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Review by: David Laprad
Published: January 21, 1999
Success in games brings many things, including acclaim, cash, and the envy of peers, who wish they had come up with the concept. Instead, late-comers must be content to stamp out clones, the same game with new clothes. In some genres, this can enrich the experience, as swarms of strategy and 3D action gamers can attest. But when the concept is a stretch to start with, as with the hunting sim genre, designers are hard up to add an all-important “twist” to the proceedings. A small gathering of developers have transcended the slim hunting sim criterion and done some amazing things, such as placing people on an island with gluttonous dinosaurs or in the hinterlands with elephants and lions. Even the 3D graphics and tournament options impress.
Overall, though, the genre is awash in mediocrity since some publishers slab these games out cheap. Pixilated 2D graphics and an absence of engaging thrills brand this genre as substandard material. In addition, there are so many titles it has become almost impossible for one to stand out, excluding the Deer Hunter and Cabela series. So how does a publisher capitalize on a hot, but overcrowded, genre? Pretend to be something else. Enter Deer Avenger, a game that parodies all that is bad about hunting sims and piles steaming heaps of adolescent humor on top. The question is, how can you lampoon something that has more or less become its own form of satire?
The game places us in the vindictive pelt of a deer named Bambo, who has had it up to his six-points with being hunted. In an amusing cinematic that hints at a better time, he emerges from a wall hanging, grabs a machine gun and enough ammunition to alarm the most impassioned NRA activists, and grimaces with depraved ecstasy at the screen. Although some might perceive the table-turning as a mild statement on animal rights, the game submits no such pretenses. The entire setup exists as a launch pad for the one-liners and caricatures. Bambo utters endless witticisms that satirize the most insipid hunting sim elements. For example, on the crude 2D navigation screen, on which gamers scout a map to locate characteristic hunter droppings, such as “nudie magazines” and beer cans, he quips, “It’s going to be hard to top this technology in the sequel.”
In essence, Bambo’s goal is to nab seven hunters and mount them in his trophy room. All the basic toys are included; there are three weapons, a compass, binoculars and calls such as “Baywatch is on!” In a creative spasm, the designers also included “gaseous emissions” so gamers can get up-wind and clear ‘em out. Do this too much, though, or overuse the calls, and the hunters wise up and decline to emerge. Weapon examples are the M-16 with scope and the slingshot with deer pellets. There are three locations, including Connecticut in the spring, Minnesota in the winter and West Virginia in the fall, but this is moot because the bare-bones environments consist of boring, unanimated horizons and two-dimensional trees.
Once the weapon and location are chosen, there is nothing much to do but listen to Bambo groan about how boring the game is. The 360 degree arena is small, so the compass and binoculars serve no purpose. Do a couple rotations, cut the cheese and call out “Hey! Ted Nugent’s here! Who wants to meet the Nuge?” Soon enough someone will come crawling, and seconds later his head will be hanging in the room. Again, the designers are emphasizing all that is wrong with the genre and depending on the humor to spice things up. Not a good idea.
The game is not without merit. The cartoonish hunter animations, such as the bourbon guzzling hunter and phobic bohemian, are amusing, and the mouse-based aiming and movement and simple HUD structure actually highlight a common strength. A question that remained with me throughout the game, though, is who this game is targeted at. People who delight in hunting sims are going to be insulted, and those who scorn the genre are not going to give it a passing thought. It has no gameplay, bad graphics and punch lines that are nose-scrunchingly bad. Perhaps the gag is on us.
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