Indie platformers have always been a bit of a mixed bag, usually needing either an engaging narrative – as with the recent hit Inside – or a new gameplay mechanic, as seen in games like Braid or Fez to be successful. Unfortunately, Hunter’s Legacy has neither of these elements, but as I played through Hunter’s Legacy I realized that there was a third ingredient that can take a 2D platformer from a forgettable distraction to your latest gaming addiction, that third ingredient is variety. Hunter’s Legacy has variety, but just not enough to make the game fun, this combined with a thin story, confusing level design, and uneven gameplay make Hunter’s Legacy an exercise in boredom and frustration.
Hunter’s Legacy throws a lot of story at you right at the top, but it’s such a boilerplate fantasy story that you’ll know it without needing to be told. A bunch of anthropomorphized cats live in the land of Iripur, it’s a peaceful place full of happy Thundercats, until the evil Morodir steals the Fang of Alliance, which is important for some reason that’s never really clear. With the fang stolen it falls to our hero; Ikki, the most noble of Iripur’s hunters, to defeat Morodir and return the fang. Hunter’s Legacy’s story is about as generic as they come; it was so generic that, at first, I was sure that the game was trying to satirize the fantasy genre; but no Hunter’s Legacy is entirely earnest in its story.
What’s even worse, the prologue is basically telling you that the entire game will be a fetch quest. I realize that, when you break it down, almost all games are essentially fetch quests in some form or another, but I feel like the best games do a good job of hiding this from their players. Having the Hunter’s Legacy’s fetch quest being at the very forefront of the plot may not seem like such a big deal, but it actually has deeper implications for the rest of the game.
The game’s prologue basically tells you the entire story right at the beginning, and in doing so, assures that everything and everyone in the game will only serve to push Ikki towards the end of game. This makes the game world feel totally flat and unlived in, the fang is only important because every NPC keeps stating how important it is, but never specifying why. NPCs only serve to remind you that you need to finish the game, which makes them instantly uninteresting.
This lack of depth isn’t isolated to just the story, visually the game just looks flat. The foreground and background are often not well defined, making it difficult to discern if Ikki will land safely on a platform in the foreground, or plunge to her death. The appearance and animations of Ikki also feel empty and repetitive; the game’s inventory says that Ikki is equipped with dual swords, but her attack animations look like only one sword is being swung. This suggests that the developer couldn’t be bothered to animate a non-sword side of Ikki, so they just changed it to dual swords in the menu, so Ikki would look the same whether running to the left or to the right. All of this results in Hunter’s Legacy feeling like a well made flash game, rather than a proper PC game.
The gameplay in Hunter’s Legacy is certainly the game’s high point but it is still uneven and an overall mediocre experience. Besides the standard running, jumping, and melee attack; Ikki also has a bow and arrow, the ability to roll to avoid attacks, and the ability to cling to ledges. I’ve already talked a little about the melee attack but I should mention that over all the combat feels poorly balanced, with many enemies taking so long to kill that I ended up just running past them whenever possible.
The roll ability is almost useless; Ikki can still take damage while rolling, which negates the purpose of the roll since jumping is just as effective at avoiding attacks. The bow and arrow is surprisingly well balanced and fun to use, certain enemies can only be damaged by arrows and charging up a shot while avoiding their attacks is a real challenge. Ikki is later given an air-dash and ground slam ability that really improves the gameplay, but this goes back to these games needing variety; as fun as those abilities were, I ended up feeling that if the developer had added more of them earlier on in the game, it would have been a much more enjoyable experience.
The level design in the game is an equally mixed bag – which is frustrating for a “MetroidVania.” Typically, every new ability that Ikki acquires allows her to revisit old levels and access previously unreachable areas. This encourages level exploration which is great, but this also results in the levels feeling very maze like early on in the game; requiring constant backtracking to find the path that doesn’t require those abilities to progress to the end of the stage. This all comes together to make the locked level paths feel like a frustrating series of roadblocks, rather than intriguing mysteries that beg to be revisited.