Quality over quantity.
With Hyper Jam, what you see is what you get. What’s offered here is excellent, but unfortunately it lacks the modes and features that will keep you coming back beyond the occasional game night with your buddies.
Hyper Jam is a top-down, neon-infused arena brawler that’s best played on the couch beside some of your best friends. There is an online feature, in case your crew isn’t around, but local multiplayer is the way to go here. The game is simple—be the last man standing at the end of every round. Players are dropped into a small arena and fight to the death. The longer you stay alive, the more points you’ll earn. First one to hit the points threshold wins the match.
Most of Hyper Jam’s fun comes from its simplicity. There’s a bit of a learning curve with aiming and moving, sure, and getting the controls down takes a bit of fiddling, but the premise is familiar and that helps contextualize the controls. Once you get the hang of it, the game really starts to open up and you have some freedom to master your own play style.
At the start of each game, players choose their characters. Unfortunately, your character choice has no bearing on how you play the game. I would have loved if the different characters acted as different classes, each with its own unique ability. This could have offered another layer of depth and fixed its main issue, which is simply a lack of content. But the characters are purely cosmetic, and that’s a shame.
Once you’re playing Hyper Jam, though, it’s easy to forgive. Each map offers a distinct layout and its own gimmick that makes playing in different arenas feel like a new experience every time. One arena has a giant rotating hole in the middle that you’ll definitely want to avoid, another has moving barriers that you and your opponents can use as cover, and one has a pesky little train that comes by every time you take one wrong step. The maps are great and are some of the rare instances of variety in Hyper Jam.
The perk system is also one of Hyper Jam’s highlights. At the end of each round, players are presented with four perk options. They act as power-ups that stay with you for the rest of the match. They range from increased movement speed to more damage output to incendiary damage and beyond. The player in last place chooses their perk first. Once they choose one, it’s no longer available for the other players. The game then goes up the list until the first place player chooses whichever perk is left.
It’s a clever way of always making the game feel balanced and equal. It never really feels like the player in last place has no fighting chance to win. It adds a sort of lasting tension to almost every game.
Perks can also stack. In one round, you may be presented with a perk that gives your character freeze damage every six seconds. Then, after the next round, you could be presented with the level two version of that perk, which will decrease the cooldown of that same perk. Once you get to the later rounds of the match, your character may either be decked-out with a bunch of different low-tier perks or have just two or three really high-level perks. There’s quite a bit of strategic thinking that goes into it.
Combat is the game’s bread and butter. Hopping into local multiplayer with four friends is a blast. Hyper Jam has a wide range of weapons to choose from, spanning from bows and rocket launchers to katanas and hammers. Each weapon feels different and the way you deal with each is equally varied.
Your approach will also change depending on what you’re up against. For example, projectile-based weapons like the rocket launcher will force you to parry as much as possible to deflect the rockets back at your opponent. If you’re up against someone with a melee weapon like a katana, you’ll want to incorporate a good amount of dashing into your strategy. In this regard, the combat provides a good amount of depth to the game.
Hyper Jam is a great game, but it’s a shame that more creative game modes aren’t included here. The one mode that is included is quite robust, but it’s almost as if Bit Dragon put all their eggs into one basket. I can’t wait to play Hyper Jam at our next game night, but there’s perhaps not enough here to keep me coming back beyond that.
[Reviewed on PS4]