I’ve got this weird obsession with small things (don’t make your own jokes, please). It’s not the small thing per se but rather seeing from the perspective of the small thing. It’s one of the reasons I crown Toy Story as my favourite film. As a kid, I’d often play out the scene in which the Army Men run a recon mission on Andy’s birthday party, sans the party and having friends. Ok, I used to throw my army men from the bannister and hide them in plant pots but it kept me quiet. I’m not sure why I have this fascination but there’s something about seeing our world from a completely different perspective that pleases me and it’s that something that HYPERCHARGE manages to tap into beautifully.
HYPERCHARGE is a first-person shooter where you embody the plastic shell of a toy and do some shooting of other toys. The main game mode pits you against an ever-increasing-in-difficulty wave of enemy toys who’re saught to destroy your Hypercores (areas on the map). You’re equipped with a modular weapon for the offensive and a Yu-Gi-Oh! x NERF style Duel Disk carrying three defence cards which can all be used to combat the enemy hordes. These battles take place in a variety of environments including a Toy Shop, Garden, Kitchen and the Bathroom of a household containing at least one man. How do I know this? Because it contains a piss-filled toilet with the seat left up. All of this can be played on your own or with up to 3 other players via Nintendo’s online network or locally via split-screen.
At its core, pun wholly intended, is a pseudo-strategy defence game. Each of the game’s arenas has several Hypercores that you need to protect from the ever-increasing onslaught of bad toys. The Hypercores have both a health bar and shield, the latter of which needs a battery to keep it charged. Batteries can be found dotted around the map but you’ll need to traverse the environment to seek them out. Batteries can also be mixed and matched between cores so if one core needs some extra TLC, you can grab the battery from another, throw it to a buddy and have them insert it. As you’re traversing the map for batteries, you’ll also see blister packs of credits. These are your primary income for purchasing and building defence blocks — which are placed around the Hypercores — or purchasing upgrades for your weapon. Defence blocks are placed at the beginning of each wave where you have a set amount of time to set up before the enemies appear. This management of batteries, resources and defence placements adds a refreshing element of strategy to an otherwise fairly run of the mill waves game mode.
The gameplay of HYPERCHARGE is frantic but fairly standard. You’ll be facing bullet-sponge enemies, fast-paced ones and boss-types all whilst navigating around an often complex battleground. The jump button will be used a lot! Upgrades for your weapon allow you to change its primary function from an automatic rifle to a shotgun, machine gun, laser or even a grenade launcher. Your weapon allows for two firing modes letting you switch between each as and when you choose. You can also grab other upgrades which increase zoom-level, accuracy and weapon stability. Other than that it’s pretty much point and shoot once build-mode is disengaged but it’s incredibly satisfying to see chunks of plastic chipping off the enemies as you lay waste to them. The only downfall to the gameplay is the Switch itself. I’ve got a lot of love for the Switch but I’ve never felt that it’s well-suited for a first-person shooter. The default Joy-Con control sticks feel too slack and unresponsive for a game of this ilk. Owners of the Pro Controller will have a better experience. It’s worth noting that this hasn’t put me off from playing but it has been a bugbear of mine and I was often thinking “this would play better on different hardware”. But, as with everything, there are pros and cons. You sacrifice the controls for handheld gameplay and fortunately, everything else works very well.
Digital Cybercherries has done a great job of porting this PC game to the Switch. The aforementioned control issues are problematic but there are options to tweak the controller’s sensitivity or use the Switch’s onboard gyros if that’s your jam (I’ve never got on with them personally). It largely runs smoothly with only some bouts of slowdown during hectic moments of gameplay and this experience carries over to handheld mode from docked play. But HYPERCHARGE’s crowning jewel is from a visual point of view. Visually the game is stunning from the plastic enemies through to the environments in which you play. You truly feel like a toy playing in real-world locations. Each level is packed with so many little details that’ll be sure to tickle the whimsy of anyone holding onto their childhood past. There are nods to Scalextric, Airfix, Toy’s ‘R’ Us & Boglins alongside many other cheeky slights on well-known brands. Each level begs to be explored as you’ll uncover a myriad of little easter eggs that each highlight just how much attention to detail has been paid here.
HYPERCHARGE doesn’t hold back in its offering of content. Alongside the main game mode are two other modes — Deathmatch and Plague which sees you duking it out with other players or playing a variant on hide and seek. Each of the game’s maps has a handful of tokens to collect alongside 3 hidden collectables. These hidden collectables help unlock new character customisations of which there are plenty! Your character can be completely customised from its name through to its appearance both physically and stylistically. Your weapon can also be customised to sport fancy new materials — swiss cheese is a personal favourite of mine. Each level has a rank of completion with the highest ranks attained by surviving all waves with all Hypercores intact. If you complete these levels on harder difficulties, you’ll get yourself a more premium rank, and you’ll need to attain ranks to unlock new levels. Throw on top of that the handful of unlockable cheats and it’s clear to see that this isn’t some half-arsed game.
HYPERCHARGE feels intentionally old-school in just about everything it does but that’s incredibly refreshing to see in the current video game climate where additional extras are sold at additional cost. And it doesn’t stop there. Digital Cybercherries has already outlined its release schedule of content for the next few months, all free of charge. It includes new game modes, maps and quality of life tweaks from issues picked up during its first month of being live. There’s a lot to this game.
There’s a hell of a lot to like about HYPERCHARGE and at just under £20 you’d be rude not to check it out. As with any game of this type, it’s naturally more fun playing with other people and even more so with friends. Solo play is enjoyable, though, if a little tricky on some of the larger levels. The gameplay is a little safe but the addition of defence strategies is a nice touch and shakes things up just enough to make it stand out. It’s a charming game and that comes through in pretty much every aspect of it, from the nods to real toy brands through to the character customisation. Content is also plentiful with 10 maps across three game modes and more releasing through the coming months. If you’re in the market for a co-op game on the Switch then look no further — HYPERCHARGE has got your back! If, however, you’re more of a solo player, its longevity is largely dependent on the novelty of playing as a toy in this glorious battlegrounds. On the whole, though, HYPERCHARGE is a worth a punt on the Switch.