Arena brawlers seem to be losing traction as of late, which is a shame really, because as far as the core concept alone is concerned, they’re quite a lot of fun. Hyper Jam is the latest title to join in on the action, boasting fast-paced play, with a simple and accessible structure. In truth, there’s not a great to talk about due to the game’s lack of depth. That being said, sometimes less is more, and, despite the occasional issue within, that certainly applies here. Perhaps I’m getting too far ahead of myself, so allow me to step back and go from the top.
Booting up the game takes you to a clean and concise menu. The options on display consist of little more than a local mode, an online mode, some options, and a tutorial. Before you begin, if you want to toggle cross-platform play on and off, you can do so via the options. To those unaware, turning it on will enable you to play online matches with players on other platforms. The tutorial is pretty self explanatory, and although I would normally scoff at a game that doesn’t include a basic warm-up, it’s really not a necessary addition in Hyper Jam.
I say that because there’s not much to keep on track of, meaning that even if you skip the tutorial, chances are you’ll have a firm grasp of its mechanics within just a single round. The controls are very straightforward. You’ll move using the left stick, and aim with the right stick. Performing an attack can be achieved through the use of RT, with a more powerful version of your attacks available through holding down RT for a few seconds. Outside of this, you’ll pick up weaponry with the A button, parry with the X button, and perform a dash with LT.
You can also throw your weaponry with RB, but in the heat of battle, I never really found much use for it. Naturally, due to playing before release, I was unable to find a match despite my several efforts. I suspect, and certainly hope, that this will fill out post-launch. Here, you’ll be free to utilize all the expected functions; such as creating or joining a match – complete with the ability to take another local player with you. Though, worry not if the online component remains desolate after release, because local play is robust by itself.
The game supports bots of varying difficulties, and I’m happy to report that even on the easiest setting, they’re smart, resourceful, and resilient. The general crux of play sees you and up to three other players (or bots) spawned onto your selected map. Once the countdown timer ends, it’s all out war. The game’s maps are single screen, ensuring that all of the action remains isolated, fluid, and frequent. Starting out, you have little more than the ability to punch your opponents, but before long, weapons will begin dropping into the fields of play.
There’s hammers, swords, rocket launchers, and more; each bringing their own distinct pros and cons to the arena, as well as, of course, their own unique charge attacks. You and your opponents will battle it out for supremacy across multiple rounds, with each of you relying on a single life per-round. However, even when you’re dead, you can still kick some ass. Death in Hyper Jam is not the end. Once you’re wiped out, you’ll house the ability to unleash laser attacks from high in the sky, giving you a chance to get some sweet revenge.
During this phase, you’re free to target whoever you like, but there is a sizable cool-down between attacks to prevent spamming. When the round is over, points are tallied up before heading into the next round. One interesting kicker is that of the game’s perk system. Between rounds, players can select a perk from a random pool, with first choices given to those with the least points. Points are earned for a range of different things, such as kills, damage dealt, and surviving the round. It’s fairly straightforward stuff to get a handle on.
The perks vary quite nicely, ranging from the likes of increasing your damage output, setting your foes on fire when attacked, and even giving you a last stand-like perk that protects you from fatal blows. Many of these also come with cool-downs, however, they can indeed be stacked to alleviate cool-down times. For instance, if you choose the Cryogenesis perk, which freezes your enemies upon attack, you’ll need to wait six seconds between uses. If you select that same perk on the next round, you’ll need only wait four seconds between uses.
It can be hard to get the perk that you want if you’re first place, given the fact that you’re essentially the last to choose a perk and are left with whatever perk the other players did not choose. That being said, you’ll still gradually increase your capabilities with each and every perk that’s selected. Nevertheless, that’s the game’s functionality. Once you’ve maxed out the required points across several rounds, you’ll then need to survive one final round to seal the deal. This is a neat twist, granting losing players with one more chance for victory.
This is when things tend to be fairly tense, especially when more than just one player need only survive to win. That being said, I do have a minor gripe here. Several times I found myself in a position in which it was me against another bot that was merely one away from winning. The problem, however, is that the two dead bots only seemed eager to target me with their laser strikes, which made little tactical sense. Surely they should know that if they kill me, it’s game over. If, however, they killed my opponent, we would all go another round.
I wouldn’t have pointed this out if it happened infrequently, but it was something that seemed to occur far too often. It’s a shame, really, because outside of that flaw, they’re very intelligent. I would certainly hope that we see some improvements on this front post-launch. The game sports a level-up system, in which you’ll earn some unlockable goodies as you work through. There’s four characters to select from; Yuki, Vance, Ghost, and Max. The difference between them is skin deep, with each housing identical handling and movement.
The game’s maps are, as alluded to above, quite contained and tight. I enjoyed the variation and dangers that each map relayed. Hotel is my favorite due to its lush vibrancy, its clean layout, and its deadly drops, but Subway comes in close second. It never gets old, smashing a hammer against your enemy as you watch them get mowed over by a high-speed train. Regardless, all of the maps present typically house a trait of some sort that’s designed to be toyed with, and to the game’s credit, they’re all fairly stunning and packed with detail.
It helps, of course, that the gameplay itself is so responsive and to-the-point. Movement is swift, with precise and accurate aiming to rely upon throughout. Your attacks feel weighty and forceful, and somewhat desperate as you chase down a foe that’s constantly dodging your damage. Whilst it is indeed possible to win a match without picking up a single weapon, you’ll be at quite a disadvantage if you do so. Rocket launchers take a chunk of health, as do grenade launchers and bows. This, on the other hand, is where parry is handy.
If you parry at just the right time, not only will you protect yourselves from projectile attacks, but said attacks will be sent straight back in the direction of those who fired them. The parry cool-down is much smaller in comparison to any other cool-down in the game, but it’s significant enough to ensure that you cant spend the whole match stuck in a protective field. There’s a fine balance on display here, that much has to be said. Hyper Jam affords you the tools to create some custom matches, allowing you to setup a match how you see fit.
Here, you can toggle a bunch of options that let you decide what weapons are dropped on the map, what perks will be on offer, whether or not dead players can laser strike, and more. Whilst it may indeed be a small game, it certainly does well with the few tools that it encompasses. If you’re in the market for a new arena brawler, this is easily a worthy choice. It’s a game that anyone can pick up, instantly understand, and play, ultimately making it a solid addition for those nights in which you’re hosting a party, or have some friends round.
The game houses a neon-soaked 80s-inspired aesthetic, complete with a pulse-pounding soundtrack that does a good job at setting the mood. There’s a bit of gore within too, such as when you splat your foe into a fountain of blood and tissue with a well timed frag, but it never really gets overly bloody. The developer describes this as stylized, which I have to agree with. In any case, it goes without saying that Hyper Jam achieves much of what it set out to accomplish. It’s a bucket-load of fun, fun that I intend to return to, again and again.
Despite some occasionally poor bot behavior, there’s a lot to like about Hyper Jam. This is every bit as addictive as it is exciting, with accessibility and short-burst functionality serving as forefront aspects. The game’s fluid and fast-paced action sits well alongside the game’s unique perk stacking system, with each and every passing round becoming more tense and frenetic as a result. If you’re looking for a new arena brawler, this is one to consider.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.