|Hypership Out of Control|
Xbox 360, WP7
4P Simultaneous (local)
Hypership Out of Control is an old-school arcade-style action game that could well have been developed in the early 80’s and sat alongside games like Galaga during the arcade heyday. It has an incredibly simple premise: you’re piloting a spaceship that can’t slow down; you’re hurtling through space, avoiding obstacles, and collecting coins. The game embraces its arcade-ness with nice chunky sprite art, a high score table (with online leaderboards), and a fun sense of humor. Hypership Out of Control was made for people who would never question why there are coins floating about in space, or why you would need to collect them.
From the start, Hypership announces its own ludicrocity with this statement:
YOUR SPACE-BRAKES ARE OUT.
THE ACCELERATOR IS STUCK.
YOU CAN’T STOP.
When someone goes so far as to toss the term “space-brakes” around, you know that you’ve left the land of serious business, and you are free to just have fun.
The developer, Fun Infused, is also known as the creator of the 100-level action-platformer Nasty, as well as Abduction Action!, where you play as an alien UFO pilot who is bent on causing trouble for the hapless inhabitants of Earth.
The studio went on to release an updated version of Hypership Out of Control called Hypershp Still Out of Control, which features some new gameplay and updated graphics. The studio also developed several other 2D titles, including Volchaos, a game where you collect gems while attempting to outrun ever-rising lava; 2D Voxel Madness, a game that mixes platforming and the contemporarily popular mining genre; and Bad Caterpillar, a modern take on the classic Atari game Centipede.
From the description:
Go fast. You cannot stop. Explode when hit asteroid! No fun at all!
The controls are very simple. The left stick (or right stick, or D-pad) moves you in any direction, and you have a SHOOT button. There aren’t really any enemies in the game, so much as there are obstacles to avoid, most of which cannot be harmed by shooting them. So, you’ll need to dodge… a lot. In addition to just flying around obstacles, you can use either of the shoulder buttons to do a quick dodge to the left or right. This move is entirely optional, but it does allow you to move a specific and predictable horizontal distance, which can be useful in tight spots… and the game is full of tight spots. Also, if you have one in stock, you can drop a screen-clearing bomb.
As you play Hypership Out of Control, your ship slowly accelerates until it reaches its max speed (which is pretty darn fast). After you complete each wave, the max speed increases slightly. So you just keep accelerating ever more as you hurtle toward the end of the game, or toward your death. If you die, you lose a life and your speed is reset to zero, but it doesn’t take long before you’re back up to your max speed again.
Because the game’s insane speeds prevent you from constantly monitoring your HUD, your speed indicator changes colors the faster you go, starting out green, turning yellow, and eventually turning red and flashing the word “MAX”. This lets you keep your eyeballs fixed on the world that’s whizzing past your ship. Just be aware of what we call the “carpet crawl” effect. Similarly to games like Guitar Hero, where you’re constantly watching objects move down the screen, your brain will eventually adjust to this sensation, and compensate. So, after you’ve played Hypership for a while, try looking at a solid object, like your carpet, and you can watch as sections of it appear to “crawl”. See, it’s as if Hypership were packed with its own free alternate reality game. Fortunately, your brain is not permanently* damaged, and will shortly resume normal** function (ed note: those asterisks don’t lead anywhere).
Bits of humor are spread throughout the game. At the loading screen, you will receive one of several “Did you know” statements, including “Did you know only 8 bit music can be heard in space.” You might also notice on the main menu that there’s a button function listed as “FUN”. Tap the right bumper, and the plain black starfield becomes a color-cycling disco inferno. And if you think that’s just to make you smile at the main menu, try starting up a game… yep, space is now an explosion of fruit flavors. You can toggle back to “NORMAL” again by tapping RB.
Oh, and if you elect to quit the game, you’ll also get one of a series of humorous “opt out” statements. For instance:
Yes, this game is too hardcore
I am going to go play with my dolls
No, never, I will press on
And I hate dolls
There are several different game modes, each with its own dedicated online leaderboard. Normally, online leaderboards wouldn’t even warrant a mention, since they typically do not affect the gameplay or mechanics. This is not the case in Hypership, however, as the game is almost entirely score-driven. Certainly, there is some level progression, as the player attempts to make it to the end of the 10 waves, but the waves repeat ad inifinitum.
This makes the player’s score the true goal of the game, just as it was in many of the classic arcade games of old. This design urges the player to take risks to grab extra coins and increase his score. The scoring system in the game is built around a point multiplier, which increases as you pick up coins. For every 100 coins you grab, the multiplier will increase by 1, for a maximum of 5. When you die, the multiplier is reset to zero.
The waves in each mode are the same, but the different modes add a lot of extra flavor and change the way you tackle the game. The NORMAL mode starts you off with 3 lives and simply tasks you with making it as far as you can (and getting a high score to post on the leaderboards). HARDCORE mode is the same, except that you only get 1 life.
Then we have SUPER SPEED mode. If you thought that things got crazy when you hit your max speed during NORMAL mode, just wait until the max speed is infinity! That’s right, you will continue to accelerate forever in SUPER SPEED mode. Time to sharpen those reflexes!
Finally, there is the imaginative COIN DOWN mode, in which you start the game with 100 coins, but you are constantly losing them. If the coin counter reaches zero, it’s game over. This forces you to think about the levels in an entirely different way, since it’s imperative that you seek out clusters or lines of coins. You don’t have any lives in this mode per se, but you do lose coins each time you die, so you can’t simply blunder your way though the game.
There is also a PRACTICE mode, which caters to the 1cc crowd. This mode allows you to hop into any level and do a practice run. That way, you can sharpen your skills on the later levels without having to play through the entire game to get to them. As expected, your score is not recorded when playing in this mode.
There are 3 different types of coins to be found, along another very odd pickup:
Gold coins are worth 50 points
Red coins are worth 300 points
Green coins are worth 2,000 points; there are only 3 green coins per wave
The Fun Sloth (the Fun Infused mascot?) is a very rare pickup that is only found once per wave series. In other words, you’ll only see this once per every 10 waves.
Coins are spread throughout the environment, but they’re not just placed in random spots. The coin layout in each level is designed to draw the player into certain areas of the environment, either leading him into danger, or guiding him toward a reward. Clusters of coins are often centered around coins of higher point values, or around powerups. Lines of coins often show you the safest way through the environment… but following them blindly will often make you miss a great pickup, or will sometimes trick you into flying straight into a solid object.
Coins are also sometimes laid out in humorous ways to spell out words, such as: “fun”, “woot”, or “oh no”. Not only is there humor in the coin layouts, but in some of the blocks as well. In later levels, you’ll be dodging blocks with crazy wide-mouthed faces, flying around skull blocks, and zipping past blocks that just spell out “SLOW!” as if you could do anything about your speed.
There are also a number of pickups that impact gameplay:
First off is the Power Shot, which is probably the single most useful pickup in the game. This powerup allows you to destroy any object. As mentioned previously, most blocks are impervious to your shots, so you’ll need to spend most of your time dodging. With the Power Shot, however, you can simply charge forward, laying waste to all that stands in your way. It lasts for a long time and gives off a tone when it’s about to run out. Just be careful that you haven’t flown outside of the prescribed “course” while using this weapon, or you could find yourself headed toward a dead end.
The Slow Down powerup drops your speed in half, giving you the chance to take a breath and adjust your spinning eyeballs. This is an especially helpful item in SUPER SPEED mode.
The game’s one tricky pickup is called Max Speed. It automatically increases your ship’s speed to the maximum allowed for that wave. When you’re careening around obstacles, you may not have time to think about what you’re doing, and may actually go out of your way to pick this thing up. It’s also yellow, so it blends well into a cluster of gold coins, and in the heat of the moment, you may think that it’s a Power Shot pickup. It’s not too punishing, however, as they’re easy to avoid when you’re moving slowly, so most of the time you’ll only be grabbing them when you’re nearly at your max speed anyway.
The Destroy All Bomb is pretty self-explanatory. Mash the left trigger or B button to destroy everything on the screen (and a little ways ahead), with the exception of coins and powerups. You can stockpile several bombs and save them in case you get into a desperate situation, as they are best used as last-minute lifesavers. The only trouble is that you usually figure out that you need to use it about half a second after you crash into a wall. Also, you need to be careful where you fly after detonating one of these, because you could inadvertently line yourself up with a solid wall of bricks once the world is restored.
The Shield. Grab one of these as soon as you can, and make it last. In a game like this, it’s practically the same as having a 1up. It will protect you from 1 hit, and it will give you temporary invincibility for a few seconds thereafter. It’s even better than the bomb, because it works automatically when you’re in trouble.
And finally, we have the Magic Star, which grants you temporary invincibility. With this, you can fly straight through bricks, destroying them as you pass. The effect is significantly shorter than the Power Shot, making it somewhat less useful, but it’s great to be able to take a breather for a moment while you stop worrying about the terrible ship-crushing obstacles that await you off the top of the screen.
Most of the blocks and other obstacles in the game must be avoided, but there is some strategy with the few destructible blocks that are in play. It’s advisable to fire constantly throughout most of the game, with the exception being the sections containing Bouncing Beach Balls of Death (more on these in the BCE section below). Your bullets will destroy smaller objects, such as the small asteroids in the first wave, and they will make a different sound when they make contact with an indestructible object, letting you know that it’s time to dodge.
There are a few destructible blocks hidden amongst the impervious ones, and destroying these often leads you down a path with a powerup. Since the layout of the 10 waves is the same each time, you will start to learn where these destructible blocks are hidden (they are graphically different than standard blocks), but that doesn’t mean you’ll be blazing through each wave grabbing every powerup in the game… Often these destructible blocks are tucked away on one of the edges, and they’re blocking a narrow path. Even if you know where they are, it can be difficult to destroy them and navigate through the path while you’re moving at full speed.
Another problem is that your ship is approximately one brick wide, and your bullets will destroy bricks that are directly in front of you. However, if there is a horizontal row of bricks, it’s possible that your ship’s path may overlap with two bricks. Since your projectiles fire in a line that is slightly narrower than your ship, it’s possible that only one of these two bricks will be destroyed, and that you’ll clip the second with your wing, leading to your sudden yet inevitable demise. There are several instances in the game where you must destroy a row of bricks, and your insane speed makes it difficult to judge when you’ve made a hole big enough to fit through. And what’s most dastardly of all is that the end of each wave has a finish line, which must be destroyed by your shots. This is a double row of destructible bricks, so you have to be extra shooty, and preferably a bit weavy, because otherwise you may crash and burn in an ironic and sad way.
The game has a solid difficulty progression, providing more open space toward the beginning of the game, shuffling the player through tighter corridors in later levels, and then introducing rows of diagonally-aligned blocks. Toward the end of the game, you’ll have to contend with horizontally-moving and diagonally-moving objects that are extremely difficult to avoid.
The game also has an in-game achievement system called “Awardments”. Awardments are given for reaching specified (really fast) speeds, destroying certain enemy types, coin collecting, and completing waves. There are 20 Awardments in total.
Oh, and for some true insanity, you can play the game with up to 4 players in same-screen co-op. Note: you may need a biologically enhanced neural network to understand what is happening on the screen when playing with 4 players.
Update: Since the original release of the game, Fun Infused has created a Reverse Mode patch, which allows the waves to be played in the opposite direction. You’ll still begin at Wave 1 and proceed chronologically from one wave to the next, but the waves themselves appear in reverse, which effectively doubles the number of level layouts in the game. Reverse Mode can be added to any of the standard game modes (Normal, Coin Down, etc.), and is selectable at the main menu.
Reverse Mode not only reverses the levels themselves, but also the placement of powerups and coins. As such, important powerups may be behind walls, and rows of coins that used to direct you to safe paths and powerups may instead spit you out in the face of danger. Also, there are many areas in the normal mode where you will fly into a wide path that narrows as you go, easing you into a tighter corridor. Now you’ll be approaching the narrow ends of those corridors with very little warning, making for a much more challenging experience.
BASTARD CLASS ENEMIES (What's this?)
Bouncing Beach Balls of Death In Wave 7, you are introduced to a new type of obstacle, which we have dubbed the Bouncing Beach Balls of Death. Throughout almost the entirety of the game, it’s advisable to just hold the trigger down and fire a constant stream of bullets in front of you. This will take down any destructible objects, and will alert you when you’re about to fly into a solid wall.
That rule works everywhere but here. Yes you can shoot the beach balls, and they can be destroyed. However, several hits are required to take one of these things down, and each time you shoot one, it changes direction. So, if it was flying down and to the left, shooting it will make it move down and to the right. But if you shoot it again, it will return to its original trajectory. The result is an enemy that will essentially bounce back and forth toward your ship unless you can destroy it in time. Or, if you shoot it once, you need to be prepared to dodge in the opposite direction (assuming you have the wits to do this while barreling through space).
So, you can let the guns cool off in this section, and just avoid the balls as they fly past. But what’s that, a destructible wall? That’s right. As soon as the beach ball sections end, you’ll need to get back to shooting immediately, or you’ll crash headlong into a wall. Good times.
There are no bosses in this game. Your greatest enemy is the environment itself.
Why this game should be part of your 2D heritage:
- Simple but effective arcade-style premise
- Loads of humor spread throughout the experience
- A variety of game modes let you tackle the game in different ways
- Point multiplier and separate online leaderboards for each game mode
- Solid level design and coin layout, with a smooth difficulty progression
- Flying through a horizontal row of destructible bricks is difficult since your bullet stream is narrower than the width of your ship