The original Big Buck Hunter Pro game for Windows Phone had the misfortune of launching right before Windows Phone 8 last year. It ran a bit poorly on early Windows Phone 7 devices, so many of us looked forward to improved performance on Windows Phone 8. Unfortunately, the game proved incompatible with the new mobile OS and remains that way almost a year later.
On the brighter side, developer Merge Interactive and Microsoft released a Windows 8 and RT version entitled Big Buck Hunter Pro Adventure earlier this year. On top of an awkwardly long name, Adventure brings all the fun of the Windows Phone and original arcade game, a bounty of extra content, and a new helping of Xbox Achievements. Get the full rundown after the break.
Adventures in animal shooting
The new Adventure mode is a longer and slightly less linear than the traditional arcade mode. By default it consists of two large campaigns: Whitetail Deer and Elk. Each of these offers Easy, Medium, and Hard mini-campaigns with 25 levels (20 hunting and 5 bonus levels) a piece. That’s 60 total hunting levels compared to the Windows Phone game’s 30.
Each level has an optional side goal such as hitting a target from a certain distance or killing one-hit killing three targets. Completed levels can be replayed at any time for higher scores and ratings, greatly adding to the replay value.
The goal in each level (as always) is to kill all three defenseless male animals with your superior weaponry. Hitting the beasts’ heads or hearts will kill them instantly, but otherwise they take exactly three shots to kill. Shoot a marginally more defenseless female animal and the level instantly ends. Hunters can however kill smaller critters like raccoons and birds for extra points.
The level ends after all three male animals are dead and gone or the player wings a female. The player then receives an overall rating based on animals killed and accuracy. To get a 5-star rating, you’ll need to kill all three males with single shots AND hit all the optional critters in the level. That critter requirement asks a bit too much, but it really only affects Achievement hunters.
One of the highlights of the phone game was its assortment of six bonus games. Those games all return, plus 12 new ones (including DLC). Some of the more amusing additions include: ‘Mars Needs Cattle,’ in which players save cows from UFO abductors; the outer space ‘Meteor Bash;’ and a Beer Tapper-inspired ‘Mugshot’ that features a bevy of horrible nightmare ladies sliding mugs around a bar. The Dove Hunt game that ran so poorly on some Windows Phones runs beautifully on the Surface Pro.
Arcade mode returns
Those minigames can be played individually outside of Adventure mode in the Classic mode. To unlock Classic, just complete any Adventure mode campaign.
Classic is actually the entire Windows Phone of Big Buck Hunter Pro. Players can choose to take on one ‘Trek’ (five hunting levels) or a full three-trek game. Adventure mode is longer and less linear in nature, making Classic slightly redundant. But it’s still a cool bonus.
The only thing Classic mode is missing compared to the actual arcade version of Bick Buck Hunter Pro is four types of animals: Antelope, Bighorn Sheep, Moose, and Caribou. But all four animals are available as In-App Purchases. One animal costs $1.99, while the pack of all four sells for $5.99.
What do you get by buying premium animals? Each one adds three new treks to Classic mode, three new campaigns to Adventure mode, and three new locations. The optional $5.99 purchase essentially triples the length of the game. The DLC sadly doesn’t add new Achievements, though it will make the one for killing a thousand bucks far less boring.
Windows 8 controls
The arcade Big Buck Hunter games use a light gun, which Windows 8 obviously lacks. But the touch screen controls work just fine. One finger can tap anywhere on screen to shoot, while tapping the bottom of the screen with another finger reloads.
If you’re playing on a PC or touch screen just isn’t your thing, you can also opt for either mouse only or mouse and keyboard controls. The left mouse button fires and the right button reloads. The spacebar also reloads, which I find easiest for rapidly firing and reloading.
Whichever control method you pick, aiming is slightly inaccurate by design. See, in the Big Buck Hunter games, your shot doesn’t automatically land in the center of the aiming reticule. It can hit anywhere within the reticule’s circle. I assume the inaccuracy originated as a design decision in the arcade game in order to make the relatively simple act of killing harmless animals more challenging. It’s a little annoying in the home game, but you get used to it.
Censorship, bugs, and performance
The Windows Phone game unnecessarily removed the live-action female models found in every other version of the game, and the same applies to the Windows 8 game as well. Shame on whichever person at Microsoft asked for their removal.
The phone game also included a couple of online features: ‘Arcade Finder’ (locate a nearby arcade machine) and ‘Coin-Op Login’ (share scores with the arcade game). However, neither feature actually worked properly, making them extremely useless. They have been omitted from Adventure.
More troubling, I experienced a number of graphical glitches when playing on my gaming laptop. Textures often flicker in and out, especially in the snow levels (as pictured above). These glitches don’t happen when running on the (significantly less powerful) Surface Pro, so they’re not a universal problem.
Possible texture glitches aside, Adventure looks quite a bit better than the Windows Phone game or even a slightly attractive second cousin. Well, you can’t legally marry this game in most states, but it does have a graphics slider tucked away in the Help & Options menu. This allows for a smooth game whether played on Windows RT or full-on Windows 8.
The only Windows Phone Achievement of real difficulty involved playing a perfect round of the ‘Dove Hunt’ bonus game. Due to performance issues, it proved impossible for many players. Adventure has a single Achievement for perfecting all the default bonus games, but that should prove easy thanks to this version’s superior performance.
Two long-term Achievements involve killing a total of 1,000 bucks and 100 does. The doe one feels a bit steep since players are NOT supposed to shoot does. But I suppose a fair number of female animals will get hit by accident as players grind towards the thousand males and other Achievements.
‘Wiped ‘em out’ is the hardest Achievement by far. It requires players to 5-star every level in all three of an animal’s Adventure campaigns by killing every buck in one shot AND every critter. That’s 60 levels to perfect! It’s an annoying requirement, but at least we can replay levels individually. Unless you REALLY love the game, you probably won’t want to bother going after it.
Sorrowful as the lack of Big Buck Hunter Pro on Windows Phone 8 is, at least its big brother Big Buck Hunter Pro Adventure turned out very well on Windows 8. It comes with twice as many levels as the phone game by default and runs far better. Also, it supports cloud saves! Fans of gun or hunting games can't go wrong with this one.
Should you grab the four DLC animals? Well, six bucks gets 240 more hunting levels and 12 new bonus games to play. Just like the main game, the DLC represents a fair value. Big fans of the game will love the extra content, whereas players who are only in it for the Achievements can probably skip it.
Big Buck Hunter Pro Adventure – Windows 8 or RT – 246 MB - $4.99 – Store Link