We get review requests from hundreds of indie game developers. Axe Fall Studios initially notified us, and then reminded us that they have a project they would like us to evaluate. Because of their insistence, I decided to give Bounty Puncher a try for review purposes.
I am fully aware that this game is created by students at a post-secondary institution, and this is likely one of their first cohesive efforts. That said, this has been presented to us as a finished game, and it will be evaluated with the same scrutiny afforded any of the titles we play. My intent in this review is not to savage the work of emerging independent game developers. I will however, apply the same critical standard as I would for any other title we cover.
Bounty Puncher: What We Think
Vann and Tyson, two galactic bounty hunters traverse the universe in the hunt of lucrative payoffs. When a mark is found, Vann will punch his foes into oblivion! In some circumstances, he punches for no reason at all.
Bounty Puncher takes barely 10 minutes to complete, and though it has a distinct beginning, middle and end, there isn’t much to flesh it out. The game is overloaded with clunky character models and choppy, bland textures. The story staggers along with sub-par voice acting and inconsistent sound levels.
Also, I know it’s a free game, but that is totally the Normandy’s galaxy map of Castellus from Mass Effect 3. Though less glaringly lifted, Vann’s battle armor also seems to be heavily influenced by the gear worn by Commander Shepard. Getting a cease and desist from BioWare this early on in your team’s life cycle is probably not the best way to start out, though, of course, getting Bioware to care enough to notice your game would be quite an accomplishment by any measure.
In the default settings, using the right control stick to move the camera is exceptionally frustrating. The movement has two speeds: look in a direction painfully slowly, and – whiplash. While attempting to make it down a simple straight hallway, what should have been minor course corrections of my point-of-view ended culminated in Vann inadvertently running back to the start point. This happened six times, and the effect was such that I couldn’t maintain my bearings. Change your settings to include v-sync and anti-aliasing, as it will reduce this effect greatly. I have no idea why these options are not included in the default configuration.
One Hand Clapping
The game features motion capture animations, though there aren’t a lot of them, and the transitions between them are jerky. Vann is constantly looking to the left, and kind of shimmies as he runs. It looks distractingly awkward.
The controls are loose, and the main moves aren’t always called when the associated button is pressed. In fact, Vann will engage in completely involuntary punches…incessantly.
With the Xbox Controller selected as my input device (as recommended by the dev team), I found that as soon as I gained control of the hero, he began punching. This animation repeated itself in an endless loop. He didn’t stop until I held down the right shoulder button, not that this is explained at any time.
In fact, the only move that is explained is a dodge tactic. At the beginning of the chapter’s one and only mission, a laser is blasted at the hero. A screen comes up with instructions on how to dodge attacks…which matters not at all, because the attack hits you anyway: it factors into a plot point. By fiddling with the buttons on the controller, I found a stun tactic and some kind of ground-pound attack, but at no point are these discussed or explained.
In combat, I never had any feedback for when my hits were connecting. I would land what appeared to be a direct hit on a target with my super fist…and no damage would register. In other cases, I’d swing well wide, and the bar above the target would diminish. Similarly, I never had a sense of when the enemy projectiles were striking me. I could see my health bar shrinking, but there was never any clue to whence any of the unseen attacks were originating. The resources dedicated to collision detection seem to throw out as many random figures as Vann does haymakers.
In space, no one can hear anything coherent
Vann and Tyson speak at a certain volume level as the game’s intro sequence plays out. As Vann prepares to leave the ship in the capsule, the conversation is almost completely inaudible.
When the mission begins, there is a voiceover from the Vann’s target. In fact there are three, and if you run ahead too quickly, they all overlap. In my first playthrough, I was barraged with some rambling dialogue about getting replacement parts, and something about “my favorite” and “space whales” and “default passwords”.
Are these points important to the story? If so, don’t allow the player to run straight through to the next one…and if you permit a quicker gait through the proceedings, at least kill the previous voiceover. The player doesn’t know where the next event trigger is hiding, and it certainly isn’t up to the player to maintain a pace suitable to the narrative.
Send in the Clones
There is only one type of enemy drone that you encounter, and there is no variety to this model. The color palette for this clone militia is identical to Vann’s, which makes keeping a bead on the action trickier than it needs to be.
You’ll know when you are seen, because they will declare “target acquired.” You’ll know they’ve lost the line of sight when they say “target lost.” You won’t know what’s going on when there is more than one robot in the room, and they all spam both comments over each other whenever the case applies, ad nauseum.
The mission concludes with a completely implausible twist (one that flies in the face of the earlier insistence that this high-priced bounty is, in fact, real), and the end credits immediately follow. While plenty of games contain episodic content, 10 minutes does not constitute a chapter of anything.
There is nothing remarkable about this introduction to the world of Bounty Puncher: It’s a buddy-comedy approach to sci-fi action games, but the application of the style is done so poorly that I suspect the entire game was a method of showing off the mo-cap technology…which is also forgettable.
There are a number of fantastic sci-fi titles – serious and parody – to be found in the wilds. Bounty Puncher: Enter The Fist is not one of them.
Bounty Puncher – Official Site