This review for Yeti Hunter, a free PC game from Vlambeer, first appeared on X, a site I now pretend never existed.
The first time I saw a yeti, the hairs on the back of my neck rose and prodded the nerves that coiled round to my temples and then proceeded to stop me breathing for the next three seconds. It was the first indication that I was not in fact alone in the blazing white snow-scape I had found myself in and that there were in fact yetis out there, or at least one, for me to hunt.
Having come away from the game for a few minutes it occurs to me that I’m only assuming that I was the hunter because I was the one holding the gun and because on this particular occasion, the yeti was running away from me. There was no guarantee that this would always be the case or that the Yeti was even aware of my existence. Perhaps it was just frolicking, blissfully unaware of the terrified and quivering wreck currently cowering behind a cross-hair.
Yeti Hunter from Vlambeer is something I wouldn’t be surprised to find in an art gallery. In terms of atmosphere, it should be played by anyone who is in any doubt of the potential evocative nature of gaming as a medium, even through a retro aesthetic. The landscape is a crude, pixelated affair, outwardly resembling something that would be spat out by an ancient Atari, but the flickering snow and blinding white haze reveals a graphical sophistication that older machines would have been incapable of.
As for the atmosphere, the first time the scene snapped from day to night, and I do mean to use the word snapped, my heart decided it wanted to occupy a space that was half its size, contracting down with the shift in music. Said music, from Kozilek, does an incredible job of further pushing the tone and feeling of extreme solitude in a hostile or at best bleak environment.
The scratchy, shaky appearance of the snow and pixel-trees, accompanied by the haunting music played through my headphones in combination with the fact that I rather foolishly played this in the dark with the flickers of torrential snow lightly strobing against my walls, meant that the one thing it put me in mind of the most was the horror film The Ring. Upon exiting the game, I half expected to find an email from the yeti reading ‘seven days’.
I scare easily in games. I put the controller down very early on in Silent Hill 2 because unlike in a horror film, actually walking away is of course an option. That said, the atmosphere and tension that Yeti Hunter manages to build on such few resources is astounding. It is in no doubt a short form game, and not exactly something you can play for very long, nor I doubt very often, but it is an example of a supreme piece of game design and highly compelling, even if the lack of instruction or definitive objective can be a little unsettling.
I have yet to actually kill the/one of the yetis. I’m not even certain it’s possible and to be perfectly honest, I’m a little concerned of the potential consequences of doing so. If I find myself actually face to face with one, it will be interesting to see if I can pull the trigger and I appear to have taken to hiding up trees instead.
Verdict: Yeti Hunter didn’t feel the need to give me a score, so I won’t do the same to it. This should be looked at by any budding designer, anyone who needs convincing that games can be artistic, or anyone who wants a good atmospheric scare.
Yeti hunter was developed by Vlambeer with music from Kozilek. It is available as a free downloaded on the Yeti Hunter site.
Update: I wrote this long ago before I knew who Vlambeer were and and before the studio had done a huge amount. They have become one of the most interesting indie developers currently on the scene, and as a bonus recommendation, its mobile game Ridiculous Fishing is one of the few mobile titles that can be whole-heartedly recommended.
Check out this page for a selection of more video game reviews. They may not be the latest games or the most regularly updated, but they are definitely reviews.