I’ve only played the game to the third level in its free-to-play browser version, so keep that in mind while reading this review.
I really miss cel-shading for TV shows that blend in 2D hand-drawn graphics. If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, then check out some of the old Saturday morning cartoons from the 90′s like The Iron Giant, The Lion King, and Spiderman: The Animated Series, or anime like Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood and Appleseed. It takes a lot more time to create works of art using fluid cel-shading as a technique for animation, but what you get in the end is definitely worth the wait.
And any video games studio that decides to utilize cel-shading for their graphics should be applauded for that work alone. It’s a very difficult feat to accomplish, but becomes beautiful eye-candy for anyone with an interest in graphic design. Akaneiro: Demon Hunters by Spicy World, the same team that brought you Alice: Madness Returns, is no exception.
That being said, though the cel-shaded Akaneiro: Demon Hunters looks beautiful, it unfortunately plays pretty lackluster due to the fact that it’s (at least, judging from the free-to-play browser version) so easy! I suppose that developers Spicy World were trying to create a standard, simple, top-down, Diablo-esque MMORPG, but fall a bit short in terms of gameplay, as the hack-and-slash mechanics translate to little more than left and right-clicking the mouse button against mobs that offer no challenge to the player. Sure, there are a few new abilities that you can purchase from the trainer, but every move pretty much does the exact same thing. Shooting at enemies from a distance is pretty unnecessary if they do little damage to you during fights. Loot drops are plentiful, but what the point of loot when you’re basically a pint-sized tank that is able to mow down legions of wolves with click of your fingertips.
In all honesty, the game becomes little more than a small stroll through densely lit cel-shaded forests where you’re occasionally attacked by very weak wolves with gums for teeth. Every once in awhile, you may meet a boss that will probably give you a slight challenge, if challenging meant clicking around an obstacle for a few seconds until your health bar fills up. The game is so easy that boss fights are little more than a game of “Duck, Duck, Goose” when you were in kindergarten.
Character customization is meaningless when it takes so little to defeat your enemies, and because the game starts you off with Easy Mode on each level, Akaneiro: Demon Hunters plays a bit bland. I felt that the programming for this title focused more on making everything look pretty while sacrificing a lot of gameplay mechanics that I felt should have been included to make Akaneiro more challenging.
However, you can still play the browser version for free while the game sells for $9.99 on Steam. I suppose that I may have been playing an early build through the website, and if that’s true, then you should really check out the full version for yourself. There is a lot of potential in Akaneiro: Demon Hunters, and if the gameplay is fixed with balance between player and enemy, then I think this could be a title worth checking out for any fans of anime-style inspired graphics!