It is not always easy to stand out as the next big thing, which is why it is a common sight to see new video games take inspiration from those that have come before. Iterating on a solid idea can often lead to surprising results, and for DANGEN Entertainment and Moonlight Games‘ action adventure Hunt the Night, the 2D retro trip coupled with a high skill ceiling makes this a fun action romp that looks and sounds great as well.
Stepping into the boots of Vesper, players are part of an organisation called the Stalkers, whose one aim is to rid the world of evil. Of course, as things tend to go, creatures of the night have now returned, intent on eliminating all life and ushering in an age of nightmares. The heavy task of saving the day now falls to you, and there is no doubt the combat system is meant to convey the stakes at hand.
While it can be easy to eliminate the cannon fodder that are the zombies and skeletons roaming about the world of Hunt the Night, anyone who underestimates the challenges ahead will have a tough time. Every action during combat should be measured and thought out, and being overwhelmed is never going to end well.
Vesper moves and fights with elegance and grace, no matter the weapon that she is equipped with, which can range from daggers to hulking greatswords, each bringing various pros and cons to the table. Want something swift but not that hurtful? Choose the smaller weapons, and for a ton of damage at the expense of speed, go for the big guns. And speaking of guns, there are ranged weapons as well, with ammo replenished by way of more combat, implemented seamlessly into the gameplay loop.
Between exploration and combat, players can choose to rest at Crow Statues to recover both health and ammo, but doing so also revives all previously slain foes, much like a Souls game. Therefore, it was imperative that the level design caters to players who can either push all the way, or need a breather every once in a while without feeling punished. And Hunt the Night does that reasonably well by unlocking shortcuts and gradually opening up areas for the intrepid explorers to stretch their muscles.
Naturally, it pays to be attentive and seek out every dark corner, with plenty of rewards lying in wait. It could be new weapons that can make a big difference, one of the many Moonstones that can provide buffs and abilities to enhance Vesper’s efficiency, or more currency that can be spent on upgrades for the character, equipment, and healing.
While new equipment is always fun, Hunt the Night also ensures that its star gets new tricks to play with too. Players will need to master utilising the dark energy reserves of Vesper, which allow her to dash and avoid damage. Eventually, there will also come the added mechanic of powerful dark powers that have a cooldown, plus Umbra, the heroine’s shadowy counterpart who can help with exploration.
And when the big bosses come into play, it will require players to be on top of their game, learning patterns, dashing to avoid attacks, and knowing just when to unleash the pain. These boss battles are the highlight of the experience, never easy but also not impossible, especially for those that have developed the necessary skills and patience throughout Hunt the Night. It always feels good to win, but when it is done with a thorough understanding of what’s required, victory tastes sweeter.
The gothic and dark dungeons are also complemented by a larger world full of other opportunities. Vesper can take on hunting contracts to take down monsters, meet other interesting side characters, learn their story and fleshing out the lore, or attempt to solve the many different puzzles that can range from the simple to the intricate.
There are issues to get over for those looking to dive in. The storytelling can be obtuse at times, especially for those that have no interest in diving into item descriptions and hearing NPCs talk, and the learning curve is undoubtedly steep when it comes to combat. The lack of a map also doesn’t make it easy to keep track of things, and the power progression comes more from player skill rather than the in-game systems most of the time.
But put it all together, and it is not hard to see where Hunt the Night succeeds the most. The way combat flows, the flexibility of how players can build out Vesper to be the Stalker they want, and the delicate balance between challenge and entertainment both in exploration and in battle. While the game may not be for everyone, there is certainly a place in the ranks for a visually beautiful title that plays to its strength in many aspects, even if it feels like we have seen it all before.
Hunt the Night is available on Steam for $18.50.
GEEK REVIEW SCORE
A solid 2D action adventure offering, Hunt the Night does most things right without necessarily excelling in any of the areas.
Gameplay - 8/10
Story - 7.5/10
Presentation - 8.5/10
Value - 7/10