Hyper-5 PC Review: Hype It Up!

It's time to milk the word hype and hype up this excellent shmup, Hyper-5. If you enjoyed the demo, you'll love the rest.

In all honesty, Hyper-5 has been one of the most engaging shmups I’ve played in the last couple of years. I’m not just saying that because Hyper Productions are sitting here with a wave cannon aimed at my kintama, but because it’s one of those games you want to, have to keep playing.

This isn’t a game that’s going to reinvent the genre, experimenting with a colour-coded weapon system or a convoluted story full of scantily clad females and “eh-heh” anime voices. This is a bona fide shooter in the mould of R-Type (high acclaim), but be forewarned: you get out what you put in.

I suppose the closest comparison, again, would be Natsuki Chronicles, as Hyper-5 has the same upgrade incentives. Each kill in this side-scroller will reward the player with some UP to spend in the armoury. The more you play the game, the more gear you unlock, along with their respective upgrades.

Hyper-5 Demo - Gun, damn!
Gun, damn! Source: Steam

There are five levels to the game, and though that may seem a bit tight, it’s fair. Replay value essentially comes from levelling up your gear, climbing the leaderboards, then finetuning your skills further in the Arcade and Time Trial modes. I played the latter, but time trials aren’t typically my thing, so let’s focus on the core game.

Looking back at my preview of Hyper-5, I remember being impressed with the visuals but losing a little enthusiasm with the tempo. As noted in that write-up, it was the demo, and the speed does increase once/if you unlock the upgrades. To pre-empt any thoughts on that, I found that overall, it runs at a very decent pace.

The second stage was overly familiar – not solely because of the demo, but my repeat plays. Without a doubt, the Hyper-5 (the ship’s name) is massively underpowered. Other than sucking it up and dying plenty until you can afford an upgrade, you have to work out what weapon works best for you, and that essentially changes the more you play and experiment.

There are five guns on offer, and they unlock through level completion and in-game challenges such as the Pacifist achievement – not firing once during the first stage. Much easier than you think – I managed to do it. One of the many good things about the upgrade system is being able to degrade things and earn back some UP, albeit with a minor deduction so you don’t keep changing your mind.

Hyper-5 PC Review - Gear
Gear. Source: Screen capture

In short, my preference was the Spread weapon, coupled with a pair of Outriders – drone-like upgrades that hover around your ship that can attack enemies or shield you. If you’re likely to get the game, I’d recommend the spread weapon, Nova outriders, the beam for concentrated firepower, and homing missings. But in the end, I invested in the Wave gun for focused fire.

The beam is part of the Tech Bay category, which, unlike your guns and missiles, don’t have unlimited ammo but can be refilled mid-level. Now, this is the crucial part of Hyper-5 (and most shmups): focus on eliminating a wave rather than random ships, and you’ll get extra ammo, UP boosts and health. Interestingly, individual ships give minuscule UP. Considering upgrades can cost 20,000 UP, be prepared for some grinding.

Occasionally, Hyper-5 did feel a bit of a grind in the monotonous sense as I found that I had to repeat two or three levels back-to-back to complete more of the challenges and perhaps go up against lower-level enemies as a bit of a comfort blanket for my ego. Undoubtedly, the later the level, the more points on offer. Level 5 is a pig but well worth putting in the time for upgrading.

It’s not that the game is bullet hell, but it’s hectic at times and bordering on arduous when underpowered. There are a handful of checkpoints but only a few retries (unless you upgrade them). By the time I got to the final boss, it had felt like a marathon, and it didn’t help that my daughter walked in at that moment, causing a game over. Definitely her fault. I’m not taking ownership.

Hyper-5 Demo
Source: Steam

That said, the challenge was just right. There are moments where the terrain can be confusing, and collisions can spoil a run until you learn the patterns, but the rewards massively outweigh these minor flaws. All the negatives, in my opinion, are trivial and related to skill level, though as mentioned, level 5 is a little too long.

Hyper-5 gets two thumbs up from me. Fantastic visuals, massively replayable – especially for the loadout experimentation, and the challenges and additional modes make it worthwhile. Once you complete it the first time, you can play in the harder Precision mode. A great start to the year if you’re a shmup fan. Get Hyper-5 today (well, on the 28th of January launch date). And how.