I have a couple of friends that are PS Vita enthusiasts that also have children. The one thing that I hear from both of them is how wonderful the Vita is for both entertainment and family/game time balance. Whether you choose to let your children play on your Vita or not is up to you, but if you do let them you need something for them to play that is relatively cheap and still provides them with an entertaining challenge. Flyhunter: Origins created by Steel Wool Games is one such game that incorporates action platforming with some family friendly humor and some tough challenges. Running through the 5 chapters of Flyhunter will take even skilled players around 3-4 hours to complete. The gameplay is simple and the plot is even more so, but there is enjoyable fun here to be had.
You play as Zak, a one-eyed, Minion-like, space ship janitor that accidentally jettisons his ship’s cargo (and crew) into space. Trying to track down all of the flies that escaped, Zak heads down to the planet’s surface to retrieve the lost cargo. The gameplay revolves around jumping, dodging and whacking. Your main weapon is an upgradeable flyswatter and is used to attack various insects and spiders that you encounter. The levels themselves are clever and it makes getting to the end accomplished by skill. Double jumping is enabled by your trusty jet pack that makes platforming fun. While not all your time will be spent jumping and swatting at enemies, the gameplay is broken up with flying levels where you have to capture a fly, all the while flying through an endless canyon of obstacle avoiding. Another level type takes away combat all together and has you escaping an enemy ship while avoiding be shot and evading dangerous traps.
At the end of each level your actions are scored on time, Biomass collected, secret chests found and Bug Eggs gathered. Biomass are green orbs that drop when you defeat enemies. Other than filling a meter for statistical purposes it has no in-game use. The white Bug Eggs on the other hand are in strewn about in plain sight and are sometimes cleverly hidden, and there are other in-game collectibles that allow you to upgrade your weapons. This game has a mix of platforming, combat and collection that all fit together very well. Some of the platforming segments are rather challenging, even to the point where I feel children might have a tough time. Often times you have to land on a narrow spot on the ground, and if you miss it you will fall to your death or get eaten by a spider. Since you can attack all of these enemies it allows some strategy to the gameplay. You may want to stun and kill the insects instead of dodging them, but at risk of getting injured. There are also varying enemy types that all have different attack patterns.
Progress is saved at cloning stations that will re create your character if you die along the way. They are well spaced and are not too close together to make it too easy. There is not much incentive to complete the game unless you are a completionist. The story is minimal even though it is tailored to a younger audience and it may distance kids from the story as part of the dialogue is not in English. One of the alien characters speaks in a foreign language and you can only tell what they are saying by subtitles. Not a deal breaker by any means but is worth noting. Most kids will still enjoy it for the gameplay. Collecting Bug Eggs allows you to upgrade your two weapons, but with only three upgrades each, I had both of them completely maxed out in the first third of the game. I wish there was more to upgrade as I went on, but I think they expected most kids not to be focused on the collecting aspect therefore stretching that process out much further.
This being a platformer, precision is very important, but due to some technical issues the game can become frustrating. Using your laser gun to stun enemies will cause the frame rate to completely stutter and slow down the game momentarily. When respawning at the cloning stations you have to wait for what seems like a couple of seconds before you can move. When you are at places in the game where you keep dying over and over, this delay becomes more than annoying. Another “bug” I encountered a few times involved the spiders. These foes will fall down on you as you run underneath them and will wrap you up and kill you. They are often times placed in precarious places to add to the challenge. A few times at least I was just about to be wrapped up by the spider at the same time I had killed it. The game glitches at this point leaving you wrapped up but still free to run around, but the next time you die, you are unable to respawn forcing you to replay the whole level. There is no ability to reload last checkpoint so this becomes frustrating. Hidden chests also unlock new outfits for your character but can only be changed from the main menu, not in game. Once you complete a level there really should be a way to quit to the main screen without waiting for the next level to load, but unfortunately this does not exist.
All in all, Flyhunter: Origins is a fun and challenging game that kids and adults alike will enjoy. The humor is good for a chuckle here and there, though the game can provide many deaths that sometimes feel cheap, but mostly are answered by user error. This game does not hold its own against some more well-polished games in the genre, such as Guacamelee, but still serves some simple fun. While there is not much here in length or depth, the collectibles alone have made me not only complete the game, but are encouraging me to 100% it.