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In the Hunt (Arcade) artwork

In the Hunt (Arcade) review

"Even though you successfully blast the first few enemies out of the water and dodge their attacks, you still notice two things off the bat. One is that you move somewhat slowly. Understandable, what with being underwater and all. The other is that you cannot hold the fire button down to rapid fire, but must repeatedly press the button."

A vessel of the deep sails silently across the screen and blasts a slew of high tech enemies. The words Insert Coin flash, begging for your dirty quarter. You want to throw it into Marvel vs. Capcom or Strikers 1945 Plus, but this game holds you in thrall. It's a shooter with a submarine. It's something out of the ordinary and looks like it could be refreshing. You don't see Tom Clancy's name anywhere around the marquee or on the title screen, so you assume this isn't another bastardization like The Hunt for Red October. It's only one quarter, though. What's the harm in that?

If you'd dropped that quarter into In the Hunt, then you at very least received a visual and auditory feast, but were left wanting something more substantial. The challenge is great and the levels imaginative, but the constant crowding and impossible situations demean the experience. It felt like Irem just stuffed a bunch of enemies on the screen, sometimes without rhyme or reason, and wished you best of luck while they ate away at your quarter supply.

Playing as a submarine seldom bodes well for a game. They're not quite as exciting as planes or spacecrafts, but the idea feels like it could be a breath of fresh air. One need only pardon the sins that the submarine hath wrought before, like the aforementioned Red October. It doesn't help that In the Hunt shares a key word with that game: hunt. This one seems to nod its head to Red October, but it's difficult to say if it was done so in kind reference or as a way of saying, “We'll show you how to make a submarine shooter.”

Starting out amid icebergs doesn't help the game's cause. Already, you're having Red October level 2 flashbacks and we can only hope there won't be a later level with Sean Connery disabling bombs and battling saboteurs. Rather, you battle a menagerie of such sci-fi machinery as high tech subs, ships, giant mines, helicopters, planes, and even legendary beasts. Instead of the customary single fire button, you are given two: one to fire torpedoes straight ahead and another to fire above you and drop depth charges simultaneously. You hope that this is only a coincidence, as this was Red October's bag as well.

Even though you successfully blast the first few enemies out of the water and dodge their attacks, you still notice two things off the bat. One is that you move somewhat slowly. Understandable, what with being underwater and all. The other is that you cannot hold the fire button down to rapid fire, but must repeatedly press the button. While this does not present a problem early on, it becomes irksome in later levels. Enemies are more than plentiful and begin to crowd the screen and it seems the only way to deal with them is to have more of you to go around, or to have your weaponry flying out at every possible angle. This leads to either sore wrists or sore thumbs, depending on whether your playing the cabinet or the MAME.

Blasting through the many mine-laden waters, taking out plane after plane and turret after turret eventually leads you to a deeper part of the icy waters. A large robotic monstrosity with long harpoon-like arms approaches you. Its design is detailed and grim, like the developers really put their minds together to come up with a contraption of hatred and destruction. Devilish boss music plays as its long arms reach out to crush you and make this level your watery grave. But like any first boss, it dies with minimal effort. Torpedoes smash open its hull and it sinks to the icy depths. The battle was not hard fought, but it was thrilling. A level breakdown screen appears and even shows you that you defeated a boss. They make it official by stamping a crude formation of the boss on the side of your vessel. It feels like an achievement, like being presented a medal. You could keep playing just to see the other insignias you could collect.

The second level hits and it's here that you really begin to see Irem's imagination at work. The backgrounds tell the tale of a war lost and humanity in a time of turmoil. Great cities are sunken, and you can see remnants of civilization, mostly buildings and freeways--some of which thwart your progress. You blast the mighty remnants, almost saddened at having to destroy these vestiges of better times. Seeing these gorgeous and detailed environments gives you the feeling of a true voyage and a mission of great importance. A harbor and industrial zone come afterwards, with a massive factory manufacturing the bulk of your rogues gallery. You eventually traverse a deep grotto complete with large mutant eels and a three-headed, fire-breathing turtle beast as a guardian; a sunken temple where you are chased by a stone god of the ancient Atlantans; all to arrive to the final fortress built up of incongruous machinery from floor to ceiling.

It's only a shame the voyage couldn't have been more enjoyable. If you aren't a shooter genius, this game will munch your quarters and expect seconds, thirds, fourths and twelfths. It's after level two that the enemies appear more frequently and eventually crowd the screen. If it isn't them you're trying to avoid, it's their projectile. It feels like an understandable climb in difficulty at first, but eventually builds into a catastrophe as if you're expected to dodge raindrops during monsoon season. If you're playing this in the arcade, then be sure you're either an ace or willing to dump a load of quarters. If, however, you have a chance to play this game with free credits, that would be best. While it demeans the challenge, it also ensures that you can experience all of the levels In the Hunt has to offer.

Many of the enemies were well placed and planned, but others don't appeal to rhyme or reason. This dulls the pattern-memorizing aspect that shooters profit from. It's like you're trying to memorize good places to sit or move to before advancing and spending more time hoping you'll be luck enough that the swarm of oncoming enemies and bullets can accommodate your rather large sprite. This makes the game more about a kill-or-be-killed tactic than about tricky dodging and smart survival.

I never like to say that challenge can hurt a game, but it really depends on how well a developer implements challenge. Placing you in ridiculous and often impossible situations does not a good challenge make. A good challenge is possible, but not lenient. In that sense, videogames are like puzzles or riddles. Each situation presents you with an opportunity to deal with an issue with many ways to do so, but only a few of them can lead to a perfect outcome. In the Hunt is a game sometimes too proud to have such weaknesses. It's a factor that works against the game's detail and beauty, against its action-packed gameplay and imaginative narrative. It either wants you to spend more money than you would be willing to spend, or it forces you to find ways around the money. Either you go out and buy your own cabinet or you MAME the game. It's worth the experience to play it. This is not to say that In the Hunt is a brilliant title and a timeless classic, but that it's a mildly enjoyable rainy day game. It's one that despite its flaws is still leagues ahead of other submarine shooters. Perhaps that's enough.

JoeTheDestroyer's avatar
Featured community review by JoeTheDestroyer (December 16, 2010)

Rumor has it that Joe is not actually a man, but a machine that likes video games, horror movies, and long walks on the beach. His/Its first contribution to HonestGamers was a review of Breath of Fire III.

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