Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Smashing Pumpkins into Small Piles of Putrid Debris (1993)

Name:Smashing Pumpkins into Small Piles of Putrid Debris
Publisher:Jamul Software
Developer:Jamul Software
Genre:Top-Down Shooter
Time:4 hours 00 minutes
Won:Yes (78W/62L)

To the question you are asking, yes, that is the title. (originally this was going to be game 200, as a sort of quasi-gag, now something much better is going to be 200) A sort of distantly connected to Doom, Smashing Pumpkins into Small Piles of Putrid Debris or it's initial SPISPOPD, which I'm going to use hereafter, is a quite strange top-down shooter. In order to get where the name comes from we need to go back to the hype for Doom back in 1993.

Despite what it might seem, the internet of yesteryear wasn't too different from that of today. Sure, there were less companies trying to extract their blood from a stone, but people were broadly the same. More elegant in speech, but still wondering when the next hyped up game was coming, complaining about inane garbage and complaining that Bethesda games were buggy. They just did it on Usenet. One man's joke post about the first began far more famous than most other posts of the era.

These posts have been archived, and all I'm really do is restating what they said. Someone suggested that for Id's next title, they pick something less interesting than Doom, and instead go for something like SPISPOPD, and from there it snowballed into something of a big fake joke game. Such things would be passed by unremarked, except that someone at Id Software decided that, hey, that'd make a pretty good cheat code.

And, you know, someone decided they should make an actual game based off this joke. Enter SPISPOPD, a game that would have never won anyone's game of the year. Supposedly made in 48 hours, even if that isn't true it was still made quite quickly. I doubt there are any other 48 hour games, that aren't text adventures, which are better. Which is less a statement of quality and more an observation that most 48 hour games aren't good.

I actually played this one at the same time I was enamored with all the rest of the classic DOS games. It wasn't ever really good, between the music, the gameplay and how it all came together in one long package, but for some reason I kept trying to play it. Now I'm doing it again.

The level select screen, which appears as the main menu every time you start up. This is taken from the end game, where I've beaten every other levelset to unlock this one.
The story is, the pumpkins are tired of being carved up every Halloween, so they've taken all the candles to their planet. Now if the power goes out everyone is screwed. Your job as the Gourdslayer, which is the actual name, before the decision to name Doomguy "Doomslayer", so they stole from this guy, is to take back the candles and kill some pumpkins.
The very first level.

SPISPOD is a very open-designed DOS top-down shooter, levels have a very tile based design. Each level is somewhat independant of one another, only progress involving your overall mission is carried over, and this includes weapons.
There are several worlds, and while each one is uniquely designed, they all share common elements. Baby pumpkins, the most basic enemy, which come out of various pumpkin patches. Candles and various gems, which come in attack power, health restoration, score, armor and invulnerability.

The intro world, which might very well have been the only world during the original release, introduces you to most of these concepts, and is generally pretty much like a tutorial. Baby pumpkins look like pumpkins. They come out of pumpkin patches, which you can and shoot shoot, as slow as it is. We also get your standard issue variety of terrain, ice, teleporters, moveable blocks, conveyors and deadly water. Key and door puzzles, though the game does eventually get better about this. Each level is a single screen, well, unless there are ladders of some sort around, in which case there's a second screen, possibly even more.

As explained before, you get candles, but this is not all of it. Sometimes you have to kill a boss, and in either event you need to find an exit pad, which shoots you to the next level in a rocket. It's lamer than it sounds.

Baby pumpkins, and the big pumpkins introduced here, are dumb, they move around in some fashion and sometimes towards you, at which point you start taking damage rapidly. Your only defense is to walk away and shoot them by hammering them with the space bar. I note that everyone has a square hitbox, like the kind of thing you'd get by counting the invisible edges of an image file.

Attacks are done with a hammer, which have a slight bit of an arc, but not something that would actually be annoying. Each red hammer you get increases the number of hammers you can throw...at first, then you can shoot behind as well as in front, and eventually just a triangle of destruction up front. Green "A" gems allow you to continually fire.

Nothing like a crappy game that mocks you for being bad at it.
 Also, every time you die the game mocks you.

Every enemy is tedious, but some are more tedious than others.

The introduction world isn't too bad, and the boss is basically just a really big pumpkin, easily killed. What's next? Well, I picked the robo world.

You need to get a key to get the hammer gem in the south, because the blue circles are teleporters and you can only reactivate one by getting off then on again.
In robo world, everything looks different. Now there are destructible blocks which look like computers. Pumpkins are now robo pumpkins, no change in behavior, and conveyor belts are everywhere.
This isn't annoying/terrifying at all!

So everywhere, in fact, that the second level has you doing this to advance. I didn't even realize there was a ladder down until I realized one of the "pumpkin patches" was different. This is the space levelset's theme, jump out into space.

Level three, go down two levels of conveyors leading to space to deal with this. Conveyors have very variable speed, ranging from, can walk against to going where the game wants you to. This one's a very fine needle threading, the ones at the top and bottom match your speed, going left and right respectively, so you have to very carefully go past everything to get that key. Then you can actually play the level.

As a result, it's all coming back to me, that this one's more of a puzzle shooter than a real one, where it's less about enemies and more about how obtuse the level design can get.

WTF? This is level four.

WTF!?! This is the second part of level four.

This is part three, the most reasonable part. What I haven't mentioned yet is that teleporters work randomly. You need to get lucky and get the teleporters where the keys are, while the lower right area is instant death, remember, everything resets on a new level, including your weapon. You cannot attack those spawners and the conveyors point outwards.

Lives are unlimited, but I really doubt even with this factor included that many beat this game back in the day. You have to, in order, get the two keys from the first part, while dealing with a 1-in-6 chance of just being screwed over, go through a maze to get a dozen other keys, then on the final level get the key on the other side of the robo giant pumpkin, which shoots at you, then back to the locked doors in the central area. Then you can actually shoot here. You have to do that, with limited health, as gems are limited and enemies push you, so you can't just rush past them.

You haven't even shot a single enemy to get there and it's already an endless nightmare of a level. Every single aspect of this game is effectively randomized. Baby pumpkins and their variants spawn randomly and move randomly. It is effectively up to the game if you can win this level. Well, unless you cheat.

SPISPOD includes cheats, like the ability to nuke all enemies on-screen, useful if you're sick and tired of playing the same level over and over again, and the ability to increase the number of hammers you have so you don't throw just one. I'm not really sure how anyone could beat this level without resorting to cheats.

Robot pumpkins, they actually try to intentionally kill you!

Level five is another desperate race to get the hammer gems, only this time it's much more reasonable. No insane amounts of luck required to win. Once you're down below you don't even need to go back. Unless you want to go the secret level.

It's really lame. This takes the place of the boss fight, with this being a special version of it, I guess. Frankly, this water tank pumpkin is just annoying. Basically the story of this game.

Iceworld, everything is ice. Ice works by preventing you from stopping, go in one direction and you'll keep going until you end up in a wall...or the drink. Unlike conveyor belts you can generally deal with this.

Level 2 introduces the asparagus. Apparently the game has turned into Keen Dreams. They run straight at you and have a very annoying hitbox. This level is actually more difficult than it looks, because I cheated here to get more hammers, it's murder trying to burn through a whole bunch of pumpkin patches with one and no autofire.
At least there's an autofire gem.

Level 3, at this point every new level is another "look at this crap"! Destructible blocks are slightly brighter than the regular ones. All the eye-searing pain of an EGA game with the graphical quality of a VGA game. Remember to go through the blinding blocks in a certain order or you have to go back, across treacherous lakes.

Every screen's another tedious exercise in patience.

After another floor of that, we get this one. The water-bound pumpkins shoot across the entire screen, undeterred by walls. Thankfully they can't aim very well. Watch out for that bit on the upper left, where you have to make a turn, on ice, next to instant-killing water. That's certainly not annoying at all! It's telling that the cheat list includes an option that makes you immune to water.

Level 4, I think, I've lost track of where I'm at because of that last level. Mostly okay, except for this part. On ice you can't exactly aim precisely, because momentum of where you're moving determines where you aim, also hitting a pumpkin knocks you away. The first section is even fun, requiring you to get past some big pumpkins before you get a hammer gem.

Level 5, those blue bits are little pieces of water. Yeah. It's mostly a nice level, except for placing two doors together on an ice stage and then limiting the amount of keys you get.

Level 6, no, not as bad as it looks. Yes, it's dangerous grabbing that hammer gem, but it's far easier than most thing I've done in this game.

It's this part that's hard. Until you realize you don't need anything out of the middle section because the locked door is surrounded by moveable blocks. Level 7 and 8 are basically just ordinary levels but everything is ice and the odd bit of annoying water.

Level 9 is downright normal. It starts off like the level to a more typical game. Shoot some monsters in a hallway. This shouldn't be near the end of one levelset, it should be the first one. Even towards the end when the game throws some of the asparagus monsters at you, it's still easier than every level you played to get here.
Level 10, the boss is three yetis. It's basically a joke, though they're very deadly. They throw snowballs like you do hammers and make annoying "excuse me" statements whenever they touch you. The game provides three hammers and three shield gems, which is enough if you feel like breaking your space bar.

Forest world or whatever it's called. Level 2, because level 1 is easy. I feel like making the player select which world they're on is silly considering that this is something that should clearly have been played before both the space world and the ice world. The forest world has that charmingly amateurish look to it. Anyone who's been involved or has played a few games made by amateur designers knows this look well. It's everyone's first forest area. The whole weird look of water is something new, because it's either harsh blocks or oddly smooth edges all the way, not this in-between stuff.

Anyway, this level is annoying, because you have to get all the candles, without any weapons. You have to snake up and down all three levels and I swear the game is intentionally making me go up and down some ladders more than I should. It's here that I figure out the game has a per level setting for pumpkin spawning, this one is noticeably fast.

The reason for my highly bloated score is that the purple gems give some absurdly high number of points.
Level 4, I guess. Not too bad, but I question throwing in the autofire powerup after you've already done most of the level.
Level 5. There is one hammer and you have to navigate below a maze of pumpkin patch filled sections, along with a few water pumpkins. It is exactly as annoying as it sounds, I'm not even surprised the author pulled the lazy bit and just put an exit pad on each little area.
Level 6, a bunch of water pumpkins, delayed hammer gems and carefully navigating over an encircling maze. Not the hardest level, but certainly some busywork.
Level 7, a mundane maze top leading to a deceptive arena below section, the ladders down and the ladders up aren't at the same place, something that would be clever if it wasn't this level. You get one hammer gem for this, with an OPTIONAL autofire gem. As per usual whenever the actual threat is over, I activate the weapon cheat, this would be a hour longer and somehow less fun otherwise. Level 8 in contrast is more of the same.
The way this serpent looks, I get the feeling he should be on a list.
Level 9 is the boss, a water serpent. It's okay. The game overcompensates by giving you like a thousand healing gems. Could have used those in any other level.

Now for Happy Fun World or whatever it's called. (subtle hint that I'm losing patience with this game) Pumpkins are multi-colored eyesores, water is pink cotton candy, and ice are blue tiles. It's an eyesore, but I don't necessarily mind it so much. It's weird, I don't want to look at it, yet I actually respect this setup more than the rest.

Level 2's second floor, there is definitely a readability issue. But to be honest at this point the game isn't really interesting as much as tedious. For my own sanity I've had the music off for a while, but now I've been turning off the sound too, even though this greatly impacts the game. (I have in fact, been listening to October Noir instead, a great little Type O Negative-esque band)
Is "at least it's supposed to look ugly" a compliment or a criticism?

We do get the key room kind of puzzle, which is less annoying than the other puzzle levels of this nature. Though I think you need to play it a few times to figure out the optimal order. Going down those stairs is the destination, there are no more keys down there.

Then there's this Pac-man-esque level. You know, I'm starting to feel like that's less cute and more annoying. It's not as clever as a Pac-Man level should be since there's a couple of hammer gems in the upper part of the level. I find the secret level from here by shooting left on one of the spawners.

Papa Brickolini's evil brother, you know he's evil because he listens to NIN.
...Which leads to I guess another version of this place's final boss. It's a chef LEGO minifigure over a Nine Inch Nails logo...for some reason. Wonder if this was thought up before Quake. In either event, this guy is annoying, he's not deadly in that he chases after you, but if you get hit by the pies he throws, you're going to suffer for it.
Desertworld, it's a desert and the pumpkins are set up like stereotypical Arabs. The music is literally a two second loop and now water is quicksand. This set of levels loves the quicksand. It's the only defining feature. The darker sand is a conveyor belt, and nearly every level seems to require you to perform some impossible move over the quicksand to win. I frankly just skipped past them whenever they pulled something like that. I kneel to the maniac that can actually win those.

Then there's this level. Rather than the usual mess of seemingly inescapable pits, there's this genuinely perplexing level. Don't get me wrong, there's the usual bit of nightmarish bullcrap you're expected to put up with here, remember, all of the dark colored sand is a conveyor belt and those holes are instant death. That means the area on the right is basically impossible to get past. No, what's interesting is what this level expects you to do. Blocks haven't really been important up until now, but this makes them really important. Those trees are all destructible, but there's no way for you to get a hammer pick-up here.

Instead, you have to exploit the game's engine with these blocks. If you move just right, you can push them in a way you shouldn't be able to. There are still limitations, you cannot push them over conveyor belts, hence why there's no possible way for you to get the hammer pick-up here. But because it's this game, it has to ruin the cleverness by throwing in a not optional perilous climb over the conveyors, and then a series of running conveyors containing the candles. Miss one and you have to go through that perilous climb again.

The boss is a pretty creepy pumpkin centipede. It doesn't really chase after you and because this levelset is conveyor city, you have to set yourself in one of the islands of sand. And that's the last of the regular levels, on to the final section. Hell.
I didn't even realize that was a swastika until later.
Considering the game was already hell, yeah, it's hell all-right. Now enemy spawns kill you if you touch them. Because they're pentagrams. More to the point, you have to go across a long series of these guys to get one hammer gem, and trust me, you're going to need it. Because while this isn't as bad as the desert levels in that they don't expect you to deal with the conveyor belts, they do expect you to go through long periods of the level with low hammer power.
I guess they're in hell because I already killed them.
Oh, yeah, tricky lava bits too. And repeating the bosses from earlier levels. It's as tedious as you expect. Because this levelset never ever gives you more than 4 hammers on a level and only rarely the autofire gem. So it's a bunch of levels that you either cheat at, because that's probably what you've done until now, or play for an hour.
My score is so high it wrapped around to negative numbers.
There are two unique bosses to this level. First, the evil Gourdslayer. This guy has an actual AI for once. He fires randomly, but if he notices you he goes after you. It's clever, but it's still this game, so it isn't fun. There's also the pumpkin mastermind, which I just noped out of because you have to deal with the asparagus first and he's still surrounded by big pumpkins. Those are the most annoying enemies.

The ending slide is cryptic. Undoubtedly channeling Doom, we see the Gourdslayer ride his rocket down to the Earth, the screen slowly goes to the left, to this monstrocity. Then pumpkins fall onto the Gourdslayer from the sky. The end, at least until the sequel.

As you're going to be hearing a lot in this summary, I like the idea of getting gems to increase the power of one weapon in theory, but in practice it's kind of annoying. Especially since autofire is an optional extra, not automatic. 2/10

In a better game, I would enjoy the variety of enemies. To the small enemies that get constantly spawned to the bigger ones which have their own unique concept. I really would have liked the evil Gourdslayer in a different game. 3/10


Sometimes tolerable. Sometimes not. Sometimes an exercise in making the player question why they even started this game. I still really like that one desert level, and the clown world was okay. 1/10

Player Agency:
There's nothing, on the surface, wrong about the controls. You move, it's fine. You shoot where you aimed. It's just...wonky in the details. Getting attacked or put on a conveyor belt changes the direction you move, which means the direction you aim. You can't consistently aim while doing either of those, so you're stuck in a bad place should you end up in either situation. And your movement relating to the death tiles feels too loose, like the game is too eager to kill you. 1/10

I like how the game exploited the movement of the push blocks, but I loathe how janky it feels here. 2/10

This has an atmosphere to it all right, awful. Sheer, concentrated, awful. It takes a lot of effort to make something this awful. 1/10

It's okay. Nothing special. Not a lot of animation going on. Sometimes it's an eyesore. 2/10

Oh, right, I was killing pumpkins because they stole all the candles. Eh. 1/10

Actively malicious. Every sound is made by a dude's voice or is a stolen sample, while all the songs are 5 second or so loops. The death sounds in particular are agonizingly annoying in how long they go on. 0/10

That's 13...somehow.

This game kind of makes me philosophical. There are many games in the world I want to play and many games that by all rights, are worth far more of my time than this. Yet, somehow, I've found myself coming back to this game despite it not being very good or to be nice a joke game. It's not just a retro review thing, arguably everyone has a game they continue to play or come back to despite the crap factor. It's a weird thing, because say, someone right now who's making something like this, but good, is likely getting ignored or at the very most has a few thousand players.

On the other hand, those modern games are just as likely to have people, who, when playing an older game would criticize it without fear of criticism back, will treat newer games with kids gloves. Either because of that fear of return criticism or simply because they don't want to be mean to the indie devs. The latter of which isn't necessarily wrong, but art kind of needs fair criticism to grow. A lot of Youtube reviews these days feel like glorified advertisements for these games.

There's no real easy answer to that question, which is probably why old punching bags like these keep getting brought up. It's always going to be fair game to make fun of a thirty year old game.

Next up, Strike Base. An action/strategy game involving an intergalactic war. It's going to be interesting.

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Hunter Hunted (1996)

Name:Hunter Hunted
Genre:Side-Scrolling Shooter
Time:11 hours 00 minutes
Won:Yes (77W/62L)

Rather suddenly, I've had the need to clear off some space on my desk. And what do I have on my desk that's most convenient to move? Old games. Hence a sudden shift in what I'm playing.

This doesn't actually play during the intro, you have to wait for it to show up on the menu.

Hunter Hunted is one of two games in Sierra's k.a.a. line of games, the other is a fighting game called CyberGladiators. Both were developed by Dynamix and I struggle to think of why this is any different than most of Dynamix's other output.
The story is, sometime in the late 20th century, a group of aliens called The Masters killed most of humanity and enslaved the rest for games of their own amusement. Hunters, as they're called, are put into the ruined remains of a city and fight various creatures. In some cases they are the hunters, taking out traps and robots. In others, they are the hunted. Humanity is not the only race, there's also one called beasts, who look like minotaurs.

You play as either Jake, whose last name I could have sworn was Hunter (or the Japanese title Jake Burst) or Garathe Den, the beast. You have to survive some 65 missions, finding equipment/parts to put on a car in order to make it spaceworthy, and escape the Masters.

There's something to be said for the era when companies played around with their logos like this; these days some bigwig would be upset that they were "making fun" of their logo.

The intro, as broken as this is through WINE, is interesting. There's a pretty neat rendition of the Sierra logo, followed by Dynamix's blue fuzzball coming on screen...before Garathe Den comes on-screen and splats him against the wall. Also, there's an Escape from New York reference that isn't from a Metal Gear Solid game.

Then, we get this. Uh, thanks to WINE, I didn't get to see it, but it does explain what is supposedly the concept of the game. Supposedly, because it's fairly obvious that near the end the two will join sides.

Text boxes like this appear sometimes. Because of the game's very '90s Windows nature, these sometimes pop up outside the main window.

The game just goes straight into it when you press new game. First you get a tutorial as Jake. Controls are sort of like a more arcade-y Blackthorne, that old Blizzard cinematic platformer. Left and right moves, shift jumps, ctrl shoots, z punches, X slows you down, down crouches and up is stealth. You can move while crouching but not while hidden. Secret passages and doors are found by moving into them automatically, other interactables are done via up. Weapons are selected via page up and down.

This is a fairly simple training mission, with a few non-threatening mines to shoot and then you get an exit door. It feels too simple to get used to the game. Despite playing mostly like an old-fashioned arcade platformer, albeit with some fancy aiming, this is in many ways like a FPS of the period, health, which can go up to 199 with the right pick-ups, armor, weapons and ammo are separate. Ammo goes up to 99, and while each weapon has it's own pick-up, the amount of ammo you get varies from level to level. No real power-ups, however.

Stealth is weird. Some enemies respond to it by walking away, others just sort of stand there, and others shoot at you like you're still there. Either way they'll stay pretty close to where they are. Hiding prevents you from getting shot, but explosives still have their normal effects.

Movement is generally fine, but there's a lot of issues around the edges. You can find yourself caught on a wall that doesn't exist or in a way that doesn't make sense and the only solution is to jump.

Then you get a tutorial as Garathe, much like Jake's training. Curiously, Garathe gets two melee attacks, fists and a club thing with better range. I'm guessing Garathe is supposed to be more of a melee fighter while Jake is more of a ranged fighter. Garathe gets knives to throw at enemies, which is kind of hard to hit the mine with. Even worse, the guy's movement sounds are over the top, when running he breathes a lot, and his walking sounds still feel a bit too noisy.

There are two key things this level introduces besides getting used to the alien minotaur. Climbable locations, works like you'd expect it to, up and down; Secrets, like I said earlier, just walk into walls to find secrets. Here, I get grenades.

The end level screen, this shows up even if you lose, so you can figure out how many secrets a level has. Treasure refers to stuff like the car parts, which you need anyway.

Couple of more things, if you press up and shoot just before you go into stealth, you shoot up. With grenades this is more like an awkward arc, it's basically impossible to hit a mine with a grenade. If you crouch and shoot...Garathe screams and hurts himself, presumably this has some purpose later in the game. You can shoot diagonally down with down left or down right.

There's a lot of voiceover in this game. For games I've been playing lately, but that's to be expected when you're mostly playing '80s titles. Every intro has an alien mocking Jake or Garathe that isn't actually written down. You know, what we expected games would be like in the '90s around this time, everyone would just listen to the game instead of...gasp...reading text. Not that any of it is very important.

I'm just going to put the individual parts up here and summarize the "interesting" (though most are) levels afterwards.

Your character changes color each mission, Jake's shirt or Garathe's fur. In either case, when poisoned, they shift to green.
There are about six groups of traps and like things:
  • Poison, comes in the form of dripping ceiling puddles, ground puddles, poisoned food and jets that shoot out. Poison slowly damages you until you find a green medikit. A lot of levels center around these, and they range from annoying to terrifying.
  • Dart traps, what you think, if you're within it's line of sight, it shoots out darts. Varies in damage and speed from mild nuisance to basically dying in a few shots.
  • Ceiling rams, don't have a better name for these, when activated, they swing from side to side. As lethal to enemies as they are to you.
  • Jump pad, they push you along a certain arc. Very annoying because they knock you down while they do it.
  • Barrels, they explode. Sometimes they just explode, other times they create burning fire, which lasts for a while.
  • Teleporters, they teleport you. Uses the radioactive symbol. Some are hidden.
  • This doesn't get into how the game uses more advanced triggers to trap you or screw you over. Disappearing and reappearing walls happen on whatever notice the level developer wanted.
For visibility's sake, I've been cutting out the window part of the window, though these menus are quite essential to playing the game. (you have no real restart function, so you need to stop in the middle of a mission)
  • Mines, they slowly move towards you while floating. Can be annoying to hit, but not terribly lethal in isolation. Unfortunately, they usually come with spawners, big solid blocks which take a couple of rockets to take out. Come in four colors, with green being the easiest and red being the most dangerous.
  • Turrets, tricky to shoot right, but more because of always being on the ceiling. It's easier to hit them at an an angle, but I kept screwing that up. Come in many kinds, which range from mild nuisance to dead. At least you can avoid their shots if they aren't pointed at you. Their shots, even in the weakest variants, can range from constant stream to short bursts. They're never fooled by stealth.
  • Chaos Creepers, like mines, except they run at you. Dangerous until you figure out you can shoot diagonally down, less so when you do so. Mostly placed in locations you shouldn't be in anyway.
  • Chameleons, xenomorph-like creatures which jump around. Surprisingly not as lethal as they sound.
  • Manta Ray, annoying but not very deadly. They hide like you do, so while you can see them, you can't attack them until they break out of cover.
  • Floating blobs, these guys might have a name, but they were only briefly mentioned if true. They're like the mines, except slower and less lethal. The gray ones don't move unless you're unlucky while the yellow ones are quick on the draw. Best punched to death.
  • Security droids, the most annoying of the enemies. They shoot at you like the turrets, except they're usually alert and they have a bigger range of view. They shoot out a burst, which ranges from managable in green, to do not get hit in red. This guy can actually stunlock you out of the hiding animation. Tedious to kill in the best of situations, which means the later levels are full of them.
  • Sentinel droids, or Molotov Cactus. Stationary things which throw out a group of explosive when you get within a certain distance. Unfortunately, you can only hurt them when they're attacking.
  • Ants, uh, they appeared on a few Hunted levels, but were otherwise a non-entity. I don't think I ever fought one.
  • Bruiser, you know the ED-209 from Robocop? Like those. They shoot missiles, plasma projectiles, a flame thrower for short range and they can cause earthquakes. Lethal if you don't deal with them right, but otherwise simple to deal with, albeit they have a lot of health. No joke, on some levels you can just pummel away at them with a shotgun; their missiles go over you.
  • Death, a flaming skeleton. Shoots fireballs, teleports through everything and can't die. Or at least it's so impractical to kill you never do so in the entire campaign. Pretty easy to run away from and sometimes you can even lose him.
  • Other humans, they use Jake's model, but these aren't Jake. What weapons they have varies, but assuming you either have the club as Garathe or the shotgun as Jake you can handle them pretty easily by constantly knocking them down. Stealth is useless against them.
  • Other beasts, they use Garathe's model, but aren't Garathe. They have varying weapons, but usually they rush towards you. Unfortunately, unlike Jake, they only get knocked down by explosives, so you need to have some range before attacking them, lest you get caught in the explosion. Stealth is useless against them.


  • Fists, somehow Jake can punch a mine with no ill effects. I like that.
  • Club, basically replaces Garathe's fists for most levels. Useful for taking out the more mobile enemies thanks to it knocking them down.
  • Pistol, Jake's basic weapon, shoots a burst of three bullets in whichever direction you're pointing. Very accurate and ammo is plentiful. Very useful for taking out turrets from a distance. Gradually decreases in importance outside of taking potshots at things from a distance.
  • Knives, Garathe's basic weapon. Because you only throw one at a time, it's worse than the pistol, missing is easy. It has one advantage, knives that miss can be picked up wherever they land. Seems to almost never be useful outside of early intro levels though.
  • Shurikens, they're like the knives, except they explode and gravity affects them a lot. With a really weird arc if you throw them straight up, they always slowly go lower "down". They can be picked up too after being thrown, as they only detonate on contact with enemies, on walls it's on a timer.
  • Whip, in theory, kind of crap, if you don't let it complete it's wind-up, you just pointlessly whip...except that functions as melee. It's projectile is nothing special, just a simple attack, yet in practice, it's very effective once you get used to it.
  • Shotgun, shoots out about 3 damaging pellets. Kind of weak for a shotgun, but I suspect that's only relatively, since, you know, you can take out big mechs with it.
  • Rocket Launcher, a very nice rocket launcher. Explosions happen through walls, I should point out. It's only real flaw is that you can't shoot straight up.

Right, back to the levels.

Jake Learns the Ropes, more like Dynamix violates the cardinal rule of level design, never start your player off under fire. (later on they'd violate the no secrets necessary to win, but eh at that point) A turret here, they range in damage and tactics, either they constantly track you or have a set pattern they follow and only shoot you when you reach it. Some weapons they're invulnerable to.

This actually explains what I just said about up and shoot. Down shoot for Jake, incidentally, causes an electrical field which slowly drains Jake's health. Rope ladders, as I'm learning on this level, don't quite work how I expected. If you climb to the top, you just sort of jump off, and while you can jump off at any time, it feels weird. You can also shoot, of course, but this causes Jake or Garathe to fall off.

Speaking of screwing with the player, Garathe's next tutorial explains poison. Also, he's dropped straight down at the beginning and naturally there's something that has to be reached while doing so. (Or you could find it through a secret later) This gets me a whip attack...which is just slow as molasses to fire, but it is an explosive projectile, which does give it some advantages.

So, poison, certain objects poison you, and it's slow damage until you find an antidote, a green medical bag to the usual white and red ones. This game has the usual assortment of items in a not really score based game, ammo, health and keys. Items don't really carry over between levels, the game just gives you whatever it is it wants to give you.

I can't think of any game that just lets you do this everywhere where you weren't some weird alien.
Oh, yeah, Garathe can grab onto the ceiling with jump + up. Actually, both can, it's just Garathe has such a bigger jumping power I noticed it sooner with him. It's very awkward to do, because you can't take to move, you have to hold down, there's an unskippable animation for both characters, which, when combined with the speed of moving up on the ceiling, feels like an eternity. This is all just a weird thing to have it took me a while to fully appreciate it as part of the toolkit.

Skipping over one of Jake's missions, it just has teleports and a point I'm going to make here anyway. Walking between areas via these big things. I know they have a name, but it's kind of hard figuring out what they're called since they behave similarly to how some games have distinct "planes" for characters to walk on, whereas this is just shifting areas.

Jumping is weird. Jake has a bunch of random jumps ranging from typical jump to last chance desperate fall-on-the-ground toss. I can figure out Garathe's seem to involve pressing up+direction and shift, but that doesn't work for Jake. It seems, based on how I can activate it, that it happens when he would trip over something. Huh, that's oddly involved.

This mission adds in a few things, we get some new enemies. Chaos creepers, who are basically smaller mines, slowly come after you and explode. Chameleon, female robots who basically work like xenomorphs, they're a pain to hit but even though I got poisoned and couldn't find an antidote, I still took out a few with the club.

Again with attacking the player as soon as a mission starts. I do figure out that you can shoot diagonally, which is a plus. There's a rocket launcher, funny how we got that before a shotgun. It's hard to tell how effective it is, nothing here is that strong. But now we get parts of the car.

In some missions you find pieces of a car, supping it up for space travel. Now I remember from one time I tried to play this in the past that this also gets built by some parts from Garathe missions. At least I think. I'll point out if it happens. I do note that it's kind of hard to actually spot these, I just mindlessly walk over everything and I usually get it by some means.
Garathe can't jump over these, his long jump hurts things he touches.

This level is still one of the tutorials, yet it's surprisingly open-ended. For as confusing as the 3d mechanic is, it makes the game feel a lot better than it would otherwise. Explosive barrels in this game are kind of cruel, sometimes they create this firey area that lasts for a lot longer than it should. Still the game knows how to use them, both in your favor and very much against. Barrels block the exit or sit beneath a turret. You can push them, but since they're always in a bunch, and it's impossible to push two barrels that are touching each other.

Jake 'Mines' His Own Business, guess the intro is over. Teleporter maze. This level design seems firmly entrenched in the labyrinthian kind of design, but so far that's working for it. There are traps, besides the obvious ones. Elaborate obstacles one has to avoid. I like that, but I wonder if the game is going to remember that.

This game also puts forth annoying numbers of mines here, first just a big group you can't easily reach, then some coming out of some spawners. They can't be destroyed, well, I got a rocket launcher, but it doesn't seem like it shoots up easily.

Intro: Garathe vs Chaos Creepers, hang on, the last mission wasn't an intro. This mission is important because it's the first timed mission. This comes in two varieties, one in which you have to reach the end before the time runs out or you die, and one in which you have to survive that long.

The game suggests using grenades against the creepers. Fine, that works, when I can wind up the throw. The whip is seemingly not as useful as intended, it won't hit things off-screen and the wind-up makes hitting things on-screen dangerous.

Another mission. Meet Bruiser, he's most vulnerable to being attacked from behind. So the game says, I took him out pretty handily by just spamming shuriken at him. This is one of the big enemies the manual warns you about. He's not too dangerous here, except that when he turns around he stuns you if you're on the same ground as him.

The numbers usually indicate which plane of the level you're on.

At this point, the mission turns weird. I go through the entire area I thought was available to me and there was no sign of the piece I'm supposed to collect. I know I'm supposed to collect something, because the game won't let me exit. Until I find it, hidden behind a side-crushing sweeper. Yeah, that's kind of a sign that the so-called neat bit the game advertises isn't up to snuff.

The first mission with security bots. You know, it's a bad sign when a new enemy is warned to you and you're given a shotgun and a rocket launcher. There have been other new enemies since I last mentioned them, like a robot plant which I think shoots explosives, but they haven't been trouble...at all.

Though I pretty much knew about these guys since they were in a Garathe mission, in which you had to avoid them. With the rocket launcher and the very generous 10 packs of rockets strewn around liberally, they're not very troublesome. They are less vulnerable to the shotgun.

Another Garathe mission, this time, based all around avoiding enemies and getting them to blow themselves up. You know, for a game that's trying to build this guy up as a hunter and Jake up as a hunted, I'd rather play as Jake. He has weapons I like using. Garathe's weapons all have weird quirks that make them difficult to use.

Jake's Hardware Store, a subtly timed mission, you're basically poisoned the entire time and have to survive on medikits you find. Makes actual combat very tense and inaccuracy a lot more troublesome. As I play more and more of this game, I find that while I don't care for the whole quasi 3d levels in theory, it does provide a lot of options in how you approach each level. Then there's the turrets, it's kind of hard to actually hit the turrets if you don't use explosives.

Robot Sabotage, still the intro, adds some interesting objectives. Usually you just get to the end and get a piece of the car, but here you have to take out some barrels and a red security robot. There's another bruiser here. Weird priority. I find myself dying frequently in each mission, but at the same time, each time I die I get closer to completing that mission. It's a pretty solid difficulty curve, and while you can't save in the middle of a mission, progress is saved and there's no penalty for dying.

The game has this weird habit in it's design to put down dripping poison puddles you have very little chance of dodging in at this point. But it's not as annoying as the low pits that have ropes, only at the bottom there's nothing. Considering how exploration heavy this game is, this feels conterproductive.

I haven't mentioned it before now, but the game shifts around the camera quite a bit. It only sometimes makes sense, like zooming out whenever there's an important enemy in the area. Other times it doesn't make sense, here, there's an extreme example in it zooming in extremely as you approach the red robot. Also, you can change the size of the window the game is in, yet this doesn't affect anything besides the size of the game world in pixels. Considering everything is pre-rendered 3D CGI, not the best decision.

Orb of Anarchy, a level with Garathe centering around the object of the same name. If it's on-screen, the arrow keys work in the opposite direction. More annoying than it sounds, because of the whole screen zooming in and out thing, and it seems to shift the second the orb gets on or off screen. This is by far the hardest level so far because of this. You're timed and there's barely any health.

A Vision of Death, pretty good level. There's a pretty clever set-up with a bruiser where if you run towards him, despite all reason otherwise, you end up getting some gear. But the real important bit is setting up the deadliest enemy of the game, called Death. Death moves through objects and is unkillable, and it's set up here perfectly, you're given the perfect opportunity to discover him and run straight for the exit.

So, after this each mission randomly consists of being either a hunter or hunted mission, these aren't connected to either character, rather, to what you have to do that mission. First up, play as Garathe and hunt down a human. Not Jake, just a random human. This adds in something really weird, on missions now both other humans and whatever race Garathe can appear. They're both hostile.

I'm the one dead here.

Both appear on this mission, though even if they didn't, because of a battle with a Bruiser while on a rope ladder, this would be a noteworthy mission anyway. Now not Jake enemies, they're the hardest so far. run and jump around like maniacs and throw grenades. This guy's dangerous just on his own, compared to everything else which functions more like a way of wearing you down.

You can resize the screen image, yet, all this does is increase how big whatever you see is rather than increase your vision.

Jake Cruises for Bruisers, "Now you are the Hunter, go forth and destroy". Take out seven Bruisers. Now we're getting into levels where you really have no chance of winning the first time around. As such the game cleverly teaches you several strategies of how to deal with these guys without getting hit. Some are more obvious than others, using grenades from above, abusing the ability to shoot in mid-air to shoot while on rope ladders. Others are more clever.

So, the whole climbing on the ceiling mechanic hasn't really been used much in combat yet. Mostly it's been around a few obvious bits of platforming. Well, the Bruisers don't knock you down when you're on the ceiling, making this approach safer when enemies are off-screen. (enemies don't move a certain amount off-screen, very annoying with these guys) So you climb up, and oh, look at that, the missile the Bruiser fires can't reach the ceiling and neither does anything else. Thinking about it, it's kind of weird that the movesets of these characters come off like a Xenomorph.

A hunted mission, Run for Your Life. No objectives other than staying alive. There are some new traps and critters, but it's actually not that bad of a mission. There are slowly moving electrical posts, easy to jump over; Ants, which work like the Chaos Creepers, but are slower and don't chase after you. I actually won on the first attempt. That's the first in a while.

Hunter, Scavenger, not too bad starting off. The game puts the pistol and the shotgun in two different alcoves nearby, more than making up for starting off with no weapons next to a turret. This one proves annoying because of the layout. The exit is surprisingly close to the entrance, yet you need to get several parts. Oh, yeah, and I died because I misjudged where the edge of the damage area was. Nice. Not because of the numerous dart traps or even the poison section, I just misjudged how high the fires damage.

Hunter, Throw the Switch. That's a typo, by the way, you're on a timer, you start with no ammo, and you have 10 health at the start. Clearly a hunted mission. You do gradually turn the tables on them, as you get ammo and weapons. I also discover that Bruisers can't shoot you when you're crouching, which is hilarious. Pretty good mission, especially when you get to exploit the AI's tendency to shoot blindly in your direction, like if two Bruisers will shoot at each other. Enemies shooting at each other is a thing that happens, but so far it's just been restricted to those robot fly trap things.

Hunter, Slaughter House. Kill a half dozen humans. Quite the task since they're all bunched up. What's also interesting is the opening section against some Chaos Creepers, you don't have any weapons except the club, so I figured out you could attack downward with the club.

Hunter, Three of a Kind. Garathe Den, but you find a part of the car. The game finally tells the player what he likely long since expected, Garathe and Jake will work together at the end. But first, Garathe has to kill three other humans. Including an annoying human with grenades stuck behind a locked door. You basically can't attack this guy without getting put in an awkward situation. Then the level gets obtuse, I make it to the exit and I've seen no car part. Worse still, I know there is no secret door I'm missing, and yet I've been everywhere and seen everything. In the end, I discover the game outright lied to me about there being no secret door and I merely missed it near the end.

As I mention later, I like the art direction, the main characters have a nice stylized look to them in particular.
Hunted, Take it From Jake. Weird to see an outright scavenger level, collect a bunch of different items while getting chased by humans. This level really puts into perspective how useful up+right/left jump can be with Garathe, if you're lucky, it damages and knocks down enemies. We're also getting into how secret doors, which once only took one or two seconds to open, now take like five, which is not at all annoying in a level where you're constantly running from enemies.
I'm pinned down in this screenshot, because one droid is firing while the other isn't, I can't get out of cover without getting shot.

Hunter, Apocalypse Now, very fitting. Take down six Bruisers, only these guys aren't the threat. To start off with, you seem to get some pretty good supplies, thirty shells, five rockets and five grenades, but that's nowhere near enough to fight what the rest of the level has, let alone the Bruisers. As soon as you take a step into the tunnel barrels are dropped onto certain locations, and the door out is right next to the last one. So you have to slowly walk across this. Then as soon as that's over with, you get to deal with a turret and a security robot right outside the next door.

The level is, at this point, divided between two sections, one with most of the Bruisers, and one wide mall hallway. The Bruiser area is further divided top and bottom by little holes which may have ammo in them, or they may have a robot in them. This is honestly a pain to deal with, because the robots aren't alert until you're in a straight line with them, there are not enough grenades to deal with the ones on the ground holes properly, meanwhile, there's no point in going after the ones in the ceiling holes.

The mall area is mostly tolerable, until you get to one section full of the blue security robots. These guys, if not properly lined up, can pin you down in stealth. Even if you're fighting them properly, you're still jumping in and out of stealth constantly. This whole level took me a while.

Hunter, You Against the World, take out three of Garathe's race and some other stuff. In an interesting twist, the usually not very troublesome not-player enemies are very deadly here. You need to spam explosives in order to knock these guys down, and you are never in a good position to deploy explosives.

Hunter, Bruiser Bashing, a lot of these late game levels are really long, this one came off the heels of an especially long just reach the exit level. This one obviously sets itself up as one of those. Take out 8 Bruisers, find a car part and to do this you start with 50 shells in your shotgun. Something tells me I'm going to need it. It's just one after another, so not too terrible, but you basically don't get a break between them. The game also gives you more pistol ammo than you'd ever need on a level like this, a lot of ammo from one pickup and half a dozen pick-ups, on a level with barely any enemies you would shoot with a pistol. I don't even think I shot something with a pistol.

Hunted, Power Outage. The level starts in total darkness. Lovely. Find a bolt in apartment 15, then take it to apartment 20. This is surprisingly detailed for a level briefing, and even better, I start with 1 health and 1 armor...and then the level just starts off relatively normal and throws a super health item at you. It does try to commit to the weird darkness gimmick by having walls close off behind you, but before long it turns into a relatively ordinary level of dodge the poison.

The actual gimmick of this level is a series of locked off apartments you can risk entering. You get a few grenades, but not many, and the first time through I used them to take out a security robot that was guarding a secret door that led to the keys. Making each new apartment very risky. Then you walk into Apartment 15 and meet Death. Apartment 20, by comparison only has another human and some explosive barrels. I got lucky.

Hunter, Efficency Expert. "Try to escape and find the car part." That feels creepy. There's a series of numbers on the walls. Why...? This feels more creepy than it should. Sounds are going off in the background that shouldn't usually be going off in the background. The car part I got by complete accident, it's in a hidden teleport. Escape is harder, until I realize what the numbers mean. They're where I should go.

That's correct, but I need to do something else first, there's a jump pad that won't activate. I do find this neat little area leading to some stuff though. I find the thing that activates the jump pad, only it leads to a dead end with some ammo. This is becoming more of a Tricks and Traps style level than anything else. If the central area spawned a bunch of monsters in it about halfway through. Oh yeah, and at the end you had to run away from a basically invulnerable monster...who ends up being unimportant compared to yet another Bruiser fight at the end of the level.

Hunter, Pinball. You know, I've avoided making the obvious comparison between this and Dynamix's classic puzzle game series The Incredible Machine, but it's true, the physics, the way each item is basically a pre-set piece yet can be customized in surprising ways. Pinball is the most obvious use of The Incredible Machine's capabilities, and so it is with Hunter Hunted. Half the level is getting bumped across jump pads in a really neat to see the first time around, annoying on replays kind of setup. Still a bit of a break from the chaos that's been going on.

Hunter, 457 Bourbon Street, take out the other human. You gotta love these late levels with such simple objectives. Is it really going to be that easy or are grenades going to be thrown everywhere like they found a warehouse full of them? It's simple, but you get quite a few sections where you have to play hide and shotgun with the security robots.

Hunter, Squirrel. Not especially notable, except for some reason the game gets really annoying about how it uses hidden teleporters. I had to fight my way up climb because the game was activating a teleporter to the exact same place I was at. Others are less annoying, but still push you back way more than they should. It's not difficult, just adds length in an already lengthy game.
Painting, Morpheus Kitami playing Armored Trooper Votoms: Dead Ash, colorized 2023.

Hunted, Mission of Mercy. Find an antivenom medikit. I kind of like how the game is throwing gimmick levels this late in the game. You actually have to poison yourself to get it, which seems weird considering the level is on a time limit to begin with.

Hunted, Death Comes Calling, at first it seems like it's going to be a terrifying level based around avoiding the death enemy, only for it to turn out to be a poison jog for the most part. I wouldn't have even brought up this level, except that this was apparently the final car piece, and I won the game. The outro cutscene, when I looked it up on the internet, shows the car driving through the same area as the intro and presumably flying off into the sunset. What will happen? Nobody knows. There was no sequel, though this takes place in the Starsiege universe for some reason.
The final two missions are both hunted missions, and each, while nice, both feel like they should have come before Death Comes Calling. I think someone somewhere screwed up the order the missions were supposed to be in. After this, there are some MP missions which I can't properly play.

Biased towards Jake, but a well-balanced selection of weapons, each mostly with their own use. Outside of Garathe's knives. 5/10

While the game gravitates towards a certain number of them, there's a well-balanced select each with their own niche. 7/10


The game gets a lot of mileage out of the hunter and hunted levels. Switching up the gameplay based around two easily understood concepts makes the game last it's length better than I would expect. But, I'm glad it ended when it did. 7/10

Player Agency:
Questionable. It's very hard hitting enemies above you, and I got annoyed by how sometimes the game would go into stealth when I wanted to shoot or vice versa. There's also very noticeably several parts where the collision stops working and I start pushing against a wall that doesn't exist. It also takes some getting used to the whole "climb on the ceiling" bit, but that is cool. The controls themselves are mostly fine, outside of aiming and the attack you get when you press down+attack. 6/10

This leads into the same problem that basic movement does. It's a pain having to constantly push against a wall hoping it's a secret, or accidentally pressing up at a location that isn't the switch/exit and getting the animation, but not the actual thing you wanted to activate. It's your basic FPS-style interactions though, but an advanced form of them. 2/10

Dynamix around this time had a habit of creating worlds which feel so much more alive than the game we get. I'm just walking around in some weird dungeon, yet there's the implication that the player is going around the remains of Earth and other civilizations. Why am I always in a mall or some sewer passage? 4/10

It has a nice aesthetic to it, but I can see where the graphics have aged. This specific Dynamix 3D look is something I look upon fondly but can see why someone else wouldn't. The post-apocalyptic look is nice, but the animation feels...limited. 4/10

Mostly irrelevant outside of the intro and outro. 1/10

The sound is very...noisy. Like the game concentrates on just filling itself with sound. It works though, but it's just a bit off. Musically, the game has CD audio, and didn't play while I was playing the game. Instead I had to listen to the soundtrack elsewhere. It's pretty good, an industrial metal kind of sound, a bit of some darkwave-adjacent genre. I'm not really sure how well it'd fit into the game, though. 5/10

That's 41.

I think this game just came out at the wrong time, wrong place. Computers always had a tough time with platformers, even run and gun ones like this, but this game just came out the wrong year. We got Quake and Tomb Raider, and those didn't require Windows. This sort of casual, but not really wasn't going to hit any major part of the market, even discounting minor control issues. Reviews are positive but not great, indicating the sort of chilly reception this game got at the time.

There is a level editor and a patch which adds a few more levels. I screwed around with a couple and the editor after finishing the game. The levels seem to be on the hard side. The editor, on the other had is pretty powerful. You can pretty seamlessly switch between changing things on a level to seeing how those things work. I can see why they did a few of the gimmick levels with it now. Despite this, it does seem like it has a pretty steep learning curve for the more advanced stuff you can see in some levels.