Outdoors Unleashed Africa 3D
3DS Download | Teyon / Mastiff | 1 Player | Out Now (North America) | $3.99
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7th September 2012; By KnucklesSonic8
Adhering to an on-rails format, Outdoors Unleashed Africa 3D is all about hunting wild animals as part of a research expedition. Less about reaching a fixed destination, each stage ends once the time limit has fully elapsed, so you must make it your aim to not let stalled camera movements go on for prolonged periods for fear that you'd miss out on key scoring opportunities later on. Prior to actually traveling to a new location, you will first select from a range of equipment categories. Naturally you won't have much to choose from at the outset, but progressively you will unlock new items to further your effectiveness out on the field. These include primary and secondary weapons, zoom upgrades, repellant for the more vicious creatures, as well as one or two other doo-dads. One other thing worth mentioning on its own is the presence of hunter caps; reason being that I'm not sure what the point is behind their existence since you don't ever see your character (as per the first-person orientation), and it's not like they serve an observable role. That aside, the range of choices seen in the customization is quite good. More importantly, it's purposeful.
Being an amateur with no experience under your belt, the control system is an especially appreciated boon for first-timers. Firing is done by pressing the L or R Button, while reloads, zoom functionality, game pausing, and weapon swaps all require you to tap their respective icons on the Touch Screen. There is also what's known as hunter vision which grants you the ability to slow everything down -- an especially useful feature for fast-moving animals -- but it is something that takes time (and hits) to charge. In terms of the overall HUD and how everything is laid out, I do think it works just fine, albeit I felt the amount of remaining ammo should have had a presence on the 3D Screen for the sake of having an easier reference point. Connected to all of this is a combo system that rewards players quite well, not only for making successive hits but also for certain types of shots, particular those done in the extreme sense (e.g., Extreme Longshot). Best of all, reloading doesn't relinquish the combo you've built up and neither does hitting some of the optional, non-animal markers, so really the combo system functions as a great rewards system in itself.
Getting back to the main controls, though, the connected accuracy helps make up for any lack of initial skill. Even as the camera is on the move, keeping the stylus held down on the Touch Screen the entire time is not at all uncomfortable, nor is it an irritating demand. Mind you, the targeting isn't 100% perfect all the time, and this is particularly seen, not with targets really far off in the distance (the game actually performs somewhat reliably in that area), but when trying to shoot at coins. Yes, mixed in amongst the different animal targets are coins that either appear in singular amounts after an enemy has fallen, or in a complete shower, as seen when recovering artifacts (i.e., by shooting). Each location features one of these in the form of a tribal mask, often placed in hard-to-overlook spots, and you can make it your aim to collect every single one of these over the course of your adventure.
So, then, what exactly are the sorts of targets you'll spot in your travels? Well, much like the customization aspect, there's a nice range to position yourself towards. At first you'll get your feet wet with just wildebeests, at which point the game will introduce to you the game-wide restriction of not shooting the females of a given species. These can be identified by colour, the way they limp around, or another feature that sets them as different from their male counterparts, such as the lack of horns. As you push your way more and more into the depths of fictional Africa, you'll see more of the life that exists here -- namely, crocodiles, hippos, cheetahs, vultures, hares, elephants, meerkats, and geese.
Many of these are harmless, but there is a portion that will go on the offensive just for you being in their territory. If they should land an attack on you, no transitional or authentic effect will take place; it is simply that a series of red scratch marks will appear on-screen. Barring a few exceptions where you may have some cheetahs coming at you while you stand in place, it's not so much that the predators will catch you by surprise. Also, there were a few times in my experience where I lost health for an attack that wasn't even visible! That didn't make any sense to me. Now, you could make the case that the game doesn't take these encounters into account on a larger scale and it should therefore be excused for not having a firm handle on things. But to me that says they should have integrated more of these segments so the experience would be less of a free ride.
Speaking of free ride, for a game that promotes the safari aesthetic, I'm a bit unsure about the level of effectiveness with which they've translated that to the space. Outdoors Unleashed Africa 3D largely has players in either forested or open environments. On occasion, you'll be directed around the perimeter of a watering hole, scale a treetop for a better vantage point, and walk along the riverside or through a hollow tree. Ass early as the second set of stages, you'll also get to board a jeep (and later, a helicopter), which is exactly what I was hoping the game would allow. Even still, the overall environment doesn't have much growth or luster to it and is actually somewhat dull to look at in certain areas. I recall one mission briefing making mention of the spread of a fire, but in the actual level there wasn't a strong indication that that had taken place. How much better it would have been, I thought, if they actually had players going about their hunts with the fire still in effect.
Even without that suggestion, though, there's an increase in personal expectation as progress is made. The disappointing truth is that while you hope that the settings you find yourself in will have isolated portions that are less about going about it a drone-like pace, there isn't much of an interest factor going on. I mean, yes, the seventh stage in each set consists of a bonus round where there's a greater number of a specific kind of target. But these truly aren't different from the normal stages. And unfortunately, this is probably the biggest concern I have with the game -- its gameplay doesn't progress and gets less and less exciting on a going-forward basis.
Related to the latter point of consideration is the game's presentation values, which are similarly unimpressive. First, in terms of music, you really have to use a set of headphones to get a good reading on the game's music because it's normally quite hard to hear over the shots as well as the narrations of the male guide. Flutes and drums are often utilized to set a predictable and suitable tone, but the music can get annoyingly repetitive by the time you reach the third set of stages.
As far as how the game looks visually, I'd again like to point out that some of the environments look a bit bland even with the functional state of some of the props. Texture detail is a bit better than standard, but as the camera pans across certain areas, you'll at times see black lines flickering for a brief moment. And then there are times where the framerate doesn't always hold up, even freezing up for a second. Since you're probably wondering about how this game has made use of the 3DS' capabilities, let me just say that although the 3D Slider can widen your view a bit, its usage ultimately makes very little difference. Plus, there is some ghosting that takes place when the camera is fixed on dark openings that enemies are about to emerge from. There are some other points as well, like the fact that some of the animals don't look all that great when they're on the move, and the annoyance of having coins land in out-of-reach places. But really it's the overall lack of expansiveness in the climate that bothers the most about this aspect to the game.
Even with the presentation and certain parts of gameplay not having better results, these should not at all be viewed with a certain coarseness. That's not to gloss over the faults, but ultimately there is something to be said about Outdoors Unleashed Africa 3D being as fun as it is in spite of not having a stronger footing. I have confidence in saying that players who typically enjoy games belonging to this genre will not be lastingly disappointed over the slip-ups when there is that continued desire to improve performances and see all locations to completion. Gold Medal requirements do add value to all of this, albeit they are very easy to come by once you get going. As a matter of fact, I've actually gone well beyond these conditions (as far as 20,000 points above) in some missions, but I did notice the bar being raised as things were winding down. With a total of 35 stages as well as achievements to extend things a bit for those who feel motivated to chase after optional objectives, there should be very little concern about getting your money's worth here for the extremely reasonable asking price.
It's pretty clear that the provocation and thrill suggested on the surface level aren't reflected amongst any of the game's components, so in that sense, I think I would have preferred if Outdoors Unleashed Africa 3D were actually overproduced. I would be lying if I said I didn't expect more from the game as it went along, and it can be a tad narrow in that respect for its inability to not launch itself into the very edginess it's capable of. But even just in saying that, it's not a major flaw to come down hard on it for, because in the areas where it really counts, Outdoors Unleashed Africa 3D delivers for the most part. Perhaps not to the level of extension of a fully-fleshed-out concept, but that doesn't make it grossly inferior in the fun factor department. Far from it, with responsive controls and gameplay execution that meets an agreeable standard, the unprogressive nature doesn't put a lasting damper on the overall experience. And for a $4 game to offer the amount of content that it does, it's definitely worth trying out.
22/30 - Good
Gameplay 7/10 - Controls are fairly reliable, good use of combos, nice range of targets and equipment choices, mostly interesting and well-paced
Presentation 6/10 - Greater diversity would've been great, some areas are a bit dull, framerate issues pop from time to time, 3D is more or less useless
Enjoyment 4/5 - System makes the game welcoming, not thrilling, had the capability to push the envelope, still enjoyable if you're a fan of the genre
Extra Content 5/5 - 35 stages, achievements, unlockable upgrades, motivation exists to come back and improve records, definitely worth the money
Equivalent to a score of 73% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating) - Our Rating System