Nostalgia flows in Huntdown, which at the same time reminds us that simplicity is brilliant.
Nostalgia is a fast-growing market where you can make big money for the generations that have grown up with memories of games, movies, books and cultural phenomena and offer them to experience the exact same thing again (which rarely gives the same feeling as the memory of it) or something in an “updated” version (as in the case Final Fantasy VII Remake, which is recognized in content, but is one completely other game than the original). Then there is a third category as well: games that look and are designed just like games were in the 80s and 90s, but which are still original games (for example Guacamelee!). Hunt Down belongs to the last category. Swedish Easy Trigger gives us a wonderful co-op shooter distributed by the exciting indie studio Coffee Stain Studios (now part of THQ Nordic).
Hunt Down is a straight platform shooter, where you duck behind boxes, lean in and out of spaces, and pump enemies full of lead through side-scrolling levels. Each course – which is just long enough – ends with a new often ridiculously entertaining boss fight, where it comes to learning patterns. Just like the old, good times Castlevania (NES), Midnight Resistance and Rush an attack. Mixed with a little Double Dragon and Final Fight (the recurring enemy types, the crushing of cars, etc.).
The aesthetic is perfect 16-bit graphics, in all its pixelatedness and screwed-up neon-cyberpunk dystopia tone. Beautiful sunsets, mixed with metallic and shattered cities and the cars are reminiscent of Lamborghini Countach – which was so poppy in the ’80s and synths soundtrack, combined with the ironic, post-modernist coolness and movie references, this makes the thoughts go to David Sandberg’s Kung Fury. Sometimes it gets a little too plot, with molotov cocktail fires burning, shots flying and roofs crashing, but for the most part it’s pure 16-bit nostalgia.
Like the best games of the time Hunt Down sometimes quite challenging, but never unfair (at a normal level of difficulty). You can (and must) learn patterns on the later bosses and parts of the tracks, which of course belongs to the genre. The first time you try at Castlevania on the NES you will say that it is “impossible”. Once you have learned all the patterns, you can play through it, without dying, in 15 minutes … However, it is obvious that Hunt Down is intended as a co-op, two-player experience; the balance is perfect then. Partly because you have the same difficulty with double fire strength, but also because players can revive each other within 20 seconds when one party “dies” (runs out of energy). This gives many, much needed mulligans and changes the gaming experience as a whole. You can absolutely enjoy the game alone too, but you lose a dimension if you can’t invite someone to the couch, with a couple of cold ones and enjoy playing through it one evening. Personally, I look forward to doing it with my brother-in-law, when this Covid-19 mess calmed down a bit. Getting sworn at difficult bosses, sweating together and high-five with a bowl when “that impossible boss” is defeated is an experience that belongs to the game’s golden moments.
For those of you who like the genre, or did it when it started and have someone to play through it with, then Hunt Down an absolute must with its facile price tag of SEK 199 (is also available in most formats you can imagine). Alone it is also really good, though not quite as brilliant. If you are hardcore you can bet on the edition with arcade cabinet, as this is a bit the archetype of an arcade game from bygone times.
Can love immersive role-playing adventure in 100 hours. But sometimes it’s so nice to just pick up a controller and experience genuine gaming joy that takes 30 seconds to get into and demands just the right number of hours of investment.