Sydney Hunter and the Curse of the Mayan
Developed By: CollectorVision Games
Published By: CollectorVision Games
Category: Action, Adventure, Platformer
Release Date: 09.12.19
Indiana Jones, Metroidvania, and the NES. Have I got your attention? Good, because those are the three primary ingredients in today’s game, Sydney Hunter and the Curse of the Mayan for the Nintendo Switch. CollectorVision Games has been doing some cool stuff releasing homebrew Sydney Hunter games for the ColecoVision and Sega Master System, and with today’s game they have entered the modern game console market – but they’ve stuck to their 8-bit guns. Well, maybe whips, spears, boomerangs, et cetera instead of guns, but you know what I mean. The game combines a very old-school look with some new-school polish to create a fun, addictive experience that follows an intrepid, whip-wielding adventurer whose legacy won’t be ruined by crystal skulls.
Five Unlucky Days
Good ol’ Sydney Hunter can’t help but explore any ancient structure he sees. So, when he’s wandering through the rainforest – as one does, naturally – and comes across a pristine Mayan temple, well, off he goes… for ADVENTURE! Unluckily for him, he arrives on the first day of Wayab – the five unlucky days of the Mayan calendar. Dang. When some of the Mayan gods arrive and break up the Maya Haab – a sacred calendar – it’s up to Sydney to defeat the gods and reassemble the calendar before the end of Wayab or else time will be frozen forever. It’s a charming, amusingly-written, but ultimately light story that provides a bit of levity to balance out the engrossing but sometimes-frustrating gameplay.
Of Course He’s Got A Whip
The basic gameplay is relatively smooth and satisfying. At its core it’s your basic 2D action-platformer, a la Castlevania – and yes, I’m making that comparison almost solely based on the fact that both protagonists carry a whip. But the rest of the gameplay is pretty similar, too. The one sore spot is with the hit detection. Hit boxes seems inconsistent, especially with moving enemies or obstacles like flames. This made it hard to gauge where to stand or jump during boss fights and even during platforming sequences. It also, occasionally, made it appear as though weapons travelled right through enemies without doing any damage. Disclaimer: I acknowledge that it’s possible I just suck and this isn’t the game’s fault. It did feel consistently inconsistent enough that I thought it warranted mention.
Is It Tomb Raiding If All the Artifacts Stay in the Temple?
This isn’t a Metroidvania in the traditional sense, where there’s only one giant map and you make your way around that for the whole game. There is a main temple hall with different doors that lead to each individual level, and each level is its own lite Metroidvania-ish area. As you explore levels, you’ll find several crystal skulls scattered around which you need to unlock later levels. Each level has a boss, ranging from a generic gate guardian to a more unique god opponent. Within the level, you can use your weapons to destroy weak walls to open secret areas or collect keys to open doors that bar your way to the next screen. You can also collect new weapons and abilities that may help you to pass through areas that were previously inaccessible. Oh, and you can revisit cleared levels in case you missed something the first time – gotta take care of the completionists, don’t we?
8-Bit Aesthetics Are No Curse
Let’s keep this part simple – the game looks great. The colorful 8-bit graphics make each level look vibrant, active, and engaging with a unique visual style and an impressive level of detail. The sprite for Sydney is distinctive and well-animated, with a decent number of frames per different action to make his movements fluid and graceful. I’ve got the same high praise for the music. The 8-bit audio is the perfect accompaniment for a retro action/adventure game. Its often-blistering tempo has shades of Mega Man soundtracks past, and if you know me at all you know I consider Mega Man second only to the Final Fantasy series in terms of the towering legacy of game soundtracks.
Pluckily Pleasant Platforming
Sydney Hunter and the Curse of the Mayan is a great example of how to build a retro gaming experience. It starts with a tried-and-true action platforming base and builds a balanced system of weapon and ability enhancements to add a more modern sense of game design. Though I did have some frustration with being able to figure out the parameters for hit detection, the controls are overall pretty smooth and intuitive. Most importantly, it’s easy to forgive a wart or two for a game that looks and sounds this darn good. As far as the Metroidvania genre goes on the Switch, I still consider Timespinner and Monster Boy the top of the class, but Sydney Hunter and the Curse of the Mayan makes a very strong case for joining them.
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*A game code was provided for review purposes.