Friday, 21 June 2013

Hypersuper Cannon (PC/Linux)

Every once in a while, there's a game that really throws me for a loop. A game that makes me say "WTF?!" in every single sense of the phrase. A game that is as mysterious as it is well crafted, compelling as it is frustrating. Grimic's Hypersuper Cannon is one such game, and man, is it weird. Awesome, but weird.

I know what you're thinking, especially if you've already peeped some of the screenshots or seen them elsewhere: this is yet another dual stick shooter. Wrong-o, pal. Let me see if I can explain this. (Warning: by giving away some of the game mechanics, I may ruin some of the fun of the discovery process of the game. I found this mystery greatly enjoyable, but others may not. Read at your own peril.)

Your mouse pointer acts as a 'reflector'. As you move the reflector, missile launchers of sorts will follow the pointer along the X and Y axes of the boundaries of the play area, which act as 'rails' for the launchers. Clicking the left mouse button or trigger will shoot charges horizontally or vertically from these launchers that must bounce off of your reflector to become actual missiles. Continuing to bounce these missiles around will increase their power and speed. You must use this mechanism to guide the missiles to destroy red 'phantoms', baddies with varied and deadly attacks that spawn within the arena. Get the reflector hit by a phantom or their projectiles, lose a launcher. Lose all your launchers, and you're back to square one. There's much more to the mechanics, but I can't bear to spoil it all. And no, there's no tutorial.

I can honestly say that I've never played anything like this. It is thus that I quickly became hooked on attempting to master the sometimes awkward and chaotic missile-bouncing gameplay of HSC. The tactics run surprisingly deep, with a number of tricks one can employ based on various states of play; the number of launchers left, the position of the launchers left, and what types of enemies are on the board at any given time will require dramatic changes in strategy. The fact that players are left to discover all of this on their own, with no hand-holding at all, creates a feeling of accomplishment with each new discovery.

Furthermore, the game contains a wonderful feel of progression through various bonuses purchasable with coins earned by killing phantoms, unlockables that give other perks, an encyclopedia that explains the game gradually as you play, and some hidden options to boot, tantalizingly blocked from view with a bold NULL label, leaving no clues as to what may lay behind them.

All of these goodies, mysteries, and challenges are bound together and presented in a fantastic, minimal style (the author's site claims "3 bits of colour") accompanied by catchy, driving chiptunes. This makes Hypersuper Cannon a must try, although its bizarre and deliciously frustrating gameplay, unorthodox mechanics, and distinct lack of direction or documentation will likely weed out those without the patience to explore something new.

Download the game here (from the official website).
4 out of 5