Hunter Hunted

Here’s a grisly premise if ever there was one — in the near future, a race of sadistic aliens called The Masters have invaded earth, wiped out civilization, and now is subjecting the human survivors to brutal gladatorial bloodsports for their amusement. The Masters have selected Jake, a muscle-bound, chisel-jawed human champion, to survive a series of trials, competing against Garathe Den, the Minotaur-like warrior champion of the planet Kullrathe, another enslaved world. It’s the kind of brooding, malevolant game we would have been shocked to see from Sierra a few years ago, but in the wake of more sinister games like Phantasmagoria and Rama, this seems more like a logical extension of the interesting new direction the company has taken with some of its more daring titles recently.

2Perhaps even more surprising from Sierra is the choice of genre: This is an all-out arcade action game, with occasional glimpses of puzzles and tactical elements. You run, jump and kick everything that gets in your way. The storyline follows both Jake and the beast creature Garathe Den depending on the mission (the missions progress in a logical sequence, but you can play them in any order you like). Both characters control roughly the same, but have differing attributes — Garathe Den is physically stronger, but Jake can use guns and explosives that give him an edge.

The action itself seems like a high-tech throwback to the classic platform-based arcade games of yesteryear, most notably the likes of Pitfall. It’s a side scroller with “Z-movement,” which allows for multiple-layered levels so the player can run in and out of the screen through doors that connect the layers.

That’s about as sophisticated as it gets, with the main thrust of the action involving collecting weapons, blasting baddies, jumping, climbing, and finding secrets. Some savvy and a little thought is required to navigate some of the more puzzle-oriented maps, but this is a shooter first and foremost. A neat touch is the cooperative or competitive two-player mode, which takes place on one computer using a split-screen display, and has Jake and Garathe Den working through the game level simultaneously, either helping or trying to kill each other depending on the rules of play.

We don’t see many games like Hunter Hunted on the PC these days, although when you see an old genre executed so competently as it is here, you tend to wonder why. The gameplay is relatively primitive, but that’s part of its appeal, and the slick presentation (particularly the sumptuous soundtrack and oodles of character animation) makes this an absorbing experience despite the lack of any real depth. Decent arcade games on PC are still hard to come by, so if you’re looking for some aimless but exciting thrills that you can play in small chunks at a time, you could do a hell of a lot worse than this.

System Requirements: 80486 66 MHz, 8 MB RAM, Win95

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