The humble shoot ‘em up has been a mainstay of the gaming catalogue since gaming was conceived. If you haven’t played a shoot ‘em up, then you’ve either only just picked up a controller, or you’ve been living under a rock for the last 30 years. There have been some graphically amazing shooters over those years, and some that have presented their wares alongside a well-balanced difficulty curve. Will In Framez’s new 3D shooter, Hyper Void match those heady heights?
During the lead-up to Hyper Void’s release, I couldn’t help but make initial comparisons with a game that came out in the very early ‘80s on the Atari called Tempest. The premise of both games is pretty much the same. Shoot the enemies. Survive as long as you can. Make as much progress towards the final showdown and get a high score massive enough to impress your mates.
Hyper Void has the basics of the classics down well. There are plenty of enemies to destroy across the 25-odd levels of frantic action. Where it differs slightly from the more traditional shooters is that the majority of the destruction takes place in wormholes. This is usually the bit in-between the action, so it’s kind of nice to get a view of the shenanigans that would happen en-route to what would be the next main level.
The level layouts in Hyper Void are all fairly similar. Your well-drawn ship skirts along the edge of the warp tunnel you’re travelling through and the enemy waves come at you from the other end of that warp tunnel. You shoot these enemies with one of three weapons. This is where the developers have introduced a little twist on the standard shooter game. In normal shooters you can pretty much mash the fire button, spitting out death until your foes are gone. In Hyper Void each of your three weapons have to be recharged periodically, meaning that you can’t rely on firing one weapon type all the time.
The weapons are varied. The green lasers are powerful but have a slow fire rate, the red have a more rapid fire and the streaming laser fires a powerful stream of electric towards the enemy. Along the way you can pick up power-ups that augment your offensive or defensive capabilities. One of these is a handy overcharge-type power-up that sees all of your weapons fire for a pre-determined amount of time.
You can also find damage repair and shield recharge power-ups as well as hidden messages and special orbs. Get enough points at the end of the level and you could unlock the Hyper mode of that sector which offers a little more in the way of speed and enemies.
The graphics in Hyper Void are very well-defined. Full use of high-definition features have been implemented and your ship looks good. The enemies float along well, although these appear to all look very similar. There’s not a great deal of variation in the style and movement in the alien apparitions. There are some nice touches with level variation here though. In one level, a comet smashes into a planet and you’re left with the task of trying to avoid the resulting asteroids without smashing into one and having to start that section again.
Therein lies some of the problem with Hyper Void. There’s a distinct lack of save points within the sub-levels of the game. Each effort gives you one life to try that wormhole and if you die, it’s back to the start of that section and you’re facing all of the issues and dangers you’ve tried before. This is particularly irritating when facing mid-level boss orbs. These tend to uncloak within a wormhole, whizz past at a remarkable speed, whizz back again in a random way then disappear. Rinse and repeat until destroyed. Whether that’s them or you depends on your skills with weapon and dash.
Dash? What’s that? If you need to move out-of-the-way in a hurry, without taking damage from enemy ship or projectile, you can tap the left or right trigger and your ship will zip left or right. This will either take you valiantly out of danger, or stupidly into more danger depending on your reflexes. This, like the weapon system, has a short recharge before it can be used again. Like the classic Tempest, your ship can skirt the circumference of the wormhole tunnel. This is made even more of an effort with the knowledge that as you near the top of the wormhole the controls swap, so where you think you might travel all the way around by whacking your stick left, you end up stuck near the top in the 11 or 1 o’clock position while you figure out what’s going on.
To confuse matters even more some levels introduce viruses into your ship’s systems. These will do various debilitating things to your trusty vessel, like disabling the weapons system or reversing the controls. Movement quirks aside, the game plays fluidly and the developers have managed to get the ship to glide across your screen, avoiding the enemies you’ve contrived to show mercy on or to avoid the predictable shot patterns of those that sacrifice themselves to try to stop you from achieving your goal.
And there is a goal with Hyper Void, although if I’m completely honest, I will struggle to tell you what the story involves. There are hints of it with the messages that you can collect at sparse points within the game, but in reality, reading these don’t really make much sense.
Hyper Void isn’t a bad game to pick up and play though, despite this apparent lack of story. The game isn’t overly long and can be immensely frustrating at times with the lack of checkpoints. The graphics are stunning and the ship simply glides around the screen with ease. The control issues do spoil the game a little but it’s by no means a deal-breaker. Audio-wise, the music beeps and twangs away while the explosions and laser fire is standard shoot ‘em up fodder.
Pick up Hyper Void if you’re looking for a quick blast by all means, but don’t expect an involved and detailed shooter campaign.
Thanks to Xbox and In Framez for their support.
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