First Impression articles are based entirely upon the first roughly 30 minutes of gameplay and may not necessarily be indicative of the game as a whole. This includes the score at the end.
Eldritch Hunter is a lighthearted game about a girl who saves a city from Lovecraftian abominations. It definitely nails its take on the cute-gross aesthetic with bright, hand-drawn characters, cutscenes, and backgrounds. The monsters look adorable even as they try to melt the flesh from your bones or tear you to pieces, which they will inevitably succeed at doing quite often. The soundtrack plays a large role in setting the tone as well as the songs place a heavy instrument upon woodwind and string instruments, bringing to mind images of bards telling tales of the Eldritch Hunter to captivated crowds. As for the gameplay itself, this technically falls into the same category of ‘brutal action platformer’ alongside the likes of Super Meat Boy, though Eldritch Hunter is not quite so brutal and, unlike in many such games, you can fight back.
The tools at your disposal include a wall jump, a dodge roll, and a very handy crossbow. The wall jump works fine and the dodge roll is primarily used as a way of getting around enemies; you can’t dodge roll through acid and some projectiles will also kill you while rolling. Your crossbow has infinite ammo and can be aimed in any direction. Most enemies take a few hits to kill, but you can keep firing by holding down the button, which is a nice feature. The goal of each level is only to kill the insane cultist at the end – the cultists themselves don’t fight back (you still die if you touch them) and it doesn’t matter if other monsters remain.
Each region is divided into seven levels and a boss fight. During my time with Eldritch Hunter I completed the third region and the description claims that there are six regions in total so it seems like this is a fairly short game if you’re just looking to complete it. That said, the level count itself is high, there are two unlockable characters, and it would take significantly more time to get a good rank on every level so it doesn’t actually feel like the game is light on content.
There’s a good deal of variety here. Some levels fit into a single screen while others are more vertical or horizontal in nature. Each of the regions I saw also felt distinctive through its enemy choices and/or its mechanics, such as the frequent use of rising acid in the second region’s levels. Speaking of acid, levels often require a bit of finesse and planning on the player’s part because one common enemy type permanently drops acid on the ground when it dies, requiring you to time the point at which you kill it or dodge roll to avoid it altogether. Aside from boss fights, every level gives you a rank based on how quickly you kill the cultist at the end so your approach to each level is also going to vary depending on how many risks you’re willing to take.
Good ranks grant you greater progress towards another form of variety – new weapons. It seems like there are nine weapons in total and so far I have unlocked a musket, fire arrows, and a bubble gun. The musket is somewhat slow and its three bullets spread out over time, but it’s very strong at close range. Fire arrows deal less damage than your normal arrows, but their fire sticks around for a long time and gradually deals damage to any enemies touching it. As for the bubble gun, it shoots out green bubbles which ricochet off of walls to hit enemies at otherwise impossible angles. These weapons and in all likelihood the five I have yet to unlock, can be invaluable when competing on the leaderboards for fast level times. Nevertheless, I stuck almost exclusively to the default crossbow for its great combination of raw speed, power, and range. The fire arrows also tend to clutter up the screen, making it difficult to see when there are a lot of them still burning, and the bubble gun can cause confusion as its green bubbles look a bit too close to the green acid bubbles used by some enemies.
There are two issues related to the ranking system. They are both fairly minor, but still worth noting. First, while there is a level timer in the upper-left corner, there is no indicator of what the par time for each level is. You won’t know if you’ve moved fast enough to earn a good rank until you’ve finished a level. The second issue is the lack of a quick retry button. You respawn quickly upon dying, an essential feature in a game like this, yet the only way to manually restart a level is to open up the pause menu and select Retry from there. It may seem like a completely trivial thing, but the small time it takes to navigate to that Retry menu option can really add up for anyone restarting a level dozens of times over in pursuit of a top time.
The few bumps I ran into along the way didn’t stop me from enjoying my time with Eldritch Hunter. The level design consistently made good use of the various monsters and hazards, I love the aesthetics, and the controls are smooth. It might not have quite as much content as more expensive games, but it has just as much polish and the content it does have is still more than enough for the asking price.
First Impression Verdict: Good 4/5