Review: Hypercharge: Unboxed
Posted 01 Feb 2020 at 01:34 by Lee Davies
Blasting through the battlefield, soldiers’ bodies laying strewn, broken, piled, wasted, hollow shells of shattered tanks, airplanes, humvees, and T-Rexes. The madness of war evident all around. But, what a beautiful war it is, a plastic fantastic war, a family friendly war of Toy Story proportions.
HYPERCHARGE: Unboxed is ostensibly a First Person Shooter (FPS) where the main character is an Action Man, a child’s toy traversing the real world. All real-world locations such as garages, toy stores, bathrooms, attics, bedrooms, and even gardens are impressively rendered, run smoothly without frame drops, and are littered with reminders of a lost youth. Gigantic non-licensed, and therefore comedically named, replicas of Nerf guns, Hot Wheels tracks, Action Men, green soldiers, including their parachuting cousins, green plastic tanks, polystyrene plane gliders, robots, a Castle Grayskull, and numerous others, are all authentic looking and the enemies equally inhabit this giant world in a vain attempt to thwart your plans at stopping theirs.
The thing that makes HYPERCHARGE: Unboxed different from other FPS’ on the Switch is the inclusion of Tower Defence mechanics. Each level is an enclosed arena. A bedroom, for instance, only lets the action take place within the confines of its walls, but what a playground each level is. Detailed and littered with real life objects, like beds, shelves, computers, desks, cupboards, books, magazines, clothes, and toys, each level changes the shape of its layout to allow for different attack patterns from the waves of attacking enemies. Within each level, there are three or four bases to protect from those advancing hordes, each a primary colour, and named Hypercores.
This is what really happens to all those toys in the loft and explains why you can never find all the bits.
With the waves following the same pattern every time you play, you can only get better as you remember what particular colour Hypercore to protect at what particular wave. Hypercores can be protected slightly by placing collectible batteries into them to form a temporary shield, however when their health is reduced, or they get destroyed, it only affects your medal awarded at the end of the level. A quick tutorial takes you through what the HUD and item pickups are in game, but a more extensive tutorial mode is scheduled for release during March. In fact, new game modes, voice chat implementation, extra weapons and other customisations have been promised to be added throughout the next 5 months.
The main campaign lets you choose from a single player game, a local co-op for up to 4-players, either split screen or multiple Switches, and online for up to 4 players. There are also 2 competitive modes, PvP and Plague, which allow up to 8 players online. PvP lets you take down all other human players in free-for-all or team based games, and Plague randomly infects one player with a virus that turns them into a touching killing machine. The others must kill the infected before he kills all other competitors. The competitive modes are lacking in number, but the developers Digital Cybercherries have promised a steady stream of content and fixes up to and including May. The first two free additions to the competitive modes will be a Tank vs Tank, and a Beyblade spinning top battle for supremacy on an air hockey table, both dropping in February. All modes run flawlessly on Switch on a single screen, both docked and undocked.
It’s in the co-operative mode that you’ll get most of your playtime, and longevity, out of the game. Entering a lobby allows you to set up the match to your individual desire; from difficulty level, casual, regular, expert and the locked nightmare; number of players; map selection, a total of 10 available to unlock, and another two arriving in April and May; and character customisation. Currently you can choose from 3 types of soldier, Defence Corps, Alien, and a Knight, with complete control over the individual parts of your soldier from head and skin, to weapons and buildables (more about these later). You can even unlock user names built around four parts, suffixes, prefixes, adjectives and nouns, after tinkering you can end up with a delightful moniker like Outrageous Jack Man, or Doctor Fun Times.
'Come and work in a Toy Store' they said, 'It'll be fun!' they said...
Whether playing in single player or 2-player split-screen, the same amount of environmental detail and smooth frame-rate are present. It truly is an impressive feat that hundreds of individual blades of grass in the garden level, along with copious amounts of real-life details, including a paddling pool, BBQ, log piles, Koi Carp pond, waves of realistically designed enemies, including all the deceased's crumpled remains, and used bullet shells, and still not a single glitch or frame drop was evident even within 2-player split screen. It’s when playing in the 4-player split-screen mode that things take a graphical downturn. Each of the 4 visible screens are affected by blurring, but fortunately there is no noticeable frame-rate drop. It really is an impressive feat to render the game 4 separate times and still look and run this good.
The co-op game is split into 2 parts, the planning section gives you a few minutes to build your defences around the play zone and the action part when all hell breaks loose and the computer AI waves of enemies attempt to destroy those defended Hypercores.
The preparation phase preceding every attack is the perfect time to scour the environment for credits and collectibles strewn throughout the level, and to buff up those Hypercore defenses. Throughout the level, and more specifically around each Hypercore, coloured square areas allow you to place one of your 3 chosen buildables and pay for the privilege of their use. Your 3 selectable in-game buildables are chosen prior to the start of the game, and stronger and better ones can be unlocked as the game progresses. These buildables vary in their use, such as: defensive walls; traps, ranging from poison, fire, glue, spike and explosive; and turrets, ranging from anti-air, rocket, shockwave, spotlight, turbine and machine gun. Each time you play, you can choose from 3 buildables to use in that level.
'Go and get those toys out of the Garage before they get run...' *crunch!* '...over'
To build, just scroll through which of the 3 possible defence buildings you require and press and hold ZR to build, or repair a damaged one, and ZL to destroy an unnecessary one. All buildables are unlocked by specific missions, such as collecting gold or diamond medals for acing levels. And deploying one in game requires credits which you’ll get by running around the level collecting money, credits in the form of hidden credit bags, or those dropped from a previous wave’s defeated enemies.
Traversing the play area requires standard FPS mechanics, the L analogue moves the character around in its first person view, while the R analogue stick pivots the customisable camera. This also includes perfectly implemented gyro motion controls for fine aiming while zoomed in with the ZL and ZR to shoot. Due to the size of your character in relation to the world around it, there is a lot of verticality in each level that requires a lot of jumping and double jumping with the use of the L shoulder button, and running when the R shoulder button is pressed. There’s a great feel, and grounding in reality, to each location as you figure out the best way to get up onto the, at first seemingly, too high settee, or that impossibly positioned ceiling fan with the glowing purple collectible. But, with perseverance and practice, all locations are attainable through some great feeling platforming. Pickups are littered throughout the play zone and range from the aforementioned credits, to collectibles, such as extra buildables and character customisations, to weapon drops, that can be equipped for free or bought at the numerous shops in level.
Weapons are plentiful and varied. Each level starts you off with a different weapon, that seems suited to the environment and enemy types to vanquish. But, whether you purchase or find new weapon types or additional accessories, like stocks and sights, the variety is a delight. Your single weapon can be fitted with two different weapons at a time, and cycled between with the X button. Y reloads, and fortunately you get to have infinite magazines to take down the seemingly large waves of enemies attempting to end your game. Weapons like Rifles, Sniper Rifles, Machine Guns, Shotguns, Mini-Guns, Flamethrowers, Grenade Launchers and Lasers all feel distinct and pack a hefty weight regardless of the size of the perpetrator. This is due, in part, to the brilliant sound work that Digital Cybercherries have pulled off in HYPERCHARGE: Unboxed. Real life locations would demand real life sounds, and whether you’re in a bedroom or garden, the feeling of the real world out there and around you is abundantly clear with car alarms, doors closing, footsteps pounding, all accentuating the sounds your character is making as they tramp over a metal framed shelf and rain plastic bullet hell on a wave of Green Army Men, who are barking orders at each other, is incredible. What is slightly lacking on the sound front is the choice of Menu Music which is just derivative military music with light rock references.
See the top of that cupboard? You can go there!
The B button brings up a scroll wheel dialogue system for online and local chat, that will be surpassed in March by the free addition of a full voice chat implementation, something that is indeed intrinsic to the way that coordination is needed to stave off the enemies at the correct place and time. If you’re feeling a little under pressure to collect all the necessary upgrades within a level you can choose the Free Roam Mode. Here you’ll get to look around a level at your leisure and have all the time in the world, with no pesky enemies bothering you, to try to gain all the collectables hidden within.
The HUD displays health as a green bar and shield as a blue bar in the top left of the screen for the Hypercore and the bottom left for the player. The shields auto regenerate after a few seconds of not being attacked, but your health needs to be replenished with Cherry Gummy Candies, however that doesn’t extend to the Hypercore’s health which remains forever damaged, and drops your perfect medal opportunity down a few levels. The HUD also displays your current ammo, and enemy wave information shows which wave, out of a total, is currently in progress, and how many remaining units in that wave until it ends.
The sheer variety of levels on offer in terms of location, and functionality, is another impressive feat pulled off by the small Digital Cybercherries team. Each level has a quirk that separates it from all others, from the opening Operation Alley’s narrow pathway with high shelving placed along the entire length, to the huge open garden that requires excellent positioning of defences due to the time it takes to traverse back to each base. My particular favourite is a toy store called We “R’ Toys, which has an airplane traversing a single aisle, that deploys parachuting green soldiers. And due to these quirks, each level starts you with a different weapon, normally one that optimises the use in that space. Smaller more compact levels may start you off with a Shotgun, but more open levels a Sniper Rifle. Enemies also vary upon each level, and the deeper you get into the game and the more you ramp the difficulty up, the more you’ll see unique enemies, like exploding zombies, extremely fast moving jets, and even a T-Rex.
'Don't go into the... well-maintained grass!' Where's good old Turok when you need him?
There are a few points that need addressing, and Digital Cybercherries have pointed out that they’ll be listening to customer feedback and implementing any changes that get brought up. These are only small things, but it’s sometimes awkward to set up a match. For example, when choosing between a co-op game or competitive, the menu looks to be pointing to the left and right, but pressing left or right at that time takes you out of the sub-menu and back to the main menu, instead you have to press A. Nowhere does it tell you to press A, and then that results in you cycling through the 4 options, if you overshoot, you’ll have to cycle through again. And, it’s little things like that that plague the whole User Interface. Customising player two’s character seems non-present, but it is there hidden away under a tiny icon.
The last point of contention relates to your gaming environment. This game is built around the premise of local or online co-op/competitive play. The game’s longevity and fun derived from it will be severely challenged by a single player experience, but if you’ve got the right environment HYPERCHARGE:Unboxed is a must. Small gripes, however, can’t take away from the fact that the game is visually beautiful, runs smoothly, and is a whole lot of fun to play. If Digital Cybercherries are only going to improve things via customer feedback, then things are looking very good indeed.
If you enjoyed reading this review and think that Hypercharge: Unboxed might be a game which you'd like to play, then why not consider entering our upcoming competition where you could win a copy of the game? All you'll need to do to be in with a chance is to listen to the next edition of the N-E Café Podcast (Episode 13) and take part by either guessing the transition tune or submitting a question for use in the listener's question section; check out the thread on our forum for more details, the lucky winner will be announced on Episode 14 of N-E Café and the code will need to be redeemed on the European version of the Nintendo eShop. Good Luck!
N-Europe Final Verdict
Digital Cybercherries, a UK based 5-man game development team, have seemingly pulled off an amazing feat. An Unreal Engine 4 powered First Person Shooter that, visually, looks stunning and runs incredibly smoothly. With added mechanics of Tower Defence in a co-operative setting, there’s nothing else quite like, or as fun as, HYPERCHARGE: Unboxed on the Switch at present.
Consistently smooth frame rate
Blends FPS and Tower Defence genres together seamlessly.
Perfect couch co-op game
Will get repetitive in single player
Competitive multiplayer modes are lacking at present