Is there something about the 3DS that screams out to developers that it just might be the ideal platform for arcade shooters? Maybe it’s the 3D effect that adds simulated depth to in-game environments, or maybe it’s the touchscreen which is seemingly built for aiming a crosshair? Whatever the case may be, the 3DS has seen at least a half dozen of these games released on the eShop, and there are no signs of the trend slowing down. The latest genre entry is Deer Hunting King, and while it may be similar in style to those that came before it, it doesn’t come without its own complications.
One of the first things you will notice here is that Deer Hunting King straddles the line of gameplay between being an on-rails shooter and a hunting simulator, seemingly unable to decide where it wants to stand. Rather than pulling you through the five available stages as you blast away at targets like traditional on-rails games, this one will instead automatically move you from one location to another, then hold you in place allowing you pan left to right in search of deer and other small mammals.
Once the area is clear of animals - either by your hand or by their running scared - then it picks you back up and sets you down again in a different spot. In Instant mode - which, as the name implies, is a basic mode that allows you to instantly drop into the game and hunt - this process continues until your time has expired. If you’re playing the Mission mode, however, then the game continues until you’ve completed the task at hand.
Missions are the true bulk of gameplay, providing tangible goals for you to accomplish rather than just having you freely hunt. The missions range from landing headshots to achieving a certain combo count, but they all feel a bit too similar. After completing a few missions they just start to repeat themselves with added stipulations such as limited time or ammunition; it doesn’t take too long for the repetitive missions to wear thin and become more boring than satisfying.
There are two other modes available, including a Versus mode that allows you to compete for more kills with local friends, and an AR mode that brings the hunt to the real world. Using the “?” AR card that comes packaged with the 3DS, you will be able to summon a small hunting site to your real-world tabletop. AR hunting uses the 3DS’s gyroscope to move around and the Circle Pad can be used to further position your crosshair. While a great idea in theory, the AR technology is a bit unstable, often going in and out of functionality at seemingly random moments. As enticing as the idea is, AR mode tends to fall a bit flat as it is limited by the technology at hand. A noble effort nonetheless.
Deer Hunting King looks almost exactly as one might expect with mostly green, lush forest settings and well defined character models. The 3D effect does well to add a sense of depth to the locations in which you hunt and the sounds of deer bounding through the forest add to the natural feel. The locations all look very nice, but they also tend to look the same. Moving from one spot to another in a particular hunting site doesn’t actually feel like you've traveled far at all, as it’s mostly just the same trees and bushes employed over and over again. The soundtrack is similarly disappointing, comprised mostly of outdated beats in the game’s menus, but the music is mysteriously absent during actual gameplay.
If there’s one thing that the controls in hunting and shooting games really rely on, it’s accuracy, and this is where Deer Hunting King is unfortunately lacking. There are three control schemes available, the default of which makes use of the gyroscope. This adds a fun interactive aspect to the game, but it can be difficult to hold still while trying to line up the perfect headshot. The second method uses the Circle Pad to aim your reticle, with the shoulder buttons used to peer through your scope and the A button to shoot. The Circle Pad works well enough, but it can be a bit sensitive, making sudden jumps that prove problematic when lining up a shot. The third control scheme uses the 3DS’s touchscreen to aim simply by dragging the stylus across it. This is easily the most accurate input method – as evidenced by the fact that this is how almost all of the other 3DS eShop hunting games control - but it still manages to be problematic.
While you can fire your weapon using the up arrow on the D-Pad, zooming in with your rifle’s scope is still performed by holding the right shoulder button. If you’re having trouble understanding how this is a problem, just know that it is almost impossible for right-handed people to effectively use the touchscreen controls. It would be easy to complain about this as the majority of human beings are right hand dominant, but it provides an interesting flip on the norm in which southpaws must conform to the right handed way of life. Congratulations, lefties. You win this round.
Deer Hunting King isn’t a broken game, but it does feel a lot like a stripped-down version of the 3DS eShop hunting sims that came before it. The missions add a much-appreciated sense of purpose, though most of them are recycled over and over again making for a distinct lack of variety. If you’re looking for a new 3DS hunting experience, this one might hold you over for the time being, but bigger and better releases are sure to be just over the horizon.