Rebuilding The Information Superhighway
HIGH Strong art design, the premise is great.
LOW Spinning a laser structure the wrong way and frying my last ball.
WTF Why is barely anything explained?
Hyperforma is an unconventional project coming from HeroCraft Games that apparently it got its start on iOS, but it feels right at home on the Switch.
The premise is that the player is jacking into the matrix in some far-flung future. While they’re noodling around, they’re contacted by an unknown user with the online ID of “Princess”. It seems they’re in distress, so our unnamed protagonist starts trying to locate their whereabouts and finds out that there’s a hell of a lot of online security blocking the way.
Hyperforma’s take on hacking is both fresh and engaging – each barrier barricading the path to Princess is a 3D structure made up of various blocks with one core block at the center. To crack a ‘level’ of this security and progress, the player becomes a ball made of energy that strikes the structure and chips it away piece by piece while remaining constantly in motion. Once they’ve carved out a clear path to the center, the inner core must be struck to move on to the next.
By manipulating the shoulder buttons and sticks, every 3D structure can be rotated, turned or spun. It seems simple at first, but there’s some sleight-of-hand happening — moving a 3D security barrier changes how it looks in a 2D sense, and the ball reacts only to what the player can see. Advantageous rotation opens up opportunities to get to the center more quickly, or to avoid barriers like unbreakable blocks and ball-zapping lasers.
If what I just described sounds like random word salad, please trust when I say that Hyperforma’s visual perspective tricks translate into gameplay that’s clever and easy to grasp in person, if not in text. ‘Pinball in space’ is the closest I can come to describing what it feels like, although that doesn’t quite capture it.
Supporting the solid gameplay is striking art direction. Things look suitably abstract and surreal with pulsating energy everywhere and dozens of spinning block patterns. Occasionally the player will encounter ‘boss’ AI constructs for conversations and battles that use slightly modified mechanics, and they’re all impressive and foreboding in a monolithic, alien way. However, while it nails the things that really count – visuals and gameplay — Hyperforma trips up on the niceties.
At the end of each level the player is scored, but I have no idea how the score is calculated. All we get on the tally screen are cryptic symbols which are never explained, and I was clueless as to whether I needed more of them to score higher, or if getting less was better. I wasn’t even sure if the icons served a purpose. Do they unlock something? Do they open bonus levels? Who knows!
The devs make no attempt to let the player in on what any of it means, which I assume was a misguided attempt to replace text with symbols and eliminate the need for translating content into multiple languages. Maybe? If that was the idea, it falls flat on his face – none of it is intuitive and English story text is present during certain scenes, so it’s not like Hyperforma ended up language-free.
While mastering the intricacies of its 3D rotation might take a little practice and its refusal to explain systems was thoroughly wrongheaded, Hyperforma still managed to keep me playing with its high-tech zero-g pinball action and electric artwork. With just a little tweaking, this one would be a must-play for Switch owners – it doesn’t feel quite like anything else, and that alone is worth something.
Disclosures: This game is developed and published by HeroCraft Games. It is currently available on iOS and Switch. This copy was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the Switch. Approximately 6 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was not completed. (Yet.) There are no multiplayer modes.
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated E and contains no descriptors. There’s no sex, no salty language and no violence… it’s just spacey pinball in abstract areas and a few chats with robots. Anyone would be totally safe here.
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available in the options.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: I played the entire game on mute and had no issues. All relevant info is onscreen and it’s fully accessible.
Remappable Controls: No, this game’s controls are not remappable.
Brad still loves Transformers, he's on Marvel Puzzle Quest when nobody's looking, and his favorite game of all time is a toss-up between the first Mass Effect and The Witcher 3. You can catch his written work here at GameCritics and you can hear him weekly on the @SoVideogames Podcast. Follow Brad on Twitter and Instagram at @BradGallaway, or contact him via email:
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