Providing challenging gameplay with interesting atmosphere and graphics, Hunt the Night has all the pieces of being a worthy top-down pixel art action game. Developed by Moonlight Games, if you’re looking for a challenge that features both close and ranged combat and split-second dodges, Hunt the Night may be for you.
The story in Hunt the Night is ultimately a tiny string to tie itself to the meaty gameplay of the game. You play as Vesper, one of the last known Stalkers that fight for humanity against evil creatures of darkness. Night is both a time and an entity as it slowly chips away at the light and humans themselves. By completing missions known as “Hunts,” you explore the dark fantasy world and slay giant beasts. While playing Hunt the Night, not much story is explained to you. A different character, Umbra, is presented as your ghost or shadow that helps you move around the area, but conversations with her are ambiguous and not clear what the situation has been between you two. The ambiguity is present all the time, however, because by making an element of time personified like “the Night,” it becomes confusing what other characters are talking about.
The gameplay in Hunt the Night is intended to be snappy and intense. You are asked to quickly dodge enemy projectiles and jump over bottomless caverns. Unfortunately Hunt the Night suffers from terrible input lag. While trying to get a few pokes in with your weapon before a creature lays the haymaker on you, you quickly try to dodge between attacks only to find yourself still standing there. You can’t interrupt your attacks, which means you have to progressively hit a little at a time. The only problem with this solution, however, is that you need to make three consecutive hits before you can replenish a bullet to your revolver. The balance between trying to hit enemies up close and shooting at them is lopsided and difficult. Your character completely stops when trying to aim to fire. On top of the glitchy input lag, the cursor for where you aim your attacks and projectiles disappears after firing your weapon. You lose all sense of control and start attacking in every direction.
Most attacks you try to make don’t land, either due to a lousy misjudgement of a hit box or your character randomly points in a different direction when you try to attack. Hitbox alignment is a big problem in Hunt the Night. When trying to run away from an enemy your character will get stuck on a flat wall. Most enemies have large attack animations, but you can’t be sure where in the actual attack you’ll get hurt. Your character will get stuck on enemies as you’re trying to go around them. The dodge button should allow you to dodge through the enemy to get out of the way. You’re required to press dodge a lot throughout Hunt the Night, whether it’s for dodging enemy attacks or making it through time challenges. While the game hints at using a controller and even refers to some actions in the controller terms, I’ve found no controller that works with the game. After trying both a PlayStation 5 controller and an Xbox One controller, all I could muster was a little bit of joystick movement before not registering anything. This is a shame because trying to play using a keyboard is cramped and uncomfortable; there is no great way to properly layout your inputs so you can competently perform all the quick actions you need to do.
The levels and boss design in Hunt the Night are incredibly, impossibly difficult. Levels are always laid out in a way that requires the full extent of your character’s abilities. Trying to dash diagonally while battling monsters and making it to the door before the timer goes off is the trickiest action ever, and this was only on the second level! Some enemy placements made it impossible to avoid getting hurt, like placing enemies directly in front of the door you’re coming from. Boss fights have terrible pacing to them where it feels like they’re constantly attacking you and you have no time to give them a couple of brief swipes. Combine these intense battles with the terrible game controls mentioned earlier and you have one hell of an unbeatable game. What makes Hunt the Night difficult is the lack of decent game controls on top of poor level pacing. There is no feeling of the levels getting harder, no teaching the player how to best attack enemies. Levels are just thoughtlessly difficult.
A final note about the design is the lack of upgrades and weapon choice. As I played through Hunt the Night and killed enemies, I started to rack up a lot of currency. My problem was finding what to spend the currency on. The menu screen showed possible upgrades for the different weapons (two of which I actually purchased), but no way to actually upgrade them. Ultimately upgrades didn’t even matter because the “stronger” weapons may hit harder per hit, but they also eat up more bullets. So if you do the math (which I did out of frustration), the basic pistol you start out with does more damage than the shotgun.
The art in Hunt the Night is definitely one of the more enjoyable elements to the game. Set design was really nice, and I enjoyed seeing the UI in the top left and the stamina meter gurgled on. The only remark I would have with the art are the entrances and their keen ability to blend into the wall. Some indents in the wall are difficult to tell if it’s an entrance to another room or not, so I’ve spent more time than I needed exploring an area only to find a small indent that I missed. Besides the door design, most of the art is really pleasing to look at and fits the dark fantasy theme well. There are even some brief cutscenes with closeups of the main character, which is cool.
The audio in Hunt the Night had no dynamism besides boss fights. It was mostly this gurgling, sloppy sound of the evil tentacles wiggling on the floors and walls. I had to mute the music and listen to my own because it was becoming too monotonous. Even though the music isn’t the greatest, it still blends in well with the dark theme. This also goes for the sound effects as well. The only time there were problems where the sounds would glitch out and not play, making some interactions awkward.
In summary: Challenging gameplay with no sense of build. Poorly designed levels and boss fights. Moody and interesting pixel art with audio that becomes bland and repetitive.
Jordan played Hunt the Night on PC with a code provided by the developer.