Any list of the greatest games of the 8-bit era is sure to include the likes Mega Man and Super Mario Bros., along with their fantastic sequels. Conversely, many lists of modern greats will include Minecraft. Pixel Hunter draws inspiration from all of these titles in obvious ways, but doesn't replicate the qualities that made any of them good.
In Pixel Hunter you take on the role of a hunter who has had his weapons stolen by a group of vengeful animals. With one gun in hand, you set out to reclaim your lost shooting irons. Mechanically, it bears the closest resemblance to the Mega Man series - each level is laid out horizontally with your hunter running from left to right, shooting projectiles at enemies along the way.
Visually, the game borrows from both Super Mario Bros. and Minecraft. The nameless main character bears a passing resemblance to the mustachioed plumber, and the art style looks as though it's lifted wholesale from Mojang's blockbuster world-builder.
On paper, Pixel Hunter sounds like it could be quite fun, but in practice it simply isn't. Level design is bland and uninspired, enemies repeat far too often, there is little variety from level to level and the overall experience fails to draw the player in. The main character can take a total of three hits before dying, the first of which loses him his hat, and the second, oddly enough, his hair. To add insult to injury, we noted that loading times following a death seemed excessively long — sometimes in excess of 15 seconds — even on a New 3DS.
After you defeat a boss, you'll gain access to one of your weapons, which you can then switch to and use. Each weapon has unlimited ammunition, so you can use them as much as you like. Each weapon has a distinct firing pattern, though they seldom seem necessary, as most enemies can be taken out with the default gun with ease. Boss patterns are similarly easy to memorize and defend against.
Pixel Hunter is a great concept that unfortunately falls flat and fails to deliver. Bland level design, average gameplay, an unmemorable soundtrack and a lack of any interesting narrative or purpose combine to make a game that's likely to be a pass for most 3DS players. If you would like to play an engaging sidescrolling shooter, we highly recommend you check out the great options on the Virtual Console instead.