Hunt the Night Review – Gothic Horror 2D Zelda

Hunt the Night Review

The best part of reviewing video games is when you get a chance to play a game you had no prior knowledge of, then get completely blown away by it. One of the last times this happened to me was when I reviewed Rise of the Third Power, which turns out to be by the same developer as today’s unexpected gem: Hunt the Night. The easiest way to describe Hunt the Night would be The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past with a Castlevania aesthetic. It also happens to be as good as the classic titles from those series’ 16-bit eras.

The story in Hunt the Night is about a medieval world where humans rule the day, and monsters rule the night. In the 9th century, the night started to expand. A group called the Stalkers have found ways to harness the dark magic of the night, and use it to battle against the creeping darkness. The game’s protagonist, Vesper, is one of these Stalkers. Vesper’s quest narrative isn’t the engaging part of the game’s story though. Medhram, the world of Hunt the Night, is captivating. There’s lots of world lore spread throughout the game, usually from items and NPC conversations.

Dark Lore

It’s such a cool world, with a beautiful visual aesthetic. Castlevania, Dark Souls and Bloodborne have similar gothic medieval worlds, with monsters in the darkness. But fans of Berserk will see some references as well. Bubbling purple muck pools are everywhere, and black tentacles reach out at Vesper from every crevasse. The pixel graphics are gorgeous. They’re typical 16-bit/ RPG Maker-style 2D graphics. The sprite art looks closer to Earthbound than something ultra detailed like Final Fantasy VI, but the slightly cartoony characters make a great juxtaposition to the bizarre monster designs. My only complaint is that the flat graphics and dark color palette make it difficult to clarify some visuals. This sometimes led to me taking damage just to make sure things weren’t background details.

The core gameplay is very Legend of Zelda. The graphics are 2D, with a top-down perspective. Vesper has a sword swing melee attack. The dungeons are maze-like and full of puzzles. But Hunt the Night differentiates itself from Legend of Zelda with its combat options and depth. The other main components are dashing and firing bullets. Vesper has a dash that works as a tight dodge, which provides temporary invincibility. It also puts distance between her and her enemies, because she can fire bullets at them. She only has six bullets, but every three melee attacks Vespers lands gets her another one. This was a very fun system, and was backed up by tight controls.

Customizable Combat

There are also some RPG elements. They’re closer to Legend of Zelda than anything Final Fantasy though. Vesper gets increases to her health and magic meters. She gets different types of melee weapons. And she gets lots of different types of bullets. There’s a fun Hollow Knight-style customization to experimenting and creating ability load outs. The game is also incredibly hard, and bosses will definitely need abilities equipped for specific needs.

Hunt the Night also doesn’t play all its gameplay cards right away. There are some very awesome, game-changing abilities Vesper gains throughout her quest. I don’t want to spoil any. But they’re wholly new mechanics. Hub areas open up eventually. And the narrative unfolds as a slow burn. Hunt the Night really rewards the player for sticking with it, and constantly provides major new elements.

Mazes Aren’t for Everyone

One minor gripe I had with Hunt the Night is I found the maps to be a little too maze-y. They were very open, and I found it easy to get lost. Some might really enjoy this. I found Hollow Knight similarly frustrating in the beginning. I prefer a bit more of a linear start to get me going. The areas in Hunt the Night were large and murky. But this really is a nitpick. I’m trying to be critical, and I know some might find this frustrating.

The horror elements are also quite strong in Hunt the Night. Survival horror fans, who typically don’t plat action RPGs, might want to give it a try. I definitely got PS1 era Resident Evil vibes with its background lore items and similar puzzles. I was also reminded of 2D survival horror games like Corpse Party. Another important inspiration worth mentioning is Secret of Mana, which was kind of the middle ground between Legend of Zelda and Final Fantasy on the Super Nintendo. The composer of Secret of Mana, Hiroki Kikuta, even provided music for Hunt the Night.

Love Bites

Hunt the Night is a love letter to 16-bit era action adventure games. There’s something for fans of almost every genre in this gem of a game. I won’t be surprised if it finds a fairly major audience. It’s a concise synthesis of so many great gameplay and visual ideas. All of my complaints are minor nitpicks. And they’re still just based on my personal preferences. If a physical console version becomes available, I’ll be first in line to buy it.

***PC code provided by the publisher***

The Good

Fun combat

Precise controls

Appealing gothic world build


The Bad

Sometimes hard to see details

Too open/ maze-like for some

Narrative not as strong as lore