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Published 16.06.2021 00:00
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Huntdown review

Huntdown really wants you to believe it's a long-lost 90s arcade game that has resurfaced on mobile. This shooting platformer captures the look and feel of yesterday's edgy action games by filling it to the brim with classic cyberpunk imagery, rendered in a loving sprite-based style. Huntdown may look like old arcade games you've played before, but it doesn't quite feel like them. It feels better, even when dealing with some hinky mobile controls.

Run and gun

In Huntdown, you take control of a bounty hunter who has been hired to take out three high-profile gangs. In order to do this, you need to lay waste to hundreds of henchmen while picking off key leaders to work your way to the head honcho. This structure basically creates a way to have multiple boss fights for each gang type and allow for some experimentation and variety in level and enemy design for each gang archetype.

The action in Huntdown is akin to something like the classic Metal Slug games, though with some added traversal abilities. Your bounty hunter has a side-arm, some kind of thrown weapon, and the ability to pick up weapons dropped by enemies. Using these tools--as well as the ability to run, jump, dash, slide, and take cover all over your environment--can lead to a lot of interesting and varied approaches to gunfights.

Stylish slaying

If you're at all a fan of cyberpunk or 80s-era visions of sci-fi dystopia, it's likely that Huntdown has already caught your eye. This game is a playground of homage to hyperviolent, edgy, and dark futuristic action that never feels too derivative of any one touchstone. It's just cool and dumb in the way that stuff was cool and dumb, and it does so without ever feeling too campy or self-referential. In this way, Huntdown effectively passes itself off as a forgotten title from a bygone era.

Huntdown's style also gives the game some room for variety when it comes to enemy and weapon design, which makes for encounters that range from shooting lasers at giant robots to beating up a group of henchmen with a wrench. To further add to this variety, Huntdown has multiple bounty hunters with unique weapons to play as, an arcade take on its core story mode, level secrets to uncover, and additional difficulty options upon a first clear of the game.

Stuck 'em up

Huntdown was not designed specifically for mobile, as it first appeared on PC and consoles. Even without this knowledge, you could probably tell after just a few minutes with the game. Although the virtual buttons behave surprisingly well in most situations, there is a specific issue with the game's cover system where sometimes the game will just decide when to take cover for you, even if you're simply trying to move past said cover.

When this issue first started happening to me, I checked the in-game settings, assuming this was some kind of mobile accessibility feature, but it's not--or at least it's not one that can be changed. To Huntdown's credit, the rest of its control options offer a lot of customization and the game otherwise truly feels really great. Also in its defense, most situations where I found myself dying over and over again had more to do with how dastardly some of the boss designs and attack patterns are rather than me accidentally going into cover.

The only other thing I'll say about this mobile version is that it can be hard to enjoy outside of dedicated play sessions. Levels are short and have checkpoints, but if you close the app and return, you have to start levels from the very beginning. Many of the tougher bosses can also tie you up in a loop of retrying that extend levels into 20+ minute affairs, and leaving the game to be booted back to the beginning of a level can be deflating/frustrating.

The bottom line

Huntdown is a heck of a fun and intense game. It has some minor control issues on mobile, but otherwise is a brutally good time, particularly if you have a fondness for its specific flavor of dark sci-fi action.

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