Arcade shoot ’em ups go decades back. In fact, this specific formula was once the pinnacle of gaming via household console or arcade machines, all around the world. The popularity of arcade shoot ’em ups may have died down to some degree, but that allure of blasting everything in sight and taking on towering boss battles, is a concept that never seems to age. Hyper Sentinel not only tries to draw inspiration from the classics, but aims to pull those ingredients into modern day gaming. Does it succeed? Definitely, yes it does.
Now, I can understand why “retro” isn’t for everyone. The new generation of gamers that missed out on gaming’s roots may not find as much appeal as the maturer gamers. Though even with that in mind, when you strip away the retro visuals, the retro design and even the retro soundtrack, there’s still a strong and steady core that screams to be played, over and over again. It’s this very core that oozes through the veins of the classics, something that’s never truly been far from mind when playing other iterations throughout the years.
Hyper Sentinel may not be the best, but it’s still one hell of a well developed, magnificently paced experience, nevertheless. The game throws you into the role of a small yet very capable ship. The aim of the game is as straightforward as can be. Deal as much damage to the opposition as possible, tearing larger vessels apart, piece by piece. It very much reminded me of one of the first R-type games, but with more pixels – a compliment, I must point out. The gameplay is often frantic and tense throughout the entirety of play.
Much to be expected, the controls remain simple and effective, with movement and firepower taking up the bulk of its mapping. First impressions are a must in any game, regardless as to its concept. Here, those first impressions are well laid out. The game welcomes you with a very funky retro soundtrack, instantly firing up your energy levels and nostalgia. Beginning with arcade mode, this sees you taking on hordes of enemies as you go about your journey towards calling out a boss, to then take on.
Strafing left and right, you’re expected to dodge heaps of incoming fire while handing out a considerable portion of damage yourself. Despite the capability of your ship’s weaponry, your endurance for damage resistance is very low. This is exactly what makes Hyper Sentinel so tense. Once you’ve damaged enough material and pulled in a high-score in the process, a boss battle will commence. Bosses tend to be much bigger, more capable and much more deadlier than you. These encounters will be what separates the wheat from the chaff.
It all becomes less of a frantic shooter and more of a tactical dodge-fest at moments like this. You’ll need to carefully monitor where (or when) you should focus your fire. These boss encounters are easily one of the best aspects of the game, each bringing their own challenge to an already difficult trek. Once bested, players will unlock a survival and boss mode for that specific level, lending the game another degree of replay value. Spread this across three difficulties; Retro, Normal and Hard, it’s clear Hyper Sentinel was built to last.
The game offers up a total of twelve levels, each categorized to three different modes. There’s also a five-star rank that you can chase via completing pre-set challenges. Safe to say that there’s a lot to do. This is certainly one for the completionists among you and undoubtedly justifies its asking price with its content alone. Moving back to the other modes, survival more and boss mode, these are fairly self explanatory and easy to understand, yet still go on to promote the game’s longevity.
Survival mode sees you surviving each stage for at least one minute. The higher the stage, the greater the risk. Power-ups will be more abundant in survival mode and for good reason too. Speaking of power-ups, there’s certainly no shortage of them. My personal favorite was one that equipped an extra ship that shoots enemies behind me, while swinging what looked like a huge space-mace, on top of firing rockets from the front of the ship. Well worth picking up if you see this out and about, I might add.
Boss mode is exactly what you imagine it to be. It’s you vs. them, but they’re already out in the field and ready to take you on. This doesn’t deviate much from the standard levels, but it’s a solid inclusion nevertheless. Finally, there’s also a Mixer mode. Here, you can stream the game and have your viewers take control of spawning in enemies and power-ups. Nothing revolutionary indeed, but a nice touch. It helps that all of this fluid gameplay is upheld by the well mapped controls.
I’ve briefly spoke of them above, but let’s take a deeper dive. Flicking the right stick to the left or to the right will position where your ship is aiming. You need not hold down the stick to move as the game controls that for you, leaving you to worry about moving up and down to outmaneuver incoming projectiles. Your own firepower is mapped to the A button, whereas RT provides an optional boost should you need it. I never really needed to utilize the boost, simply due to how much was happening on-screen at any given moment.
That, unfortunately, leads me to my first issue with the game. Hyper Sentinel can be overly chaotic at the best of times. I understand that this sort of game is known for its pacing and all-out action, but here, it feels a but overdone. So much so that the game almost forces you to play safely, rather than be daring. It doesn’t help that despite its decent replay value, the game can become repetitive before long. Still, the bottom line in all of this is that you’re getting your money’s worth and then some. It looks great, sounds good and plays well.
Hyper Sentinel may well be overly chaotic at the best of times, but there’s no denying that it’s fun, well paced and full of action. There’s a lot of content to work through within and although it does become repetitive before long, it’s still worth its weight in gold. Those that enjoy the roots of this formula will thoroughly enjoy what’s on offer, despite its niggling issues.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.