Catching Features: We 3 Kings Of Orienteer

227 responses to Alec’s ‘best in-game maps’ question, and not one mention of Catching Features? Come on RPS readership, pull your socks up. Greg Walker’s running-through-the-woods sim treats cartography the way a good FPS treats weaponry. In it, the humble map transcends its usual ludic role (decorative prop, exploratory fillip, optional realism thickener…) and becomes lynch-pin, raison d’être, Rosetta Stone.

CF is orienteering for the housebound. Select a hand-made or randomly generated venue thick with timber, rocks, hills and hollows,  then, compass and map in hand, run a route within that venue, faster than live or AI opponents.

Should you get lost – and you will regularly until you get into the swing of things –  there’s only one way to get unlost: Compare topography with cartography. Deduce. Test deduction. Find yourself. One half of the game is detective work, the other is strategy. Because tree trunks, swamps and slopes slow runners down, the crow way isn’t always the best way.

With every rock, rise, and track-bend serving as a signpost, it’s tragic every rock, rise, and track-bend is rendered so painfully primitively. If CF had ArmA 2’s sublime spruces and The Hunter’s beauteous butterfly-haunted glades, I’d have recommended its not-particularly-representative-demo  (sadly you don’t get to try the powerful terrain generator) long ago.


  1. terry says:

    It’s a shame about the Valusoft standard graphics because this is actually a really neat idea. I was pining for a pointless exploration game the other day – something akin to the venerable Hunter but where you’re given a collapsable canoe and a camera and told to “get picture of nature!!1” but in a gorgeously rendered forest/lake environment with realistic weather conditions and proper day night cycles. I then realised that I would probably be the only person who would want to play it :(

    • ascagnel says:

      I wholly agree. I wish someone would make a game like Endless Ocean (a Wii title about SCUBA diving) for the PC, where you can just kick back and explore.

      There aren’t enough “chill out” games on PC.

  2. mrrobsa says:

    I can’t help but look at that screenshot and feel like all the models are levitating a good half meter off the floor. Argh it’s playing tricks with my eyes!

  3. Bobsy says:

    “We’re seeing through the eye-shield now”

  4. Chris says:

    I think the game Idea has potential. Similar to Mirrors edge but competitive. A fantastic and difficult scenery, making the terrain itself the logical puzzle, could lead to fairly exciting and tense action in 5-10minute sprees. Kind of an off-road race with people. Maybe through in some very minor super human powers.

  5. Tim Stone says:

    If you like the sound of the concept but can’t stomach the graphics, Suunnistussimulaattori (link to is worth keeping an eye on. It’s free, prettier, but only in Finnish at present (an English-language version is planned).

  6. Vinraith says:

    This is a brilliant idea, I had no idea such a thing existed. The graphics are horrid, and I fear that may negatively impact game play in the case of such a visual activity, but I’m compelled to give it a try anyway. I do hope some one takes this idea and turns it into something more visually usable, though. Someone really need to make an ArmA 2, STALKER, or Fallout 3 mod of this.

  7. Donald Duck says:

    Lost Patrol is a good candidate. Bust the ultimate one has to be CIV; the whole game takes place on a map.

  8. Hmm-Hmm. says:

    A path-finding game? Maps? Sound delectable. It could (stressing could. It probably wouldn’t be) even be easy to make ‘missions’ of greatly varying terrain, difficulty and add different things. Like weather, time of day, use of a compass and the sun, terrain hazards and climate effects.

    voice of dissent

  9. Tyler says:

    Speaking of Fins, and their love of “You vs. the wilderness” games, anyone ever play Unreal World? It’s quite awesome and very evocative once you have a slight clue what you’re doing. Have to love a game where you get in a fight with a badger and die of an infected wound days later.

    link to

  10. Ginger Yellow says:

    Could this not be turned into a mod for Arma II?

  11. Freakoftheuniverse says:

    Hmm, reminds me of Operation Flashpoint back in the day. You could technically go and play Orienteering! if you turned off the auto map location option. So I reckon that said Arma II mod is inevitable now.

  12. Berzee says:

    Wasn’t there an online game where you could be a deer, and just run around and look at stuff and emote at other deer? I forget what it was called, but that was fun for some pointless exploration…for an hour or so. =P

    • TeeJay says:

      <i>“I forget what it was called”</i>?
      Fury of the furries?

    • Hmm-Hmm. says:

      TeeJay: Nope. That’s the platforming game where you play coloured furballs and you can switch between them. Nothing to do with deer.

  13. Phelan says:

    I remembered reading about it, so I googled it. It’s an mmo:
    link to
    When I first saw it I had the same thought as TeeJay