Whenever I’m perusing the PS store for some small title to fill my time, I’m always excited to see a shoot-’em-up I’ve never discovered. I’m not a diehard fan of the genre, but it has proven to be a viable one when looking for quality games full of unique quirks. Hyper Void was one such title, and although I missed the original release on PS3, this updated version boasts some pretty impressive features that the PS4 hardware showcases beautifully.
Taking control of your ship, the RM-24, Hyper Void tasks you with flying through a ton of wormholes and decimating numerous baddies along the way. Aside from that, there’s a recurring virus that constantly messes with your systems when it’s not busy possessing other machines to turn against you. The story doesn’t offer much in the way of coherence or originality, but it makes a better effort than most shoot-’em-ups.
Rather, it’s the action that genre fans are excited for, and for good reason. Hyper Void successfully makes a few tweaks to the standard gameplay conventions, such as limiting your firing rate based on a recharging meter and granting you three weapon types from the get go rather than making them pick-ups. The controls are simple to learn, and there’s no tutorial to hamper the experience. You get your controller diagram, and you’re set loose in the short campaign.
Coming in at just under 30 stages, just about each one manages to introduce an intriguing idea or creative level design. Hyper Void is a fine looking game, with generic space levels broken up by gorgeous trips through wormholes and into different battle situations. Boss battles are also fairly frequent, presenting a fair amount of challenge and requiring a surprising amount of strategy to best.
The tweaks made to the gameplay serve to make Hyper Void something of a thinking man’s shoot-’em-up, asking the player to take their finger off the trigger for a second and work on their maneuvers and strategies instead. You’re given your standard blaster from the start as well as a constant laser beam and a bomb shot that does plenty of damage at a slower pace, and it’s up to you to determine which weapon works best in a given situation. A quick dash is also available, and since it makes you invulnerable as you move, it’s an invaluable asset.
Visually, there are more than a few impressive stages, made even more so by how the landscape changes affect gameplay. One stellar level found the wormhole folded in on itself, making each shot curve up the wall in front of you and back across the top wall. Another early stage finds a planet exploding into debris after a comet crashes onto the surface, and the wonderfully intense soundtrack only adds to the excitement.
As much fun as the gameplay is at first, it quickly becomes frustrating due to a few small issues that gradually detract from the experience. The angle of the camera along with the ship’s awkward movement tend to lead to more than a few deaths, especially when trying to fly around a full circle. RM-24 has a tendency to stop moving halfway around a rotation, taking up a precious second that can chip away at your armor. It can also be difficult to tell where your shots will land because of the way the camera sits almost directly behind the ship.
The visual style can also be extremely disorienting, especially when the backgrounds become too flashy to stay in the background. Trying to spin your ship one way while the wormhole rotates in the opposite direction is enough to make you motion sick after only a few levels. To the opposite effect, the common enemies you’ll spend a majority of the game blasting have bland designs that don’t really stand out. I couldn’t even tell you what they looked like hours after playing.
However, the biggest issue I had with Hyper Void is one that is mostly subjective but still bothered me throughout my playthrough. While some levels offer creative level design or unique scenarios to shake things up, there were many parts of the game that felt more like gimmicks than cohesive design. For example, one level has you fighting a pretty straightforward boss, and then the very next stage pits you against the same foe, complete with the same attacks, but this time your ship is flying upside down, meaning the controls are flipped.
The virus that I mentioned earlier also tends to do this, popping up in random levels long enough to obscure your screen, flip your controls (again) or deactivate your weapons before flying off. Because of these random events, Hyper Void doesn’t have a sense of escalating difficulty. Rather, it just throws random hazards at you for no other reason than to cause frustration. Boss battles do tend to liven up proceedings a bit, especially when you’re taking on the gigantic baddies at the end of certain sections, but the mini-bosses littered throughout the rest of the game are often repeated without changing tactics.
There’s also a distinct lack of extra content, with no leaderboards, multiplayer or extra modes to sink your teeth into. Beating a certain score on stages unlocks Hyper Mode, but aside from that there’s nothing aside from the campaign, which only takes a few hours to beat. The ship you get at the beginning is the ship you’ll have for the entire game, with no chance to upgrade or personalize it in any way. As token as upgrade systems have become, it would have added some much needed variety.
Personal gripes aside, though, Hyper Void is far from a bad game. The gameplay is easy to learn and difficult to master, many of the environments are gorgeous to behold, and the small tweaks to the usual formula give it plenty of mileage. Throw in an excellent soundtrack and you’ll definitely get some fun out of this one. The experience is still hurt by the lack of extra features and less than stellar campaign, but for the low price of entry, you could do much worse than spend a few hours traversing wormholes in style.
This review is based on a PlayStation 4 copy of the game given to us for review purposes.
Hyper Void does enough to stand out as an entertaining shoot-'em-up despite its somewhat frustrating, bare bones presentation.