Developed by Astrophobia, Out-Class Hunter is a retro-inspired platformer where you take on the role of a bounty hunter tasked with defeating an evil mercenary who has taken a space station hostage.
The title’s Itch.io page boasts that the game will be a more simple single-player-focused title that will not feature modern gaming elements such as Lootboxes or ‘Live Game Services’. The game is still early into its development. So as one can expect it is still a little rough around the edges. But even at this stage there is still something intriguing about it. Something which, should the right tweaks be made to the title, will certainly make it one to watch. However for now, let’s just get straight into the Preview.
Out-Class Hunter is still currently in development. And a demo can be downloaded from its Itch.io page.
STORY – “CATS IN SPAAACE!”
In Out-Class Hunter, you assume the role of the fearless Bounty Hunter H-14 “Winona”. You are tasked with taking down a sinister and mysterious mercenary who has captured a Biome Research Space Station and filled it with deadly robots. Each robot you destroy earns you in-game money and helps bring you closer to your bounty.
The demo’s story is presented via an opening cutscene. Which whilst it’s rough around the edges, it gets the job done. It’s short with minimal animation. And the voice acting within it is, well, it sounds like it is generated via Text-to-Speech. Now to be fair, the quality of both is just reflective of where the game currently is in its development; it is an Alpha after all, so stuff like this is understandably not the focus of the developer’s attention. So with that in mind, I cannot be too critical of it. It gets the job done. And of all the Previews that I have done so far, this is the only one that has taken the time to give some context to what is going on and what your end goal is.
And as it currently stands, that is all that there really is as far as story content within the game is concerned. The meat of the demo is centred around its gameplay, as one would expect. Speaking of which!
GAMEPLAY – ROBOT WARS
When it comes to Out-Class Hunter‘s gameplay loop, it’s honestly hard not to make comparisons to the Sonic The Hedgehog games, as this title is more than a little bit influenced by Sega’s famous needle mouse. You play as an anthropomorphic animal who runs fast to defeat robotic baddies and reach the level’s goal. We’ve seen it before. And if you are as old as some of us, you might well remember a time when almost every other week, there was a new Sonic-inspired character making their debut. And whilst it does feel strongly inspired by the Sonic games at this point, Out-Class Hunter still feels as though it is developing a rhythm of its own where it could potentially stand on its own two feet as a unique entity.
To help defend yourself, you have two attacks. One is a lunging attack that strikes targets directly in front of you and gives you a slight speed boost. There is also an attack that will strike all targets around you; think the spin attack from the Legend of Zelda games minus the charge time. Both of these attacks allow you to defeat foes without losing too much momentum, which in turn means you can constantly be moving forwards and not having to slam on the brakes when some baddies appear.
Elements like this help avoid the issues of the 3D era of the Sonic games where combat would grind the flow of the game to a halt just so you could use your homing attack. Likewise, Out-Class Hunter at present avoids the sensation of the game playing itself as the 3D Sonic games post-Sonic Adventure has felt like at times. It’s all gameplay all the way. And you are in control of it. Well, for the most part. But we’ll get onto that in a moment.
The demo, at this point, offers a fine slice of what to expect from the final version of the game. The first level feels more like a traditional Sonic level. Level 2 is more platform orientated. And the Final Level is a boss fight. Each level is short but fun enough. Plus, there is a tutorial which is always a welcome sight in my books. All of this gives you just enough of a taste to give you a sense of the type of game Out-Class Hunter will be. It isn’t a terribly long demo, but it doesn’t out-stay its welcome. You’ll run, you’ll jump, you’ll collect items, and you’ll platform. And that is where some issues start to form.
THEY’RE FLOATY LIGHT
Our lead character feels rather floaty; when running, you’ll easily find yourself sliding about the level like a wet bar of soap and jumping feels terribly imprecise at times. This makes the second level of the demo a bit of a chore, as you’ll find yourself having to take it slow. As if you go just a little too fast, you’ll be sliding off a platform. And when it comes to platforming itself, you find yourself fighting against your character’s floatiness by trying to correct even the smallest jumps.
Thankfully H-14 has a jetpack which can help to correct yourself when you are jumping. However, I feel that when I have to use it on even the most basic jump, I feel that alterations to the core jumping mechanic are needed. The Jetpack in and of itself is a neat mechanic, but I don’t feel that it should be there to make up for a weakness in how jumping handles. But of course, this is an Alpha, so tweaks and alterations are bound to happen as development continues.
GRAPHICS & AUDIO – A RETRO BOUNTY
Out-Class Hunter features creative character sprites and bright and colourful levels. The first one feels especially like a version of Green Hill Zone from a timeline where Sonic X-Treme was released. They are pleasant to look at and have a very logical flow to them. There is never a moment where you are worried about where you are supposed to be going, and keeping on track is simple. Goodness, there are even a few hidden surprises dotted about here and there. They are a great fusion between retro-inspired aesthetics and modern graphical elements, which help to give the game a feeling of being a modern evolution of a classic style, rather than one that seeks to just replicate it 1:1.
It all looks wonderful, and I look forward to seeing how it all evolves. However, there is one element that is lacking, and that is the game’s robotic adversaries, which just look rather dull. They look like external hard drives crossed with a Roomba. Even the demo’s boss just looks like one large and irate Amiga mouse. To be fair, chances are these are just placeholders. And hopefully so. As not only are they rather uninteresting to look at, it can be hard to see them given just how flat and low to the ground that they are.
Also, another issue is that H-14 doesn’t seem to have all her animations at present. So there are many moments where she will just slide along whilst stood ridged as she flies around the level looking like a flying furry mannequin. Again, it’s a demo of an Alpha, and this will no doubt change.
Soundtrack-wise, the game’s music is pleasant to listen to. Whilst it, like almost everything else in the game, wears its influences on its sleeves, it never feels too self-referential or too Sega Mega Drive/Sonic like to feel unoriginal. The soundtrack isn’t falling over itself to recreate the sound of the classic Sonic games nor is it trying to recreate the obnoxious punk-pop sounds of the 3D Sonic games. It has a feel to it that has its own flavour. In all honesty, dear reader, I have had the game’s soundtrack stuck in my head for the past few days. It really is a credit to the game’s composers to create such a delightful soundtrack.
Again, it has an aura to it that feels like it genuinely belongs to the game, rather than one that is seeking to mimic another game’s sound one way or another. It all helps to give the game the beginnings of a unique identity. And ultimately, that is what the title needs; it needs to feel like more of its own entity rather than just a polished and legally different Sonic fan game. Early impressions make it feel that an attempt is being made to archive that. And as such, I look forward to seeing how this game evolves going forward.
Out-Class Hunter was reviewed on PC.