Player 1 review by Malc.
(Jump down to Matthew A Witt's review of In The Hunt)

I love anything to do with deep-sea monsters. Films like Leviathan, Deep Star Six, The Abyss and even Jaws I adore. Nearly wet my pants just thinking of going to see Sphere, and yes, I know it's a bit bollocks. Still, the book was good. So it was with great trepidation of an imminent damping of the underwear when I bought the conversion of 'In The Hunt' for my Playstation a couple of years ago. And it was with mixed feelings and thankfully dry knickers when I finally switched off and considered the value of my purchase.

You can probably tell I was a bit disappointed with it. Believe it or not I don't immediately fall in love with every shmup I see. I'll give you my don't likes first, then end on a positive note. Lets make a wee list:

  • The main problem I have with it is the lack of speed and excitement. It's just too damned sluggish! Notching up the speed on the sub itself would have worked wonders, or even a speed select switch like in all those PCengine games would be preferable. It feels far too treacly, even with the max amount of speed ups collected. Dunno about you, but I prefer my shmups to be heart-racing affairs. Wait a minute, I seem to remember a speed up cheat for the PSX version... anyone got it anywhere? Should have been a standard option anyway.

  • The graphics get just too confusing. This is a major bugbear I have with a lot of modern shooters. You should NOT die because you can't see bullets that are hidden by explosions. Cardinal sin transgressed there, and I expected better from Irem. Yes, the explosions are really cool, except there's just TOO MUCH of them while you're actually playing.

  • I don't like the scrolling method. You have to push right all the time to move the screen, which I really think increases the sluggish ploddingness of the game. There IS a time limit, but it doesn't seem to be any incentive to get your arse in gear. Whereas R-type was a test of dexterity, memory and sheer skill, ITH depends more on luck, lots of credits, and the inclination to stick with it.

  • Your ship is too fat, and hence it's difficult to dodge bullets. It's a chubby wee tub indeed. Last Resort on the NeoGeo is a bit like this, as the craft in that is too long. Extremely annoying when there just isn't enough room to get out of a nasty situation.
Well, I know it sounds like I thoroughly hate the game by now. And everyone else who has seen it thinks it's Irem's best game ever. The graphics have got a lot to do with this, they really are damned good. Which bring's me onto my 'Do Likes' List:

  • Graphics. Finely detailed, huge amounts of care and attention spent on the many frames of animation. Everything is beautifully coloured, and even the smallest enemies move with well-oiled pixels. The backgrounds are rich and varied, and the Bosses are wonderfully realised. It's definitely a looker.

  • Attention to detail. It's a shame they didn't spend as much time on the gameplay. The only other game that had as much graphic detail in it was Metal Slug. Everything is shootable, and there are loads of brilliant set pieces going on all the time. Like the bulldozer which sweeps trucks of the quayside into your path, or the train which falls and breaks to tiny pieces when you smash the bridge. And look at those whales at the start - don't they look beautiful? Everything is hand animated with lots of frames, even the explosions are all different.

  • Weapons. Although there's not much variety, they all behave exactly as you would imagine. I especially like the corkscrew one which swirls through the water leaving bubble trails. And when you get to the surface, the guns break out, great for splatting helicopters.

  • Bosses: Some are just fabulous. My favourite is the snakey ones in the underwater lava level...the use of colour here is spot-on, and the way the snakes bleed is just like a huge underwater snake should. I like the upwardly scrolling level too, with the Rock-Neptune chasing you up screen and smashing through brick walls.

So you see, it's not all bad. I like it, but it's not the game to convert a non-believer. I'd play it if someone wanted a 2-player blast, but it wouldn't be at the top of the pile for a swift one on my own. A wee while ago, the RAGE emulator added 'In The Hunt' to it's stack of emulated games, so now you can play it without a Playstation. (I'm eagerly awaiting the next update of that emulator, its got to be one of my favourites.)

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Player 2 Review by Matthew A Witt

In the Hunt is a side-scrolling shooter wherein you control a small submarine. It's made by Irem, who brought us great games like R-Type. This game is unique among other shooters which feature futuristic spacecraft, warp engines, and lasers. I'm not sure what exactly the plot is, but most games of this type don't need one. The introduction does mention something about infiltrating the "D.A.S." base or something...

In the Hunt features spectacular graphics. Detail is especially impressive. For instance, the sub rocks and bobs around when it surfaces. When you blow up a bridge, a line of small people come cascading off. The underwater explosions look very nice. The enemies are very well animated, especially robotic ones. Stuff in the way of your missiles tends do explode into a shower of shrapnel. One problem that this game suffers from is graphic slowdown, especially with many sprites on the screen at a time. This doesn't detract too much from the game, however. There is no sprite flicker whatsoever. Overall, the graphics are clean and nice, except I can't help but feel the enemy subs are a bit cutesy.

The sound is fitting: torpedo whooshes, explosions. Nothing out of the ordinary here. Unfortunately, the music wasn't turned on in the arcade, so I don't know if its good or not.

This game is moderately challenging. Veteran shooter fans will have no problem getting to the second or third level in one quarter. The learning curve is easy. One thing that helps is that the game pace is set by the player; he chooses when to advance the sub and when to scroll.

At first I was reluctant to try In the Hunt; I preferred my futuristic fighter to a primitive submarine. I also thought that having to advance the level yourself instead of flying through it was lame. However, after the first few tries of playing it, I was hooked. It is an addicting game; its feel is particularly new and refreshing. Whoever thought of staging a shooter underwater, instead of outer space?

In the Hunt is overall a solid shooter. The graphics are nice and the gameplay unique. I doubt it would draw any 3D fan away from their Tekken or Virtua Fighter, but for shooter fans like me, it's a sure winner.

Category Rating out of 5.0 Good Comments Bad Comments
Graphics  4.5  Much attention to detail, colorful bosses.  Some graphic slowdown. 
Sound Effects  3.0  Fitting. Nothing spectacular, although the torpedos sound pretty cool.  ---- 
Challenge  3.5  Not too tough.  Can take a while to get past some of the bosses. 
Fun  4.5  Great for hardcore shooter fans.  ---- 
FINAL OVERALL  4.0  A well made and fun game.  ---- 

Score 6/10

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Boringly, they don't let you shoot the whales. Shame. I was looking forward to some blubber blasting.

Level one Boss has got these extensible arms which are quite unavoidable sometimes. Things happily speed up a bit here, I love the way the missiles go off-track in the rushing water, and fall back onto the baddie!

Level Two takes place in a sunken city, a bit like L.A. (as in 'Escape From') Best bit here is the way you blast through motorway (freeway:) overpasses, and they fall down. Made me grin inanely.

In a stadium where they play something called Football. Although it's not proper Footie, like wot we play in the UK, Guv. I hate these bosses, the swirly attacks traps you, and the only challenge you have here is bearing the tedium.

This is what I call the Metal Slug Level. Everything is blow-up-able. I can play this level again and again just looking for tiny details. When you think about it though, it doesn't say much for the gameplay, and the focus of the game is a bit off then...

Just wait until you blast this train off the tracks. An amazing set-piece! Bet it makes you smile too.

Level three Boss, and a difficult one at that. The major problem is that you are confined to the water throughout, and look how low the water is here. Barely a puddle!

Level 4, and a snake sub-boss has just wasted my sub. You can see it just cracking up. The lava blasts here are so good you could watch them all day.

End of level 4 boss, a dragon/slug arrangement, but the heads seem to be upside down!! This is where I picked up the totally super wavey laser missiles (not shown here), the best weapon in the whole game.

And so I died, a watery grave is mine. Neptune with acne climbs up a shaft behind you, leaving you no time to dawdle. Good word that. Dawdle. He goes a bit Alieny at the end, and his eyeballs chase you around. Bet you didn't allow for this when you joined the Navy.



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