HYPERCHARGE: Unboxed - Switch Review
"A charming game with great level design and visual theming."
HYPERCHARGE: Unboxed is a first person shooter, tower defense hybrid inspired by classic animated movies such as Small Soldiers and Toy Story. Play as a toy soldier charged with defending “HYPER-COREs” by your Superior Officer Sgt. Max Ammo from the evil toys wishing to destroy everything you’ve worked for. Get up to three friends to help you defend those HYPER-COREs in local or online co-op to help preserve the memory of the fun those toys once gave us.
HYPERCHARGE: Unboxed’s core gameplay loop is to platform your way around maps based around various rooms of someone’s home like the bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, etc. Throughout the levels, you pick up coins which are spent on defenses for the HYPER-COREs which can be as simple as a wall of building bricks to block enemies, goops of slime to slow them down and much more which can be unlocked later on in the game. After you set up your defenses, waves of enemies will come in and attempt to take down your HYPER-COREs and after each wave, you go back to rebuilding your defenses. Rinse, repeat until complete; very basic but it gets the job done.
The real challenge comes from the game’s platforming. Some of the positions that the game places your HYPER-COREs can be really tricky to get into for both you and your enemies. A good example of this is the Bathroom level; the easiest core to access is on the floor of the bathroom so most enemies will be attacking that one but the other two are next to the bathroom sink and in the bathtub meaning you’ll have to traverse around the room looking for jump pads or find a way to jump from the waste bin, on top of the toilet seat, to the hamper, to the cistern, to the top cabinets and into the bathtub.
The platforming isn’t just for show. Each level holds multiple hidden collectables to be found which can unlock new soldier customisations like new heads, paint jobs, gun skins, etc. These collectables will be placed in areas to test your platforming skills and willingness to explore each map. Most will be hidden from sight but will most likely have a trail of coins leading to it, showing you how to find them while you’re preparing your defences. Others may be out in the open in places that look impossible to access, making you think about how to use the map layout to your advantage.
Now what would a first person shooter be without guns? HYPERCHARGE’s gunplay is...ok, it can be a bit jank at times and is a little difficult to get used to. The game allows you to hold two weapons at a time which you can either find around the map, in the toy packaging you spawn in on the map or as a random prize from the slot machine found on each map. Most maps start you off with an assault rifle which, while serviceable, has a lot of recoil, making it difficult to shoot accurately. HYPERCHARGE also doesn’t have iron sights; you can zoom in to get a more accurate shot but it doesn’t centre the gun to the screen or zoom into the scope like most modern FPS games do. Imagine my surprise when I found a sniper rifle and all it did was zoom in the camera a little bit more...kinda disappointing, if you ask me. I will say though, the shotgun is the most satisfying gun I’ve used in quite a while - shooting it feels like God slamming a car door.
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HYPERCHARGE’s main gameplay progression is based on unlockable content. You can unlock new playable figures, skins, heads and weapon colours by reaching certain ranks on each level but the most important unlockables are new levels and buildable defences. As much as I love being able to work towards unlocking things, this system can become very annoying very quickly. How it works is dependent on how well you do in a level; you will get a ranking (usually silver to gold to platinum, etc.) and getting a certain amount of a particular rank will unlock something. For example, three gold ranks will unlock a new buildable or four platinum ranks will unlock a new level. The thing is, each difficulty has its own ranking system, e.g. normal gives you Gold and Platinum ranks while hard will give you Emerald and Ruby ranks. So what ends up happening is you’ll get pretty far through one difficulty and start encountering new enemies that require specific buildables to exploit their weaknesses (i.e an anti-air cannon for flying enemies), only to find out you can only unlock the thing you need by going on a higher difficulty and starting again. This constant switching of difficulties can be quite jarring to some and could gate-keep progress from lesser skilled players. Personally, I could forgive this if these difficulty-based unlockables actually scaled downward, but going on a harder difficulty and getting two Emerald ranks and one Ruby rank and having that not unlock the needed buildables for lower difficulties where I’d only need Gold or Platinum rankings seems like a glaring design flaw.
World / Level Design
I touched on it during the gameplay section because the level design is integrally tied to the platforming style gameplay but the level design is HYPERCHARGE’s strongest aspect. Every inch of these maps are made to jump around and explore which, in turn, will translate to the player learning the best way to maneuver around the maps when enemies are attacking. Exploring the maps also lets you find little details about the people living in the house; for example, in the bedroom level, if you explore hard enough, you can find old food behind computer monitors and a half eaten clove of garlic wedged between the bed and the wall indicating that the kid is a massive slob and probably related to Wario in some way.
Story / Personality
At the time of this review, HYPERCHARGE doesn’t have a story but the developer Digital Cybercherries is currently working on a campaign mode set to be released later in 2021. HYPERCHARGE’s overall tone is very tongue in cheek; when exploring the maps, you’ll find a lot of charming references to real life toy brands and products like Nerf guns being renamed to OP with the tagline “Please Nerf” or a movie poster clearly referencing Jurassic Park titled “Big F*****g Thing”. With the amount of references and gags littered around the game, I legitimately wonder how the developers didn’t get into any legal trouble.
Enemy design in this game is also wonderfully charming. You’ll slowly be introduced to the enemies as you progress through the levels, starting with generic toy robots to “The Chungus” which are blob-like toys reminiscent of Boglins and Spinners which are very clearly just Beyblades. The mid to later stage enemies drag the creativity down a bit by just being different variations of plastic army men but will then later kick it back up with massive robot and dinosaur toys acting as boss encounters.
Graphics / Art Direction
HYPERCHARGE nails its toyetic aesthetic. All of the toys are delightfully plasticy without looking like old models from two console generations ago, making them look like toys that you can actually go out and purchase yourself. Enemy animations are also really expressive, such as the plastic army men having to push their whole body forward to move since they’re made out of solid plastic, the spinner’s erratic movements mimicking how wildly Beyblades would bounce around the place and some toys moving around in a stuttered fashion indicating that the toy has very limited joint articulation.
Music / Sound Design
HYPERCHARGE’s soundtrack is full of triumphant sounding army march/cadence-style music, mixed with a more upbeat childlike tone that perfectly encompasses the idea of playing as a toy army. During combat, the music will change to a more bombastic 80s style synth track, with each level having its own unique synth track composed by Sidsilver.
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Final Score: 79%
HYPERCHARGE: Unboxed is a charming game with great level design and visual theming but can get repetitive really quickly. Yes, there’s a lot to unlock, but if you don’t gel with the slightly janky controls, all of the unlockable cosmetics and features aren’t going to keep you playing. Luckily, the developers Digital Cybercherries are very dedicated to adding additional content to the game so if you do end up thoroughly enjoying it, you’ll have a lot more content to look forward to in the future.
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