27th Nov2019

‘Sydney Hunter & the Curse of the Mayan’ Review (Nintendo Switch)

by Phil Wheat

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A pixel-perfect homage to the 8-bit games of yesteryear, in particular those made during the Commodore 64/Spectrum era, Sydney Hunter and the Curse of the Mayan sees you play as the titular Sydney Hunter – an explorer who gets trapped inside a Mayan pyramid while he’s out exploring! He soon discovers that the “Feathered Serpent” Kukulkan has broken up the sacred Haab calendar into seven individual pieces and has hidden them inside a pyramid.

The aim of the game is to find all seven pieces of the Haab calendar, defeat Kukulkan, and return peace and balance to the Mayan civilization… All wrapped up in a hard-as-nails platformer that, whilst apparently inspired by Montemzuma’s Revenge, feels very much like a modern spin on the dead-hard Rick Dangerous series (a game I played to death during my C64-owning days) – and both of which are clearly inspired by Indiana Jones!

Sydney Hunter and the Curse of the Mayan comes from Collectorvision Games, an independent games published that has specialised in the retro-gaming market, publishing numerous games on old-school platforms. However with this latest entry in the Sydney Hunter franchise they have branched out into modern-day systems, releasing this title on Mac/PC, Xbox One, PS4 and Nintendo Switch. And it’s on the Switch that this film feels most at home, fitting in nicely with the myriad of retro-styled “Nindie” games that have made their home on Nintendo’s console.

As I mentioned previously for me Sydney Hunter and the Curse of the Mayan feels very much like a new iteration of Rick Dangerous and as such it’s just as bloody difficult! You start the game armed only with a whip – which gives the game something of a Castlevania feel – and you must explore the area. And that’s trickier than you’d think. Like all the old-school hard-as-nails platformers you have to be careful with each and every jump, make sure that you don’t get struck by enemies and avoid fire, spikes, traps and more – because your health is precious and the game is very unforgiving, so much so that save points are few and far between. Literally.

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Of course exploration is the name of the game here and not every route is as obviosu as the next. Walls can be broken with your whip (or other weapons), you need to collect different coloured keys to open matching doors and once a key is used that’s it. You can’t re-use it again, even if you’re facing another door of the same colour! It’s almost like the developers have done everything possible to make this game punish you each and every turn.But of course with punishment comes reward, and when you get past that tricky point in the game you’ve spent a few hours trying to beat, I have no doubt you’ll feel an immense amount of satisfaction.

The difficulty, for some, will frustrate but for those of us that grew up in the era of games that were LITERALLY unfinishable (seriously, some games in the 8-bit era were never finished so the developers would put unpassble jumps or obstacles in the way so you could never progress further!) Sydney Hunter and the Curse of the Mayan is a surprisingly brilliant flashback to a time when you’d spend hours, nay days, playing that one game you’d spent all your pocket money buying; mainly because you couldn’t afford another!

***** 5/5

A frustratingly brilliant old-school platformer,Sydney Hunter and the Curse of the Mayan is available on the Nintendo eShop now.

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