Reviewing GameMill Entertainment’s “Big Buck Hunter Arcade”, which I played on Xbox One, has been one of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to do since we started this web site. One one hand, I’ve always been a fan of reticle-based shooting mechanics. On the other, ever since my step-dad made me stand in a tree in the middle of the frigid Wisconsin winter at 5:00 in the morning, I’ve never been a fan of hunting of any kind. Still, we have a saying here at The Gaming Outsider: “there’s no such thing as a bad game, just games that aren’t for you.” Although this game has some brief redeeming qualities, this one unfortunately falls under the category of “not for me”.
If you’ve been to a bar or restaurant with arcade games in the past few years, you’ve probably seen a cabinet for “Big Buck Hunter”. If not, it’s a very straight-forward game where you’re given a nature-themed shooting gallery that lasts only a few seconds for each round. The player uses a bright orange rifle to aim at the screen in an attempt to shoot various types of wildlife including bucks, elk, and even pheasants. At the same time, the player must avoid shooting any female animals. At the end of each round, points are tallied up based on accuracy, speed, and penalties gained for shooting targets you’re not supposed to.
One of my biggest problems with this console port is that they took the one mechanic that was remotely fun with the arcade game: actually aiming a toy gun at the screen. Instead, this version places an aiming reticle on the screen that must be moved around to aim at targets, and you shoot by pulling the right trigger. To make matters worse, you’re forced to reload by tapping the left trigger after each shot, which is maddening when trying to line up your next shot before your targets disappear off the screen. This would be manageable if the speed of the reticle were an acceptable. It feels like the slightest movement of the analog stick moves the cursor at such a high speed that makes every “hit” a lucky one. While this may add to the “arcade” aspect of the experience and could probably be refined with time, it didn’t offer very much of a barrier of entry for beginners. Seriously, every kill that I got felt like I got lucky more than it had anything to do with skill.
But that’s not even close to what drove me crazy about “Big Buck Hunter Arcade”. While I fully admit that I’m not the target demographic for this game, I can’t imagine anyone actually enjoys hearing the same guitar/banjo riff in between every eight-second (let’s be honest) mini game. It seriously get extremely annoying within the first ten minutes of gameplay and was a huge reason why I only played through this game the one time. Also, while I’m not at all offended by this, the appearance of scantily-clad girls just felt like it served no real purpose.
The game does offer some additional game modes outside of it’s “campaign”. There are a couple of shooting galleries, which include shooting bottles in a whiskey barn as well as shooting roaches in what appears to be some kind of pantry or closet. Neither of these activities are anything close to what I’ve wanted to do in a video game before. There is an added element of multiplayer, which adds a bit of competitiveness, but at the end of the day (just like in the single player) it ends up being a test of luck rather than skill. Or maybe I just suck at it, which is entirely possible.
The only way I can recommend this game if you are a die-hard fan of the arcade game, but even then I have to imagine that the missing element of something to hold and point at the screen loses a lot of the appeal. Save your dollars and put them into an arcade for the better experience. At least there you have the added benefit of a couple beers making the experience somewhat less painful.