Is there anything better than sitting on a couch, with 3 close friends, and beating the tar out of each other with massive hammers, bats and projectile weapons? If you answered yes, you would be wrong, but thankfully I am here to show you the error of your ways. At PAX Australia this year, and the last two years, I have had the great pleasure of being able to play Hyper Jam, a neon-soaked, top-down, twin-stick brawler with a twist.
I had the pleasure of speaking with Sam of Bit Dragon, the studio behind Hyper Jam, and was able to play the most polished example of Hyper Jam to date. Even in the crowded PAX booth, with people lining up everywhere, the strengths of this game as a party game is on display. It’s namely the eye-catching graphics and funky AF synthwave soundtrack that left an impression.
The aforementioned neon graphics are only one piece of this mesmerising pie. Add in some crisp models and scenery for good measure and suddenly Hyper Jam becomes an absolute treat. You never lose your character in the mayhem. You never have to guess where the weapon pick ups are, or even what weapons your enemies have. Everything that you see on screen is never muddled and is always gorgeous. From a well-lit subway platform (which is a bit unrealistic but I can suspend my disbelief), to a rooftop pool (which yes, you can fall off) – all the levels are stunning and well designed for maximum mayhem.
But this would all be for naught if the game sucked, which I am very happy to say it doesn’t. Combat is fluid, hectic, and works well enough that any time you die, you can’t help but blame your own ineptitude. The controls respond flawlessly to your inputs and the characters move and attack as you expect from a frenetic brawler. The weapons are satisfying as hell. Want to hit someone with a hammer? You can do that. Want to fire a homing rocket at someone? That can be arranged. Want to Rambo someone with a bow and arrow from the other side of the map so you can feed off their eternal frustration at your mad skillz? Only if you aren’t playing against me. But this isn’t the part of the game that draws me in the most. That accolade belongs to the perk system.
Inspired by rogue-likes and looking for a solution to that one person who just HAS to be better than everyone, the perk system allows you to draft one perk out of a random pool at the end of every round. But instead of just allowing the person in first to take what they please and further destroy the competition, the “only getting a banana in first” approach has been applied to Hyper Jam, with the person with the least points getting first chance to pick. This can create unique and often weird and interesting perk builds that definitely creates a more balanced game. Of the 10+ times I have played this with others, I have not had a single game that ended with only one person needing to win a round to take the game. The tension created by that situation can only be described with analogies that, honestly, don’t live up to the experience.
Knowing that most people don’t sit on a couch with their friends to play games together, online multiplayer is also planned for the game’s full release, which is tentatively due in early 2019, and honestly, this can’t come soon enough.
This is the 3rd PAX I have been able to play this game, and even back when it was a student game, this was one of the most exciting games on my radar. I am a huge fan of any games where in-person multiplayer is implemented, and implemented well, and Hyper Jam does that with aplomb. A fantastic game, with a great look, kick ass soundtrack, and style oozing from every pore. If this game isn’t on your wishlist yet, you should definitely be rectifying that mistake now.