Review: Flyhunter Origins

Continuing the trend of mobile games making the jump to Vita, Flyhunter Origins from Steel Wool Games and Ripstone adds another fun, family-friendly platformer to the handheld’s game library. Setting itself apart with some well-delivered humour and colourfully designed locations, the game does suffer from a few too many niggles that hold it back from being mentioned in the same breath as Rayman or LittleBigPlanet.

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Developer: Steel Wool Games
Publisher: Ripstone
Reviewed on: PlayStation Vita
Also Available On: iOS, Android
Release Date: Available Now

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The story for Flyhunter Origins sees you take on the role of Zak, a lowly space janitor. In one of the many funny cutscenes in the game, we learn that our hapless hero has accidentally released his ship’s cargo of flies into space, where they subsequently end up falling to Earth. Now tasked with recapturing the insects, Zak takes on the role of a Flyhunter – with only a swapper and stun gun for support, he must overcome the planet’s gigantic wild-life (like frogs, spiders, and ants) to collect them all.

As the last line suggests, Zak is very small (about the size of the flies he is capturing). This means that the levels are all set in an environment you rarely see, unless you continuously watch re-runs of Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. This allows us to feel familiar with the locations and their properties, while maintaining a sort of other-worldly feeling at the same time.

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Zak is joined by the captain of their ship later in the story. In her opening levels, Ara doesn’t have any tools to use. This made for an interesting change to the game as it required either stealth or ‘creative evasiveness’ (in layman’s terms, running away) to progress. This also put more of an emphasis on the game’s platforming, which works in an odd way.

The plant life in the game forms most of the platforms. Zak and Ara can use them to reach new areas and the leaves will bend under his or her weight realistically. Almost all of the creatures you encounter are hostile so you will find yourself scurrying from one out-of-reach leaf to another to avoid them. They also act differently, depending on the species – ants and grasshoppers will usually lunge at you if they spot you, but a frog will be oblivious towards you until you enter the area right in front of them. At which point, you just die!

The level of detail to the world is impressive, both in terms of the variety of creatures you find and the quality of the visuals. The game has a cartoon-ish aesthetic, which is obviously appropriate given the family audience it is aiming for, however this also lends itself to humour more easily. One of the funnier scenes happens early, when you encounter the game’s checkpoint system. You are repeatedly shown Zak dying in more elaborate ways, just to prove he can simply be reformed at the checkpoint device.

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However, the game’s visual strengths leads to different issues – specifically when it comes to the frame-rate Flyhunter Origins runs at. The game stutters and slows down often, too often to be ignored and it impacts the gameplay far too much. While the game doesn’t have Megaman levels of precision platforming, it is still difficult to land jumps correctly. Timing your attacks is also dependent on this and I was caught out multiple times.

The core mechanics of the game involve playing through various levels, collecting bug eggs to upgrade your swapper and stun gun. This can be done incredibly quickly. In fact, I had the two fully upgraded within the opening levels. Once you complete a chapter, you encounter flies that you must chase. This will kick off the game’s other gameplay mode, which sees you fire up your jet-pack and give chase to the insect. The camera moves behind you and follows you through the path laid out by the fly. Once you catch up to it, you need to bring down the fly’s health meter by swatting at it.

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When I mentioned the upgrade system, I said it can be completed quickly. The primary reason for this is the fact that Flyhunter Origins is an incredibly short game. It can be cleared within a few hours, and while completionists can replay earlier levels, there is little incentive to. There are no collectibles. For a relatively cheap downloadable title, this is not necessarily a deal-breaker in terms of what you are getting for the price, it still felt like too little.

Beautiful environments
Plenty of humour to enjoy
Poorly optimised for the Vita
Incredibly short

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Flyhunter Origins shoots itself in the foot in terms of how it performs and the game’s length. However, I did enjoy the relatively interesting story and the expansive levels. It also brings the jokes and this gives the game a charm that many other platformers wish they had. If Steel Wool Games decide to give this budding franchise another go on Vita, I hope they pay the platform more attention.

Review copy provided by Gaming PR
Official Game Site

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