High score games are a difficult breed of game to talk about because you either get into them and love them, or you don’t. If you frequently find yourself obsessing over leaderboards, Jonathan Kreuzer and Khang Le’s Arno the Hunter [99¢]] is an interesting take on the scrolling-enemy-shooter that offers an appealing world and distinct visual style.
As a premise, Arno the Hunter borrows most of its inspiration from the likes of Space Invaders. Different enemies streak across the sky and you tap to angle shots at them. You get around by tilting your device left and right. It takes a little while to get used to, but it works well-enough once you do. Some, myself included, would have probably preferred touch controls, but since you’re only working on a horizontal plane, it’s not too hard to get the hang of it.
There are currently only three base levels you’ll be fighting on, but each one offers a variety of enemies and bosses. As you pass each wave of enemies you’ll get a massive boss that has several weak points highlighted visually. Kill a boss and you’ll be treated with a slew of power-ups and a new wave of enemies.
There are five different weapons you’ll be outfitted with to help you rank up your high score. These come in the form of Contra-style weapons: a spread-shot, boomerang, giant bomb and others. While it might seem like the biggest weapon is always the best, each serves a purpose during certain segments more than others.
Traditionally speaking, high-score games aren’t about much more than getting higher and higher scores on each play through, but the visuals of Arno the Hunter are what set is apart the most. Someone in the forums already pointed out the game evokes the feel of Roger Dean’s artwork from early Yes albums, but it also bears a slight resemblance to the Oddworld series of games. That’s not to say the art’s derivative, because it’s not — but the style is certainly in the same vein. That’s a good thing, because the tripped-out, lush alien landscape is surprisingly underused in games.
There’s a close attention to detail in its execution too, the parallax scrolling of the background artwork gives you a clear sense of movement even though you’re restricted to a small portion of the screen. The backgrounds move and animate too, which might make you wish this was a little more than a high-score game because you’ll likely want to jump into the background and start exploring. For their part, the enemies all look great as well, clearly torn from the same cloth as the backgrounds. That’s especially true with the massive bosses, one of which looks something like what I’d imagine an elephant crossed with a mosquito would look like.
There are trophies and online leaderboards built into the game, but if you like to face off against friends more than strangers, you’ll be a bit disappointed by the lack of Game Center support. Still, it’s a well-visualized game that’s a ton of fun with a skill curve that will keep you playing for ages.