Fricking laser beams.
I was never a huge fan of space shooters. To some, the destructive simplicity of the genre can almost seem dated to anyone who didn’t grow up as a kid in the late 70’s. Part of that may have something to do with letting go of space-driven obsessions, which peaked around the same time as Reagan and Ronald McDonald. People don’t fantasize about blowing up hostile aliens as much as they used to – granted, the recently reinvigorated Star Wars franchise aims to disprove that theory. Hyper Void may be the closest any shooter has come to rekindling that killjoy, and while it may not be as highly produced as a game like Geometry Wars, it is one of the best homage to classic shooters released in a long time.
The main pull to Hyper Void is that, like past successful space shooters, it stays true to the formula of its forefathers while concurrently mixing up the action just enough to keep things fresh. Three of the face buttons are assigned to your attacks, from the archetypal sporadic bursts to a concentrated beam that burns everything in its path. The objective, to no one’s short surprise, is to progress through the nearly 30 levels that Hyper Void offers, shooting at every UFO, comet, and missile cluster from here to Andromeda. The enemies themselves are varied and sport a fair challenge, and the game does a good job of interweaving different combinations of incoming foes the deeper you delve into the single-player run.
Much of what makes Hyper Void enjoyable is how well the level design complements the action, delivering fast-paced thrills that pilot around the complex mission of bringing originality to, let’s face it, a pretty simple genre that doesn’t ask a lot of the player. The strafing mechanics are dependent on whether or not you’re making the jump to light speed. You’re able to steer around the cylindrical inner tube of a worm hole in a full circular motion, but leaving these worm holes limits you to a single axis of movement. Each level takes advantage of these differing modes of movement, and the result is an excellently paced shooter. Often, you’ll feel like you’re playing through an episode of Lost in Space. You’ll jump into hyperspace to escape the destruction of a collapsing star, only to re-enter the stable universe in the middle of an asteroid field. The environmental deep space hazards keep you at the edge of your cockpit at all times, giving you the same runaway rush that games like Half-Life 2 used to offer.
Interestingly enough, the game tries to tie together a loose narrative in the form of log entries that both advise you of any upcoming anomalies and treat you to a bit of lore. Plot is usually the quintessential element you do not want in a space shooter, unless the writers commit don’t leave it as an afterthought. Hyper Void proves this case in point, because while it’s nice to take a breather after blasting waves of enemies and jumping through wormholes, these metaphorical messages in a bottle that you come across are not the most interesting reads and easily ignored. Also, none of these messages ever offer any insight into why your intrepid pilot has some of the worst inter-galactic navigational luck since Han Solo and the Millennium Falcon, but then again, I never experienced a hyper drive failure, so I guess my digression here is a bit trivial.
For its value, Hyper Void is one of the best old school styled space shooters you’ll find in either the Xbox One or PS4’s catalogue, and that’s saying a lot. It doesn’t pretend to radically mess around with a formula that’s been set in stone since the 70’s, but it also tweaks just enough of the classic experience for it to feel less formulaic than fresh.
A review code of Hyper Void was provided courtesy of Xbox. The game was reviewed on Xbox One.
For its thrill a minute pacing, its exciting graphics, and its stellar wormhole gameplay that makes you feel like you’re always soaring through the universe with a fleet of ships riding your light-speed tail, Hyper Void earns a star the size of a supernova.