In reviewing Mathews Bowhunting (a self-explanatory title, as it’s a game that simulates bowhunting and is sponsored by a leading bow manufacturer), I have to make a disclaimer: I don’t give a hoot about hunting one way or the other. On the one hand, the “sport,” as some call it, doesn’t offend my moral senses as much as it does others, but on the other, I’m just as likely to run the Boston Marathon covered in peanut butter as spend the requisite hours and days, camo-attired, stalking any other wild animal besides the Wild Turkey or the Grey Goose. Having said that, this critic can at least hypothetically accept the viability of a bowhunting game, making allowances for the fact that any value-based grade is adjustable based on how much the player might actually want to hunt and kill a wild boar, turkey, or deer.
Or is it? Placing myself into the mind of a hunting aficionado is a bit of a stretch, but I can imagine one would play Mathews Bowhunting and find fault in a handful of crucial flaws in conception and execution. The realistic environments are passable (you ain’t on Pandora, soldier), but exploring them is not an option: You’re stuck in tent-view for the duration. This smacks of missed opportunity, since ease of play is now rendered by your prey coming to you, not you to them, and the work of locating a decent vantage point and moving stealthily through the woods has already been done for you. As there’s no real “hunt” to speak of, wouldn’t a more accurate title for the game be Mathews Shoot the Animal?
The centerpiece of play is now down to the shoot, which is simple enough to master even if it’s lifted wholesale from Wii Sports Resort; the only difference to speak of is simulated breathing, which sounds unusually labored even when the hunter is idly watching and waiting. That’s the game in a nutshell: wait (but not too long), shoot the animal, get a score. This is the sort of game you play on your Droid or iPhone while waiting for the bus, for a 10th of the price, at most. There’s not nearly enough material to fill out the cavernous space of game-platform architecture.