If Rez and Tempest had a baby, it would probably look a lot like, In|Framez Technology Corp’s, visually trippy and mechanically brilliant, Hyper Void. It perhaps lacks the artistic majesty of the former or the air tight gameplay of the latter, but as a middle ground between the two, Hyper Void represents a fantastic throwback shooter that fans of arcade-style gaming should seek out that their earliest possible convenience.
Beyond a nonsensical and completely unnecessary story that has been tagged on via a collection of mercifully skippable written logs, Hyper Void is an otherwise pleasingly straightforward experience, one that harkens back to the days of more simplistic game design while doing enough visually and mechanically to ensure that it stands on its own as an exemplary example of the genre.
Despite lacking the clearly delineated grids of a Tempest or its unofficial but utterly fantastic follow-up, TxK (a game that has gone criminally unnoticed on the Vita and, thanks to some legal unpleasantries between Minter and Atari, might never see the light day on PS4 or PC), Hyper Void is nonetheless an undeniable ‘tube’ shooter at heart. The plane of movement isn’t always 360 degrees, but be it on a flat surface, a curved one, or even one shaped like a heart, the fundamentals remain constant.
Whether it be a traditional circular design or a flat surface, enemies move towards the screen and your fixed position at the top of the tube. Be it shooting down your enemies or dodging incoming projectiles, the lack of a fixed grid system does make judging the location of both your enemies and their projectiles occasionally difficult, but despite this minor issue, the gameplay throughout is otherwise slick, enjoyable and hugely addictive.
The fact that there are levels and an ongoing story is rather odd given that most games of this ilk go for a more traditional score chasing approach, but for those uninterested in making their way up leaderboards and are instead more concerned with the moment to moment gameplay, the structure and sense of progression will certainly prove welcome. I wasn’t so fussed, but hey, it’s easy to skip and really won’t get in the way for those keen to approach Hyper Void as a more traditional arcade shooter.
There are a few boss battle along the way, but for the most part, you’ll be dealing with run of the mill cannon fodder enemies. The design for most is decent rather than spectacular, but they do their job and offer enough challenge to keep you on your toes throughout. The real star of the show however are the stages themselves. With its psychedelic art design and unique stage layouts, Hyper Void is at its best when it’s pushing the boundaries of what one would expect from classic tube shooter design.
Whether it be curved lines, irregular shapes, deformed circles or stages that bend back on themselves like something out of Inception, the combination of solid core gameplay with imaginative level design help to make Hyper Void stand out from its rather illustrious competition. The wormhole design coupled with its consistent flashes of colour might be a little too much for some (like Rez, it actually gave my wife a rather nasty migraine), but for those accustomed to visually busy video games and over the top audio/visual design, Hyper Void’s hallucinogenic aesthetic is more likely to prove stimulating rather than nauseating.
As great as it looks though, it was actually the finer details of the core mechanics that kept me coming back for more. The inclusion of three unique shot types right from the off is a nice touch, but it’s the inclusion of a power gauge that really makes all the difference. By giving your attacks limited power, Hyper Void ensures that you consider each and every shot that you take. Some gamers will probably scoff at the need for ammo conservation in a game of this ilk, but I found that the charge-based weaponry added an additional layer of tactical nuance that fundamentally refined the overall experience.
While the majority of my concentration would usually be geared towards offence and avoidance in a game of this ilk, due to the inclusion of the charge gauge, I found myself thinking about my attacks and subsequently looking beyond the first enemy in my line of sight. Rather than simply spamming the attack button, I instead had to consider the enemies on its tail – if I used to much charge on the initial attack, I would be left without weaponry long enough for his buddies to get the jump on me. That meant that I had to take that first enemy down with a well-timed single shot before unleashing hell on his back-up crew. It’s a mechanically simple addition, but one that changes your approach to the game, and when combined with a decent suite of power-ups and a very useful dodge mechanic, leads to an experience that goes beyond mere imitation by creating a game that, in many respects, serves to push the genre forward.
The lack of an easily definable grid system does mean that Hyper Void feels less precise than some of the more famous examples of the genre, and yes, the inclusion of a story is both strange and largely pointless, but thanks to its fantastic level design, silky smooth 60fps visuals and the brilliant implementation of a power gauge, Hyper Void represents another fine example of the genre, one that can comfortably stand shoulder to shoulder with the likes of Tempest and TxK.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Sony Playstation 4 code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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