members of Zak’s crew, and some of the levels don’t take place on Earth; once again, a very pleasant change of scene and pace.
The Vita makes for a comfortable way to control Zak, but certain portions of the game felt a little less nimble than it could be. The boss chases, for example, might have been better served by including fine control by motion sensors. Furthermore, the features of the Vita aren’t really put to any use. I ran into some strange issues as well. For instance,at one point, swatting one insect showed sparks in a completely different part of the screen instead of over the beswatted. I also ran into one game-breaking glitch, where a spider hadn’t quite finished enveloping Zak in its cocoon before Zak killed it. This left a weird cocoonified Zak wandering around the level. Not generally a problem, except that this broke the entire Clone-O-Matic system, meaning that Zak was insta-killed every time he stepped from the machine. Restarting a whole level toward the end was not fun. Certain points of the game felt sluggish, too. Restarts, for example, feels like the game’s locked up for a few seconds before restarting the level. A throbber or “Loading” message might have been useful here.
Overall, it’s a fun game with a cutesy cast, although if you’re an older player you might want to give it a skip due to lack of challenge. It feels a little unfinished in some places, but overall it’s not bad. There are just over 20 levels in the game, which may not sound like much, but it’ll keep a younger player busy for around 8 to 10 hours (if watching my own young son play it was any indication), which is relatively standard for the price.
Final Score: 7 fly-sized prawns out of 10
Developer: Steel Wool Games
Publisher: Ripstone Ltd.
Platforms: Playstation Vita (reviewed), Android, iOS, Steam
RRP: R99 (Playstation Store), $2,99 (iTunes), R30,38 (Google Play), $6,99 (Steam)
Age Rating: 10+ (Cartoon violence)