A Killer App

One can only guess at what Arno is, what he’s hunting exactly, or why — although the High Score meter hanging above him suggests he’s definitely doing it for sport! A lovingly crafted take on classic arcade shooters, Arno the Hunter (Out Now, $.99) plays a bit slower than your average Contra title for the fact that the player character has to yank at a bow string rather than squeeze the trigger of a semiautomatic. A few minutes in, however, and it becomes clear that developers Jonathan Kreuzer and Khang Le have made the most of Arno’s indigenous technology; the methodical care with which the player must approach his various prey offers a decidedly fresh twist on the “shoot everything that moves” motif.

Arno the Hunter couldn’t be easier to pick up and play. Rather than use a virtual joystick it asks the player to direct Arno’s angle of fire by tapping anywhere onscreen, and tilting the iDevice tucks Arno into a ball so he can roll around to avoid enemy fire. No interface options currently exist, but what’s already there feels just right. Arno’s quiver remains magically full but picking off alien fauna grants access to limited secondary weapons that prove rather helpful when giant boss creatures swoop in.

The game’s focus being on high score competition via its own online leaderboard, Arno the Hunter‘s levels play infinitely: once a giant boss creature falls it’s followed up by a more challenging swarm capped off by yet another boss. Competitive shoot ’em up fans will pay close attention to various nuances in building up the score meter; the game keeps track of player accuracy and generously rewards swift, efficient destruction of floating herds. Those drawn in more by Arno the Hunter‘s high concept, smooth gameplay and extraordinary production values certainly won’t leave empty-handed, however. The developers have taken care to balance the game’s competitive aspect with the interests of more casual crowds inasmuch as defeating the first boss in one level unlocks the next, filled with a new variety of beasts. Unfortunately this sense of progression ends all too soon, a mere three levels being on tap in the release version. High score seekers will no doubt squeeze hours of fun out of the game, but casual players will blow through everything of interest in one.

One can only feel split on the matter of whether Jon Kreuzer and co. should focus on content updates or rush into some new project that takes place in Arno’s world, as it seems they’ve only scratched the surface of something fantastic. There’s no doubting they’ve scratched the surface of something that’s utterly gorgeous, as Arno’s world features some of the most luscious hand-drawn environment art ever to grace iOS. Kevin MacLeod’s music adds further delicious flavor to the game’s presentation, granting each level a subtly building tension that wonderfully complements the onscreen action.

iFanzine Verdict: Flawlessly crafted in a way that appeals to casual and hardcore shoot ’em up fans alike, Arno the Hunter would make players feel guilty about paying only $.99 if it weren’t for the limited number of levels currently on offer. It might last only an hour or two for most who are more interested in its core gameplay than its leaderboard, but what a fine ride it is!

[xrr rating=4.5/5]