One of the reasons why I enjoy playing video games so much, is not just for the sense of escapism that it can offer, but also to maintain that connection with my memories of playing with toys as a child. It’s something we all possess, whether it be recollections of playing with your favourite action figures or dolls, building with Lego blocks or terrorising the neighbourhood with plastic dinosaurs. It’s a premise that Digital Cybercherries have tapped into with their latest game, HYPERCHARGE: Unboxed, as it climbs out of the toy box to play a release upon the Nintendo Switch.
Much in the vein of Pixar’s Toy Story or the less successful, Small Soldiers, HYPERCHARGE: Unboxed is a first-person shooter, or FPS, that places you within the small boots of an all-out action figure toy; much like the articulated heroes of our childhoods. Your objective is to protect a series of colour-coded ‘Hyper-Cores’; a set of powered devices that are dotted around each of the levels. Being the good guys, you have to stop the enemy waves of evil toys that are hell-bent on the destruction of these cores, as you run-and-gun, collect coins and lay down traps in order to become the most triumphant toy. Fail and your human owner will forget all about you ans that’s every toy’s nightmare!
Each level plays out in a similar fashion, with a five to six minute window in which to collect coins and build a series of traps to slow down the inevitable onslaught. Once the timer has run down, or when you are happy with your setup, the first wave begins its advancements. It’s then your job to try and dispose of the enemy units, either by shooting them with your gun, melee attacking them or the destructive powers of some of your traps blast them to pieces. Between each wave, you then have a chance to replenish your coinage, build new traps or repair existing ones. Batteries can also appear within the levels, as well as weapon parts or stores with which to upgrade your gun. The batteries, though, are used to power up shields for the Hyper-Cores; allowing you more protection and regenerating any damage they may have taken. Once all of the waves have been held back, then the game rewards you with a series of medals, trap models, levels and collectibles based upon your performance.
The game contains ten levels; each of them based around the environments in which we may play with toys. From the bathroom to the bedroom and even the garden to the toy aisle of the local supermarket, each of the levels have been superbly designed with a staggering amount of detail. The graphical presentations of these levels mimic the CGI look of an animated movie and house all manner of wondrous surprises and fiendish collectibles. In fact, there’s so much detail present that you’ll often find yourself stopping mid-match to gaze in awe at a long-forgotten toy of your childhood that lies within the middle of the room, or glare at the sunlit reflections that beam through the windows. It’s simply staggering and adds a wonderful element to the overall gameplay.
There are a number of different play styles and modes, from single-player to four-player, split-screen couch play to local and online matchmaking in co-op, as well as a few variations to the gameplay with PvP modes such as Team Deathmatch and Plague. Whether you play locally or online, the game’s performance never dips with a tightness in gun play and smoothness in movement. Matchmaking was a little fiddly, especially when playing with friends, but even with this pre-release copy of the game, I was able to find lobbies of randoms with which to play. The PvP game modes offer a nice change of style and a distraction from the co-op play, but neither of them held the same level of interest as the main staple of the game.
Although playable in single-player, this is best played in a multiplayer capacity. It does offer more of a challenge when played solo, especially with the lack of any AI support, but it also feels slightly unbalanced. Obviously with more players, the game becomes significantly easier, although some levels do present a variety in the challenge they offer. I can’t convey enough just how much fun this game is when teamed up with other players. A lot of this is lost in single-player, but whatever mode you play and no matter how fun it was, I always felt that something was missing; mainly tension and excitement. I feel that this was largely due to never really feeling as if I was ever in any danger and the patterns of enemy movement being easily read and learnt.
However, there’s a nice variety of enemy types that can add a sense of urgency to the game, whether it be tanks or fast moving spinners to the boss types of the T-Rex or the aerial deployment of parachutists. The amount of collectibles and customisations also add a layer of addictiveness to the game. Every successful challenge or level completed earns you a number of unlocks that can range from new trap types to take into battle with you, body parts to change your character’s look, titles to change your name and extra maps to play upon. These can also vary based on what difficulty level you play on, with expert and nightmare settings offering the most lucrative rewards and the highest challenge.
If you take a look at the game as a whole, there’s a staggering amount of options, content and play styles to keep the game going over the long term; something that is further bolstered with a developer’s road-map that is bringing extra maps, weapons, characters and general game improvements, including voice chat, every month up until May, possibly even further and all for free. There’s also an abundance of smaller details that make the game shine, from motion-controlled aiming, level designs, free-roaming and collectibles. Considering that this is a game that has been developed by a four-man team, its level of detailing, content and general gameplay is certainly a testament to their talents.
Overall, HYPERCHARGE: Unboxed presents a neat package of game modes, styles and collectibles; all within the premise of being a ‘live’ toy amongst the battlefields of familiar rooms and gardens. The level of care and attention is very apparent within the game’s design and it’s this that makes the game such a joy to play, as you’ll easily stop mid-game to stare at something or eagerly await the drop of rewards to see what items you have unlocked. While its single-player component still shines, this is a game that is best played with other players, either locally or online. It’s inherently more fun and addictive, as playing solo can feel a bit lonely and produces a substantially harder time of it. All of its elements combine though, to produce an infinitely playable title that will be sure to entertain over the long-term and with its continued support, will continue to provide many more additions and improvements; thus making this a potential classic in the making.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo Switch code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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HYPERCHARGE Unboxed Review
Gameplay - 8/10
Graphics - 8/10
Sound - 8/10
Replay Value - 8/10
HYPERCHARGE: Unboxed brings all of your childhood toys to life in this co-op first-person shooter.