Does this surreal synthwave shooter hit its target or misfire?
Ah, the 1980’s. Sure, Ronald Reagan was president, the war on drugs had entered the public discourse, and people were sick of the Cold War. But it was also a time of optimism of the future, of fuchsia overtones, of the beginning of enduring franchises, the dawn of the personal computer, and the age of electronic pop music. For those of us currently in our third and fourth decades of life, this era is fondly remembered, and even if you’re of much more recent stock, you gotta appreciate the stylish tributes to that illustrious decade. One of the latest examples is HYPERGUN, a rogue-lite FPS drenched in neon colors, synthwave music, and all sorts of office-related humor. But is this newest entry in the 80’s bag worth a peep?
HYPERGUN sees the Earth being invaded by hostile aliens. So naturally it’s up to you to don some weapons and take out the other-worldly threat, right? Well, not quite. In fact, you play as an engineer employed by a company to manufacture the ideal gun for fighting the invasion. In a Dilbert-style commentary on corporate logic, your time is spent mixing and match strange and ineffectual weapon attachments whilst shooting away holograms in a randomly-generated simulation. It’s all fun and games until somebody is likely to die, and that somebody is you.
From trigger happy to trigger crappy.
Your gun starts off fairly basic, but right away you’ll be attaching various accessories to it. These often have both a positive and negative effect, such as increasing damage output but decreasing firing speed. Attachments stack on top of one another, so it’s not unusual to have one cancel out or compliment the effects of another. By the time you’re done with a playthrough, you’ll be in possession of a strange smorgasbord as a firearm which will also likely be quite the eyesore. You’re able to pose the gun and take a screenshot to appreciate the offbeat nature and share your creation with the world.
Your creation will get plenty of field testing in the various simulations on offer. Each playthrough will always be different in terms of layout, offering a fairly simple path of rooms, or arenas, thrown together and populated with enemies. Clear enough of these and you’ll take on a boss – appropriate for an office environment – before moving on to the next floor. Rinse and repeat. To mix things up, you get different classes with different stats, adding an RPG angle. You’ll also be able to earn different currencies to purchase gun accessories and permanent upgrades. It all makes a grind worthwhile, and adds a degree of replay value to the experience.
The sort of firearm you could really get attached to.
Taking a cue from other zany FPSes like Serious Sam and Painkiller, you get locked in the rooms with a rather tough selection of foes. Things get fast and frantic, but your gunplay will rely a lot on the hand you’re dealt, thanks to procedural generation. Speaking of which, procedural generation and a strong leaning to randomness can make a game interesting, in theory. In practice, however, dumb luck will cancel out skill, and levels will lack the human touch to make them clever and engaging. Ironically, it can also get very repetitive when the same few basic designs with the same handful of enemies are repeated over and over. This is a common issue in rogue-lite games, and HYPERGUN is no different. After you’ve completed a dozen or so playthroughs, you’re gonna pretty much see all there is to see here.
Still, it’s an attractive package, if a bit too stuffed and colorful at times. There’s so much happening on the screen that you can easily feel overwhelmed, and many times enemies can blend into the background. After a while, however, you’ll train your eyes and trigger finger to spot enemies in the cacophony. When it all comes together and you’re mowing down legions of creeps with your toy-like weapon while a thumping 80’s track plays, you’ll find it an enjoyable experience at a reasonable price.
HYPERGUN is a somewhat shallow experience, but that’s okay. You play it for the trippy visuals, the goofy gimmicks, and the synthwave soundtrack. It doesn’t reinvent the first-person shooter and it doesn’t overcome the inherent flaws in procedural games, but it’s a guilty pleasure at a truly bargain price. Take it with a grain of salt and you’ll be fine. If this is your cup of tea, then you’ll probably want to blast your way over here to assemble a HYPERGUN of your very own.
Final Verdict: 4/5
Available on: PC (Steam), PlayStation 4, Xbox One ; Reviewed on: PC ; Publisher: NVYVE® Studios ; Developer: NVYVE® Studios ; Players: single-player ; Released: the 23rd of August, 2018.
Full discloure: this review is based on a Steam key for HYPERGUN given to Hey Poor Player by the publisher.