In 1981 Atari put out Tempest, which added a new twist to the genre by allowing players to move in a 3D space. This is all due to Tempest‘s signature tube design, and it’s been imitated in spiritual successors such as TxK and Space Giraffe in recent years. The latest game to draw inspiration from the arcade classic is IN|Framez’s Hyper Void.
While it may be similar in concept to Atari’s influential shooter, there are some key differences in the gameplay. First off, the game no longer has the player moving in-between planes. Instead, you have additional control of your ship. While you can still only move left or right, you can move any amount. This ends up making the process of lining up shots more difficult, and adds a new layer of skill.
At first it will be very easy for players to completely miss an enemy ship they are trying to shoot down. This is costly as the game is pretty strict with its rechargeable ammo for its three weapons. Due to the limited amount of ammunition, players will have to carefully select when to shoot, and make sure that no bullet is wasted. When the energy meter is fully drained, players can only fire off a single bullet, which is often too little to deal with the hordes of enemies that attack.
To be successful, Hyper Void players will have to master all three of the different weapons at their disposal. The typical bullet shot costs the least amount of energy, and is what you will mainly use. Other weapons come in handy, though, as there are powerful green energy shots that can dole out heavy damage. Rounding out the player’s abilities is a blue laser beam that can lock-on to an enemy and dish out damage over time. All three of these shots have their uses throughout the game’s 20+ level campaign.
Each campaign level in Hyper Void has the player flying their ship through a dangerous wormhole filled with different types of enemies. From small eyeball shaped ones that shoot lasers to enemies that explode when shot, there are a nice variety of baddies. There are even enemies that need to be defeated by a particular weapon, which forces players to concentrate on what they are firing at, as random shooting will surely lead to game overs.
Most of the levels in Hyper Void will end with an encounter against a giant boss. These battles are challenging, but are also a nice diversion from the core gameplay. Expect to die several times while trying to figure out the enemy’s pattern, and how to deal with each unique boss fight. Thankfully, each boss fight features a checkpoint at the beginning of the battle, so you don’t lose a ton of progress after you die.
Sadly, not all levels are checkpointed well, or even feel fair to the player. You can only take two hits before dying, so death is an inevitability since you basically have to ace a level to continue in the game. This means you’ll end up being highly frustrated when some levels do not contain a single checkpoint. It also doesn’t help that difficulty spikes can pop out of nowhere.
About midway through the game, I encountered a level that I failed for over 2 hours before finally passing it. Since there are no options to skip a level voluntarily, or any difficulty settings, I was stuck playing the same level on an endless loop. Once I finally finished the stage, which was based around a gimmick of dodging platforms à la Cosmophony, I didn’t feel like I accomplished anything. Rather, I felt like I had wasted a large amount of time because the stage lacked checkpoints despite other levels having them.
The harsh difficulty ends up curbing a lot of the enjoyment in Hyper Void. While I was always excited to see what the next wormhole had in store for me, both from a design and visual perspective, the excitement quickly faded once I had to play the level repeatedly due to the high difficulty. It’s a bummer that Hyper Void isn’t more accessible as it offers up a lot of cool twists on the Tempest formula that haven’t really been seen before.
Despite being a gorgeous game, Hyper Void ends up limiting its appeal due to its high difficulty level. There is still a lot of fun to be had, especially for fans of Tempest, but this tube shooter never fulfills its potential. Its only a few tweaks away from being an addictive arcade experience, especially as the new Xbox One version adds in online leaderboards, but as it stands, only the most dedicated players will finish it.
This review is based on the Xbox One version, with which we were provided with.
Hyper Void is a fun new take on an established formula, but ends up being its own worst enemy. The game is too difficult for its own good, and the lack of difficulty levels is disappointing. However, those up for the challenging task will be rewarded.