Welcome to this week’s edition of the Mobile Games Revue! Last time, we unlocked (get it?) the power within ourselves with Kingdom Hearts Unchained X. This week, we cover another mobile version of a popular franchise, with Uncharted: Fortune Hunter for Android and iOS.
Let’s open this with a little history lesson. Back in the earlier days of gaming, there were a lot of what became known as “licensed games” – games that were based on existing IPs such as films, TV shows, or even products (looking at you, Burger King). These were, by and large, absolutely terrible. Translating film to video game was generally about as successful as translating video games to the big screen. In recent years, both have improved (the latter especially so), but for a long time, “licensed game” was used as a pejorative to mean that a game was relying on a big name IP to cover up for the fact that it was a reskin of a generic gameplay type (such as a match-four, or a platformer).
I bring this up because both Uncharted and Battleborn released mobile games to coincide with the launch of the console version, which classifies them under the category of a licensed game (as opposed to a standalone game based on a franchise, as with Kingdom Hearts Unchained X). We’ll talk about Battleborn Tap next week, but for now, let’s take a look at Uncharted: Fortune Hunter.
Fortune Hunter is a simple, but unique, puzzle game. Each level features a little Nathan Drake sprite (cartoonishly buff – talk about unattainable body ideals in gaming), in a grid of squares, wherein the objective is to get him to the shiny stuff. There are switches (round buttons that Nate presses to activate or deactivate other tiles), toggles (which are the same, except that Nate can shoot them from afar), turrets (which are red towers that shoot spikes in set directions every time Nate steps on a tile), and the goal (shaped like an X, of course).
To move Nate, you tap him and drag across the squares you want him to walk on, and he will begin moving as soon as you lift your finger. Each tap-and-drag counts as a move, but actions like pressing switches or shooting toggles do not count, so long as he doesn’t actually leave the tile. This is helpful to know, because each level has what is essentially a par – a move limit, which you have to beat if you want to earn the key for that level. Keys can be used to unlock loot that Sully has bargained off of smugglers (which are timed, but can be sped up by spending ingame currency).
The icon in the bottom right is “orbs” – essentially, lives. Nate can die either by getting hit by a spike, or by falling to his death – neither of which has happened that often to me. Orbs are earned by picking them up during a puzzle, or as a random drop from Sully’s loot chests.
Fortune Hunter avoids the pitfall (pun totally intended) of copy-and-pasting an existing puzzle-style game, which is to its credit. However, as a result it feels a bit like reinventing the wheel – it’s a little more complicated and non-intuitive, where other puzzle games in the same vein feel polished and more streamlined. Moving Nate around is a little clunky, because you really have to hold down to keep the move from accidentally completing, and you need to keep your lines as centered in the tiles as possible – it’s not very forgiving.
For a number of the puzzles I played, I felt like I completed them entirely by accident, without engaging with all of the mechanics available. There was at least one puzzle that I completed without even looking at the other half of the grid. That said, a level of strategy and precision is necessary to complete them within the move limit, so ultimately I’d consider this to be a happy medium between too easy and needlessly difficult. Besides which, you will often have to complete a level twice – once to collect the bonus loot scattered about the grid, and once to earn the key with fewer moves.
This is perhaps unfair to say, but I do wish that this game had gone another route instead of (or perhaps in addition to) a simple puzzle game. I am very grateful that it’s not a Temple Run clone, but I do think that an Uncharted platforming game could be well implemented on mobile.
One major drawback to Fortune Hunter is the nigh-unforgivably long loading times. Opening the game takes a full 18 seconds, and accessing a level can take up to 13 seconds (I timed it). This includes if you die or voluntarily restart the level. It might be better on iOS, but on Android, it takes long enough for my screen to time out. I’m not entirely sure what the game is loading that takes so long, because while the levels are 3D and smartly rendered, they’re nothing to write home about, and each level contains a relatively small amount of information – no scrolling or anything, just the one puzzle. At least the loading screens are cute little sketches, meant to match the journal entries Nate makes in the actual game.
There is no voice acting outside of the occasional grunt, which is probably to the game’s credit (or at least, is probably a blessing considering the loading times). I can’t imagine paying Nolan North to voice a mobile game of this ilk, and getting an impersonator would just be cheap. That said, there is still banter between Nate and Sully, in the form of little speech bubbles that appear atop the screen at the opening of each level. These can vary between spot-on amusing (“Hey Sully, check out my booty!”) to…uh…well, not (“Well I’ll be go to hell! Look at that giant rock!”). The sound in the game is limited to sound effects (they’re okay), and soundtrack (which is derived from the actual game’s soundtrack, and thus is pretty good).
What’s cool about Fortune Hunter, though, is that playing it nets you unlockables for the PS4 Uncharted‘s multiplayer mode. I personally love it when mobile games offer you some form of bonus in the proper versions (like with Dragon Age’s Facebook app), because I love feeling like I’m earning something in a game I actually care about while I’m in the bathr – er, I mean, when I’m away from home and can’t play my consoles.
There are also unlockables for the mobile game itself, which are purchased with the ingame currency, gold coins. Coins are earned by completing levels, via Sully’s loot crates, or you can purchase them with enough orbs (10 orbs will net you 2500 gold coins). Orbs, in turn, can be earned in the ways mentioned above, or purchased via microtransaction.
So yes, there are microtransactions (and, I should mention, no ads! Yay!). You can spend $2 to get 20 orbs, or go big and get 150 orbs for $10 (as well as some in between). You can also buy, for $1, a “treasure map” which tells you the location of all treasures on all maps (I’m not sure what the use for that is, since you have to play each stage to get to the next one, anyway). These are fairly reasonable prices, considering the value, but I personally wouldn’t feel the need to spend real money on the game.
Ultimately, Uncharted: Fortune Hunter is pretty good, as far as licensed games go. It’s not derivative, it’s not a cash-grab, and it definitely has its good points. But ultimately, it’s not so fun that I’d want to play it for the sake of playing it. The gameplay is just shy of being actually engaging, the banter is sparse and occasionally forced or bizarre, and the loading times are abysmal. However, I’d say it’s definitely worth playing for the exclusive Uncharted: Thief’s End multiplayer unlocks, assuming that’s your cup of tea.