After producing some solid, conventional mobile titles based on familiar brands like Driver 3 and Baldur's Gate, Sorrent's pact with Atari has begun to bear some strange fruit. This is because Atari's collection of intellectual properties looks more like a high-school locker than it does a coherent catalog, thanks in part to its business agreement with Hasbro. Apparently, Atari has some strange stuff tucked away in there, such as the license to the Simon memory game, and, more notably, the rights to the Deer Hunter series. Clearly, Sorrent didn't forget how insanely popular the PC game used to be seven or eight years ago, and the company rationed its efforts accordingly. Deer Hunter is a marvelous interpretation of the original game that conforms surprisingly well to the mobile platform.
Organized agriculture may have considerably cut down on the numbers of those who practice hunting deer, but the activity is still surprisingly prevalent in the US: Many thousands of hunters obtain licenses and take to the woods every year in hopes of baggin' a trophy buck or two. Deer Hunter aims to simulate this experience by sending you out to one of three different locations--Kansas, upstate New York, or Idaho--with your weapon and gear of choice. You have only a limited amount of ammunition to expend in each area, so you must scroll through the woodlands carefully, use every tool at your disposal, and make your shots count. If all goes well, you'll add new trophies to your wall and gain points to upgrade your hunting skills. If not, you'll return to stalking steaks at the supermarket.
Deer Hunter features two basic game modes: quick hunt and season hunt. Quick hunt lets you customize the parameters of your predatory experience, including location and season, and then sends you off to battle with extra skill points and double the ammo you normally receive. Season hunt makes you work your way up the food chain by stringing together successive hunting sessions, which vary dramatically in difficulty and appearance based on the season. Also, particularly successful outings in season hunt will garner you skill points that can be applied to one of four categories: weapons, tracking, calling, and stealth. Your weapons rating dictates how steady your aim is; tracking helps you locate deer runs on the area map; calling helps you lure deer in to your kill zone; and stealth keeps you from frightening your prey away.
In either instance, the gameplay is both pretty straightforward and very close to that found in the PC version. You are first presented with a satellite map of a hunting area, which you comb with your cursor for signs of deer. Once you enter a particular hunting ground, you'll have the options to scroll panoramically in a circle; use gear (like attractant sprays, food, and your deer call); or aim your weapon. Depending on how well you've chosen your site, different species of deer may wander into the zone of their own volition, and they may start nibbling at foliage. You may have to use calls, food, and sprays to bring them into the picture. You also have access to binoculars, which let you take a better look at a deer through heavy foliage so you can confirm whether it is within range of your weapon. Once you decide you have a clear shot, you shoulder your weapon, aim carefully, and fire away. Easier weapons, like the rifle and the shotgun, have telescopic sights that facilitate shooting. However, using the crossbow or the compound bow gets you more points for your kill.
Deer Hunter does a great job of balancing the shooting element of the game with its tracking and stalking element, which makes each just difficult enough to hold your attention. In most cases, you'll have to invest a lot of quality time with your pheromone sprays, food bundles, and deer call to get your would-be trophy within range. It takes some trial and error to learn which combination of tricks will attract which types of deer in a particular season, and keeping an eye on the wind meter is also a must to keep from frightening deer away. The aiming and shooting sequences require practice as well. The deer weave in and out of the woods at a brisk pace, meaning you rarely have an easy target unless you're hunting in Kansas, which is mostly clear of brush. Moreover, your guns and bows are difficult to aim, even if you've devoted most of your skill points to the weapons category. It would have been nice if Deer Hunter allowed for injuries to deer rather than enforcing an automatic one-shot fatality for simplicity's sake. Still, when you successfully stalk and bag a distant deer with a crack shot, you'll actually feel like you've accomplished something.
The game modulates the difficulty level a little as you continue to play in season hunt mode. For instance, deer will begin to appear at greater distances and won't be as easily attracted by your tricks. After several hours of play, however, Deer Hunter's efforts to increase the challenge don't really seem to keep pace with either your increasing stats or your naturally growing skill. This logarithmic progression weakens the game's other concessions to depth, like the online high-score table and your trophy room. Deer Hunter will keep you entertained far longer than the average mobile game, but the deer do start to look alike after a while.
Deer Hunter's graphics and audio are both fantastic on the LG VX7000, and they constitute a huge asset to gameplay. The game's environments are flush with visual detail, and the deer slip easily through the verdant landscapes, trotting around and sampling grasses. There are also a few truly stunning touches, such as the flocks of birds that occasionally burst from the undergrowth after a shot. There are even winter landscapes in some seasons, although they don't look as good as the summer locales. The game's sound is built entirely around the hunting experience, and the meditative, ambient noises come off very well. Your gunshots are crisp, the wind whispers through the trees, and there's even a loon hooting in the background in some spots.
Overall, Deer Hunter is a great experience that's an ideal download for anyone into hunting. This game is worth checking out for its presentation alone, but when you factor in the nuanced, subtle gameplay, it becomes a can't-miss offering.