When the 3DS was launched, it's perhaps unsurprising that a few developers decided it'd be the perfect platform for what would previously be considered "light gun" games. There's no gun with the portable, of course, but the stylus has been proven again and again as a more than useful alternative, affording genuine precision, assuming you can get comfortable cradling the system in one hand. And so Deer Drive Legends joins the list of shooting gallery games as an eShop release in Europe and, amazingly, a retail title in North America. Watch out wildlife — we have a stylus and we're not afraid to use it.
We've reviewed plenty of these games, some where you're shooting animated chickens, others where you're butchering "enemy combatants" — or whatever the latest military term is — and others where you're game hunting. Putting aside any personal questions about hunting animals, it's a popular activity around the world and so, by that definition, is a good fit for a gallery shooter. The name says it all, really, in that you'll travel around different locations and hunt — drag the stylus and shoot, simple.
At least it would be simple but for one thing: the framerate. As this entire experience requires you to pan the camera left and right from a fixed position and then shoot with precision, smooth movement is an absolute necessity. That fundamental, inescapable requirement is missed here, as the camera and cross-hairs judder along and increase the difficulty far more than they should. Whether the 3D effect is on or off — it makes little difference — the low framerate makes precision a tough ask, and as the challenge increases so does the frustration. If a quick predator decides to enter the scene from the opposite end of your focus, it's difficult to swing back with any degree of control; for a gallery shooter, it's an unforgivable flaw.
If better optimised, however, this title would at least be a passable entry in its genre. There are four key locations around the world with different targets to hunt, skills to acquire with progress, and in the end there's a good few hours or more of gameplay to tackle, if it was actually enjoyable enough to be worthwhile. The lack of design flair with the fixed shooting position does make the simple movement and shooting of wildlife rather mundane, and even with mission variety of hunting different animals, "tagging" some or avoiding certain kills, it can be a tedious affair. Some crazy "boss" stages do at least raise a smile; if you always wanted to hunt a T-Rex in the Rocky Mountains, this is your game.
Assigning skill points does lead to a noticeable difference, though alternating between difficulties has a negligible impact, while adjusting the likes of wind and gravity seemed like excesses and detail out of place. It's a difficult game regardless of settings, because your hunter's cross-hair slugglishly swings around as if they're drunk. If the foundation isn't right, the rest falls down.
The intentions were solid on the developer's part in terms of control, with a left-handed set-up a helpful inclusion. The Circle Pad aiming should be avoided at all costs, however, as it's heavy, imprecise and, in a word, atrocious. Not only is the cross-hair's movement ponderous with this control option — no matter what you do with sensitivity settings — but it springs back to the middle automatically; the worst Circle Pad aiming mechanic likely to ever befall the system.
As we've suggested above, the intentions of the developers are clear. There are achievement and statistics to follow, while there's been an attempt to create some fairly attractive realistic visuals which, unfortunately, merely come off as fuzzy and difficult on the eyes. Local multiplayer is also thrown in for some vs or co-op action, but each player requires a copy — and that's not a likely scenario.
On paper Deer Drive Legends has plenty going for it, with quite a few hours of action, some fun moments of hunting fantasy and some variables and stats to enjoy. Unfortunately, its muddy visuals and fixed hunting position lack any flair or excitement, and the whole game is crippled by poor optimisation. The clunky framerate is ever-present, making aiming and camera movement teeth-gridingly awkward. It's a fundamental flaw that drags an already mediocre experience down — drop the gun and let this one go.