Review: Flyhunter Origins (PSV)

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Title: Flyhunter Origins
Format: PlayStation Network Download (492 MB)
Release Date: December 9, 2014
Publisher: Ripstone LTD.
Developer: Steel Wool Games
Original MSRP: $6.99 (US), €6.99 (EU), £5.79 (UK)
ESRB Rating: E
PEGI: 3
Flyhunter Origins is also available on iOS and Android.
The PlayStation Vita download version was used for this review.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

What happens when an Academy-Award winning team of talented film animation professionals decide to make a video game?

Gameplay:
In typical Hollywood fashion the story begins as a bumbling alien spaceship janitor accidentally jettisons the crew and their precious cargo of exotic insects in Earth’s orbit. After crash-landing back on Earth, the janitor “Zak” has to try to save the day. Armed with a Fly Swatter and stun gun he must try to collect the insects before “The Investors” find out that their expensive haul is missing!

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Zak is the size of a tiny bug and the world he ventures into is a huge garden full of insects, frogs, and lots of natural hazards that you’d expect when you’re the size of an ant. Controlling your little alien is quite easy with only a few buttons for swatting, using the stun gun, and jumping, anyone could master them. Zak can also walk on water like the Gerridae (water striders) that use the high surface tension of water and hydrophobic legs, giving them the appearance of skating on the surface. However, Zak has to walk onto the liquid and cannot just fall onto it from any height as doing so causes him to drop like a stone and drown.

So apart from the magical ability to walk on water Zak can also perform other impossible platforming maneuvers like the double-jump or a very slow slide down walls. He can also wall jump and in certain levels fly! By killing enemies during the level you acquire biomass that is used to fuel your very own jetpack. By the time the level has ended you will have easily filled the biomass meter and in a lucky coincidence you meet up with one of several Diptera or as most people call them, a fly. At this point it makes a sharp exit and Zak quickly follows into what becomes an airborne chase through the garden. Sadly it isn’t as exciting as it sounds as you have little control and just collect a few speed boosts allowing you to get close and whack the defenseless insect. It does move at a decent speed but without any feeling of control it quickly deteriorates into a button mashing bore.

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Some of you may question the point of the platforming levels if the tiny little alien can in fact fly, but I suppose the game would be over a lot sooner without those platforming sections. In comparison to the flying sections the levels that stay grounded are good. Each one attempts to differentiate itself from the previous level and to a small extent it works. Some have Zak traversing various flowers and their leaves while others force him beneath the soil into more cavernous areas with plenty of spiders and woodlice.

You face an assortment of garden dwelling bugs and insects that all seem to take an instant dislike to the little alien. Some can be dispatched with a few swipes of the swatter while others need a few jolts from the stun gun before giving them a battering. I quickly upgraded both weapons very early in the game and would have liked a higher upgrade price as I amassed large amount of bug eggs, the currency used in the game, but had nothing to buy.

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What should have been a fun exploration into the gigantic garden world seen through the eyes of a tiny alien creature sadly became a little dull. Flyhunter Origins is a competent game, it does nothing wrong but also doesn’t do anything exceptionally well either. The game’s story was good if a little short, which was also a problem with the game itself. I completed the game in two short sessions and with only finding some hidden outfits and bug eggs, I found little reason to venture back into the overgrown garden.

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Visuals:
A Vaseline smeared lens makes the sprawling garden that you explore feel a little strange. It seems like no amount of soft focus can do enough to hide the low res textures of almost every single asset that fills the game. An unnecessary amount of depth to the background makes the gaming world feel wasted. If more time had been spent on making the areas your little character traverses feel more organic and the textures had been bumped up it would have gone a lot further into making the world believable. A simple change to a 2D cartoon style with parallax scrolling would have easily saved this game and given it a more friendly and appealing look.

There are things I like about the visual aspects of Flyhunter Origins: when Zak lands on a leaf it moves under his weight, some of the discarded items you see on your travels, or the many outfits you can obtain for Zak, even if they are purely cosmetic. Amusing and expertly crafted small cutscenes bookend each level as well as the beginning and end of the game and I would have loved more of these graphical treats.

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Audio:
Music and audio effects are okay. Nothing memorable but all are nice and fitting with the game. There is a small amount of speech which accompanies some of the on-screen text. Just like the cutscenes I found them quite amusing.

Online/Multiplayer:
This game is single player only.

Conclusion:
It’s such a shame that the graphical quality holds back the amusing and interesting writing. It continually feels like a game that’s trying to do too much with a poor and almost incomplete graphics engine. None of it is broken, none of it is brilliant, some of it’s good and some of it is just a little bit flawed.

Flyhunter Origins is a competent game overall and hopefully this is just a slightly rough start to a enjoyable series from a promising new developer. I would definitely like to see Zak and the gang return in the future.

Score:
7.0

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Vita’s built in screen capture feature.

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