Travelling to different planets, the stretchy-armed Roddy and Cathy move left to right employing a variety of skills as they bash the bad guys. Available to tackle alone or co-operatively with a friend, Top Hunter: Roddy & Cathy includes some neat features that add to the fun of the action across nine stages.
One such feature is that the action takes place on two planes, with you able to hop between background and foreground at the push of a button. This allows you to jump out of the way of a rolling bolder, sneak up on someone from behind or just take an alternate route should you feel like it. Enemies can also hop between planes, so you need to keep an eye on them to make sure you don’t get clobbered with a surprise attack.
There’s a cartoon-like look but with lots of detail in the visuals, and variety is provided by the planets visited. Much like a galaxy far, far away each planet has a single climate, with the four here being jungle, ice, fire and wind worlds. As well as visual differences the locales can have an effect on gameplay, for example with slippery ice and winds blowing you back. One good effect is the way the background plane is at some parts obscured by the path in the foreground. Potentially annoying, this nevertheless succeeds as it doesn't throw out enemies you can’t see, although you may find a partially glimpsed bonus or two.
Cathy and Roddy have a number of skills to get them through their adventure, the most obvious of which are their stretchy arms. Useful for punching enemies at a distance, they can also flick switches and pull cords to open doors or release bonuses. Sometimes switches and cords release bombs to dodge, and other times they will drop a heavy object, crushing anyone underneath.
Other offensive options are available too, including a throw, and you can pick up a dropped gun to just start shooting at people. Walking battle suits can be hopped into on occasion and these are satisfying to stomp around in - once it’s destroyed you can even pick up parts of the wreckage to throw at the bad guys. In addition to those options you can also perform special moves (using typical one-on-one brawler inputs) to dispatch attackers with the likes of rushing attacks, projectiles and jumping uppercuts.
There are moments of slowdown should a lot of activity be occurring onscreen, but it’s not too distracting and the varied action allowed by your different moves keeps events entertaining. There’s some good design too, as you make use of the two planes to move around obstacles. One memorable moment has you walk behind a large agitated monkey in a cage that watches as you pass.
Each world has two stages - with a boss at the end of each - and an occasional foe who is tougher to dispatch than the regular thugs. The first stage of each world ends with a fight against a cape-wearing pirate, whilst the second stage bosses pilot large metallic constructions. These fights entertain with plenty of hoping between planes as you avoid attacks and try to get in some shots of your own. After clearing the four worlds (which can be tackled in any order) there’s a final stage that ends with a tricky multi-phase boss battle.
Despite the many skills you have at your disposal, you can quickly find your energy depleted should you be attacked from multiple directions or be struggling to find opportunity to attack a boss when they’re vulnerable. Dive into the options and you can make things easier for yourself by increasing your number of lives or adjusting the difficulty. Or you could remember that as an ACA Neo Geo release, you can just add another credit with the tap of a button and continue from where you fell. This is a good way to get to the end of the game, but if you’d like a challenge the usual one credit Hi Score mode is present. The five-minute Caravan mode is also available and with a choice of four starting levels there’s some experimenting to be done as you seek to improve your placing on the online leaderboard.
Working through levels bashing bad guys and boss characters is an idea that often works well, and in Top Hunter it works very well thanks to the various ways you can dispatch your foes. The two plane setup also adds to the entertainment, being used to avoid dangers and providing some quick back-and-forth jumping as you and the thugs try to smack each other in the face. There's not a lot of immediate replay value from the arcade mode when cleared, but the usual Hi Score mode is a fun way to try and improve; whenever you do return to Top Hunter: Roddy & Cathy, it should provide an enjoyable adventure.