Last year’s release of New Retro Arcade: Neon permitted players to organize their own virtual arcades, setting up emulation across rows of simulated cabinets. The problem was setting up these environments could be challenging- goading gamers into reading FAQs, YouTube videos, and other instructional materials in an effort to get everything working. But once players got past that hurdle, Digital Cybercherries’ app offered a gorgeous Unreal 4-powered reproduction of beloved recreational spaces, complete with appropriately ostentatious carpets and neon signs which illuminated walls with a salient glow. Even without benefit of a VR headset, the app’s arcades converged on photorealism.
With the Early Access release of HYPERCHARGE: Unboxed, Digital Cybercherries’ doubles down on their skill for making elaborate environments, crafting a co-op tower defense game that’s looking quite promising, even in its pre-alpha state. While players perturbed by a lack of polish might not enjoy the current build of Hypercharge, it’s definitely a title worth tracking as it travels to fruition.
Games built around the concept of controlling children’s toys are common, whether in 3D0 and Global Star Software’s prolific Army Men franchise, racers like Revolt, or in modern fare like Signal Studio’s Toy Soldiers series. But all too often the premise is squandered, with games feeling like a reskinned action, racer, or tower defense title. But that’s where Hypercharge: Unboxed shines. Currently, the game’s tutorial and two playable maps feel like you are a five-inch action figure that’s sprung to life in an actual toy store aisle. The sense of scale in each context is spot-on.
The stages themselves don’t extend any artificial architecture. Each takes place on a glossy walkway, flanked by soaring walls that are filled with a variety of boxed playthings. Smartly, Unboxed maps doesn’t look too impeccable. Along each side of the aisle are a few ascendable stacks, each looking like the stock team left in the middle of their shift. Even at this early stage, the texturing is immaculate. Walk up to a faux-Fed Ex sticker and you read each letter of text. And while Digital Cybercherries’ didn’t secure the Toys R Us license, the aisle cards, fonts, coloring, and tendency to pile inventory toward the rafters flawlessly recreate the atmospherics of the chain in the late ‘90s.
Like most Tower Defense game with an action component, play involves fending out waves of attackers with both built battlements and the arms carried by gamers. The former are built on positions designated with cards, with towers or bunkers requiring an offensive device. But unlike many games in the genre, these fortifications require power, which is supplied via color-coded energy towers. Unsurprisingly, these require batteries and there’s a continual drain during use, requiring players to regularly restock the AA cells with the fresh ones that are dropped after a successful wave.
Unsurprisingly, the idea time to replace the batteries is the two-minute intermission between waves, where up to four players can drop new energy cells, build additional turrets, or simply lay down additional barbed wire fences to slow combatants from the next incursion. Two minutes may seem like a lot, but there’s burdens on this retail battlefield. Pleasingly, if you finish up early, you can easily cue up the next wave. Another pleasing aptitude happens when players hit the “Q” key, which turns the screen monochromic and offers wireframe highlighting around all the vital elements in the environment.
Even at this early stage, enemy variety and intelligence is pleasingly handled. Early levels will pit your team against maniac spinning tops and rambling toy robots. But before long, Unboxed ups the ante, as a whole battalion of toy soldiers rappel from the shelves and begin targeting the core- the ‘floating brain in a jar’, you entrusted with protecting. Weapons might be a tad underpowered, but are fun to fire, offering players a choice of two different kinds of arms, from machines guns, lasers, rifles, shotguns, and grenade launchers. While it’s still too early to tell if Unboxed will nail the delicate balance between carnage caused by defensive turrets and carried ordnance, attack waves do feel sufficiently hectic. offering
While Hypercharge supports solo play, scaling difficulty appropriately, the game’s co-op capabilities are why you’ll want to get in on the early access build. Sure, tackling AI drone can be fun for a short time, but enjoyment with Unboxed intensifies with every additional local or online participant. Although the title currently has a modicum of participants on the servers, if you can organize a match with online friends, the title delivers.
Currently selling for $14.99 on Steam, HYPERCHARGE: Unboxed undoubtedly displays promise, extending an intense co-operative experience. As its current pre-alpha state, the game requires a bit of tolerance, with menus and players customization options demonstrating the occasional glitch, while stage selection is limited to a trio of maps. But, it’s easy to see Digital Cybercherries’ offering an ample amount of polish, potentially offering gameplay that matches the title’s sumptuous visuals.