Hunted Forever is a cool new action platforming game from Pixelante Game Studios. The plot is sort of like The Most Dangerous Game with the addition of a huge flying death machine armed with lasers, bombs, and swarming buzz-saw droids. Your job, as the silhouette of a man having an extremely bad day, is to escape from said death machine through forests, caves, and underground laboratories without getting turned into Fried Crispy Human Flakes. To put it mildly, the odds are against you.
Control the poor guy with your [arrow] keys or [WASD], jump with [up], [W], or [Space]. Pause with [ESC]. Pick up all the machine parts you can find; when you reach a safe zone, you can spend them on power-ups, like better speed or jumping height. No, you can't ever buy a bazooka. You are quite definitely the prey here, as the game will be happy to remind you with a sarcastic running commentary at the bottom of the screen.
The game is fairly short, rendering the "Forever" in the title somewhat nonsensical, but there are four difficulty levels — including Hardcore, where you have to finish without getting obliterated even once. Collect-o-philes can run through it as many times as they like, saving up more and more machine parts. Eventually, you may even stockpile enough to buy the "BBQ", which apparently grants you the power of Deliciousness.
I always hoped I would find a game that could increase my deliciousness. Mmm, delicious.
Analysis: This is the second game in Pixelante's Forever series, which began with Falling Forever. Though I still stand by the first game as a unique and stylish piece of work, Hunted Forever is a step forward in every way. The issues many folks had with Falling Forever — namely, confusing controls and performance issues—have largely been dealt with here, although older computers or last-generation Macs will most likely still have problems. Try turning off some of the visual effects in the options menu.
The controls are smooth and intuitive this time around, and the main character animates really well. He hugs the slopes convincingly and generally moves like an athletic test subject should. Just check out the awesome flying side roll he does to pull himself up onto ledges. That's a man who knows he's being tailgated by a death machine. If some of the moves remind you of Fancy Pants Adventure, well, take a close look at the shop menu. Pixelante is candid about his influences.
The level design can be a bit weak — if you miss a jump, you may have to repeat a large area, dodging bombs the whole time. And the replay value is low, since the layout is the same every time, and choosing different power-ups doesn't have much of an effect on how you play. So the only incentive is to achieve as fast and smooth a run as possible.
On the other hand, the 2D cut-out visual style looks great, the bass riff in the music gives it a nice jazzy quality, and the humor is pretty sharp, although the "meat bag" thing is probably overdone. A hyper-intelligent computer should be able to invent a larger variety of insulting names for us humans. Like "skin tree". Or "flesh farm." Or "smelly face." Now start running, smelly face.
P.S. Hunted Forever is #8 on TIME Magazine's Best Games of 2008. Congratulations, Pixelante Game Studios!