Sometimes, it’s nice to just pop a game on for 20 minutes to chill out after a long day, or if you’re stuck on another title and need a quick palette cleanser before jumping back in. Hyperdot fits the bill perfectly, though there’s enough challenge later on to give you a run for your money as well.
The premise is about a simple as they come; slide a dot around a circular area, avoiding incoming projectiles while fulfilling one of a handful of objectives. Each stage lasts no more than 30 seconds or so – many much shorter – and once cleared we’re whisked off to the next in no time. There’s a supremely satisfying loop to the whole affair, with even harder stages keeping that one more go feeling alive for far longer than we’d expect.
Early stages simply require us to dodge incoming projectiles for a few seconds. These are some of the slower moving square shapes that we’ll contend with across the game. Each new shape – the homing triangles, exploding plus symbols or erratic moving stars just some examples – offers up a new threat to be handled. Usually the first level that each are introduced in is kept to just the one shape to show us what to expect. It’s not long however until multiple different shapes are thrown in together, often requiring some precise – and rapid – movement to avoid. Rarely did I feel that Hyperdot was unfair with its patterns though, some stages having a set puzzle to unlock the solution to before moving on, while others were more reaction and skill based.
It’s not just the shapes coming in we need to contend with either. All of the stages have a circular perimeter, but within that boundary are often several modifiers. Some see the arens larger or smaller (as can the dot itself be), while others have the playing field covered in ice, causing the dot to slip constantly in one direction until you change course. The hardest of the bunch has the circle encased in darkness, our dot giving off a small glow that is the only way to know where incoming threats are. As with the shapes, these are often combined, with some truly tough challenges coming out of these pairings. Those 12 seconds you need to survive while cloaked in darkness, on ice and with a giant dot will test your reflexes. The short, snappy levels are perfectly pitched for that one more go feel, with a restart almost instantly putting you back in to try again. One shorter stage had me rinsing and repeating the same (failing) strategy for over 5 minutes, before I decided a break was in order to gather my composure.
Some stages task you not just with survival but also to collect a small number of tokens that will randomly appear. I enjoyed these levels less, mainly due to the random nature of the spawns. I found I was either exceedingly lucky and had tokens appear one after another right next to me, or the entire run was ruined by every token spawning behind or under the hazards, my evasion skills running out before I could collect it. That’s not to say the challenge isn’t fun, but I certainly enjoyed the survival stages more. Some will offer up power ups to help out, though much like the tokens these appear randomly and often are put in unhelpful places.
It’s possible to bypass levels altogether too, with a new set of 5 being unlock for every fourth level cleared. Each set tends to stick to a theme, with enough variety between sets that one idea doesn’t linger too long. Should you get a overwhelmed by it all though, there is a custom level editor that is very flexible to use, allowing you to design levels to suit your skill set. It’s a shame these can’t be shared online, but it’s still a neat addition that allows you to get to grips with some of the mechanics on your own terms, as well as show off your skills – should you be so inclined.
Rounding out the package is a multiplayer mode that, much like the single player, is easy to grasp and could become quite the favourite at gatherings. The same basic premise is in effect here, but it becomes a last man standing affair for the most part. Here the token collecting randomness actually works really well, with up to 4 players dodging obstacles and each other while racing to collect the most. Even when you get taken out there’s still a chance to win if you had a high amount of tokens; if the others can’t match your score before they fall, the game is yours. All other modifiers are available to customise the several predetermined modes further should you wish too. With a few skilled players, rounds could potentially go for quite a bit longer than the single player levels too.
The whole affair is back dropped by some lovely looking minimalist art and effects and a soundtrack that can seems at odds with the challenge; a calming, lo-fi vibe that I found to really help keep my frustration in check – to a point. After a while the music can get a little repetitive, but popping on a podcast or some of your own music soon alleviates that.
Hyperdot encapsulates brilliant the short, snappy arcade thrills that used to dominate places such as Xbox Live Arcade. Super simple to grasp, yet with a real challenge for dedicated players, it will no doubt keep most hooked for far longer than they intended to sit down and play.