Devil Hunter X‘s intro goes on at length about demons, and fog, and bad things happening to the “humens.” Presumably the latter are like us, just passed through the Engrish language filter. Sounds like a good enough reason to go demon hunting to me! One can forgive Corefan’s less-than-masterful translation since Devil Hunter X (Out Now, $1.99; Lite) plays intuitively enough that its bludgeoned backstory and tutorials don’t get in the way too much.
Devil Hunter X begins with a stage selection screen sporting “wanted dead-or-alive” style warrants for specific demons plaguing its world. The setup hints that a nonlinear approach might have been tried here with great success, but sadly the player’s predictably spiky-haired avatar must tackle stages sequentially. Once he’s in, though, things get fun quick. Before the player character even sets foot onto the first platform the player is treated to an action sequence reminiscent of the button-pressing cutscenes in Resident Evil 4 or Heavy Rain, if you can imagine that being executed in 2D. Soon the spiky-haired dude will be kicking over broken columns and sliding down them, leapfrogging over flying demons, swinging from ropes, riding a dragon…and that’s just the first level.
That a run through Devil Hunter X is exhilarating owes specifically to its level designs and the ways the player has to interact with them to survive. This is both a plus and a minus. The player character’s moveset grows steadily over the game’s two-to-four hour duration, but new abilities are so tailored to handling specific obstacles that they’re of little practical use in the early stages of a second playthrough, which leaves all acquired skills intact. Despite a running challenge to collect well-hidden in-game medals, the exceptionally scripted nature of Devil Hunter X‘s levels limits its replay value considerably.
Like the earliest generations of sidescrolling heroes, the player’s devil hunter instantly succumbs to spikes, water filled pits, crumbling platforms, and numerous other traps. His frequent death groan will instantly invoke memories of the early Megaman and Castlevania titles, but with one exception: the game’s auto-save ensures that the player can always start again from an opportune checkpoint. While such pampering might put off a few diehard nostalgia buffs, at least it makes the game accessible considering how precisely the player has to approach Devil Hunter X‘s consistently severe logistical challenges.
Devil Hunter X‘s user interface could use some more work. Both the attack and jump virtual buttons currently have a wonky rapid-fire feel to them that makes executing the player character’s charge attack and certain wall jumps a little too unreliable for comfort. Otherwise the transition from cell phone to iOS went smoothly; the movement virtual buttons and combination attacks involving multiple virtual buttons function consistently well in comparison. The result is an interface the user can expect to wrestle with from time to time, but the experience improves as the player grows more familiar with its particular quirks.
That Devil Hunter X began its life as a Java-enabled cell phone game will strike the player as aesthetically obvious, though the tiny sprites are well animated and the environments bear undeniable old-school charm. Devil Hunter X‘s sound effects work is surprisingly excellent, but most will find the music quality well below par.
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iFanzine Verdict: Devil Hunter X is highly recommended to nostalgia buffs looking for the level of challenge found in classic old-school sidescrollers, albeit tempered with one or two modern conveniences. Otherwise its main draw (and drawback!) is its creative level design, which creates a very exciting first playthrough but is so heavily scripted as to make a second pass feel gratuitous.