Universal Hunter

Versatile Engine, Many Games

Article by: Peter Kuchnio

Universal Hunter is an original approach to game making. It is not a "game" per-se, but a versatile game engine that Vampire Interactive can constantly release new game modules for. Two of these modules, titled Worms Invasion and Golden Mines, are out now. Therefore, this review is going to be a little different, since we are reviewing what the UH engine is currently capable of as seen from the qualities of the first two modules released for it.

The two modules currently available for Universal Hunter are Worms Invasion and Golden Mines. In Worms Invasion, your task is to whack worms in the head as they come up from their holes, similar to the whack-a-mole games we've all played when we were kids. In Golden Mines, your task is to save your dwarven mine from rampaging orcs and trolls.

Of the two, Worms Invasion is the worse game. The first problem is that the game is played from an isometric perspective. Unfortunately, the hammer icon you use to whack the worms doesn't cast a shadow or give any other indication to how deep it is in the scene, so its very hard to line up the hammer with the worms. The other big problem is that the victory conditions are never spelled out for you. I kept losing at Worms, never quite knowing why.

Golden Mines is a much better module. In this one, you have to defend your dwarven mines from attacking orcs and trolls. You get two different weapons, a weapon with infinite ammo like rocks or a pickaxe, and a limited ammo weapon like the bow and arrow. The bow and arrow is the only thing that kills trolls. But, since if you run out of ammo you get a free reload, it doesnt make that much of a difference, you can simply use the better weapon all the time.

Golden Mines brings a story arc and mission objectives to the mix. In the first level, you have to stop as many orcs as possible from entering the mine. In the second level, you have to protect your dwarven miners while they mine 500 gold to buy an alliance from the Elves. Soon trolls show up and you have to kill them before they can collapse the mine on your head.

Unfortunately, GM suffers from the same gameplay mechanic as Worms Invasion. You don't actually participate in the battle, your character is offscreen, you simply point and click on the things you want to die. It's very similar to the lightgun games you see at the arcades.

For the most part, the characters ignore you, content to walk around and be shot. Every now and then, they'll pause to fling a stone at you, which does hurt you, but this didn't happen very often for me. In a nice touch though, you can also kill your allies by accident.

Overall, the graphics are nice. Both the characters and backgrounds are 3d rendered. The game also features some nice effects, like fade-ins, day/night transitions, and weather effects like rain. However, there are some graphical glitches. For example, in the Golden Mines module, the briefing text goes off the screen and is impossible to read.

The sound effects are decent, although they do get repetitive after a short while. The music on the other hand, is top-notch, especially in Golden Mines.

Also, I couldn't figure out the save/load feature. There is a Load button on the main menu, but no Save button. Either this feature isn't in yet or its accessed by pressing a key on the keyboard, but no manual or readme came with the game, so it's impossible to tell.

Overall, Universal Hunter is a decent platform and the games released for it can be fun. However, the point and click antics do get very tiresome, very fast. But, the great thing about UH is that new games can keep coming out for it. If Vampire can improve the basic game mechanics, perhaps by putting in a movable player character and more interaction, the engine could be great.

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Review Score:
Minimum Requirements:

Windows 95 or higher, 2.58 MB (Engine files), any DirectX compatible display card, any DirectX compatible sound card, DirectX 7.0 or higher, ADPCM Audio Codec
Recommended Requirements:






Bottom Line

Learning Curve:
1 minute

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