Occasionally a game comes out of nowhere that completely takes you by surprise. Hyper Jam is one of those games. An indie arena brawler from developer Bit Dragon, with super tight gameplay and a killer soundtrack.
Hyper Jam pits you and up to 3 other players (or bots) to battle it out to the death in well designed small arenas. Throughout each round weapons appear, from rocket launchers and bows to swords and warhammers. Each weapon has limited ammo before breaking, but can be thrown if needed.
Controls are kept simple, with a short dash to get out of harms way, a parry to block attacks, a quick light attack and a slower but stronger heavy attack. As the round goes on eventually a circle begins to shrink the playing area, leading to some exhilarating close finales.
All it takes is a few hits before you’re out of the round, causing a constant feeling of tension with each attempted attack and miss. In Bomberman fashion, once players are out the round they’re still able to call in targeted strikes to catch out unsuspecting players still duking it out.
In-between rounds points are tallied up based on various performance metrics such as damage dealt or players killed. The player with the lowest points get their first pick at a perk, continuing in ascending order of performance.
These perks can provide both entertaining and game-changing modifiers. There’s perks which increase your base speed, reduce dash cooldown, add a vampiric health stealing effect to your attacks, freezing attacks and even ones which occasionally proc on hit to reverse that player’s controls.
As the rounds play out the more perks everyone has, leading to the excitement ramping up as the match goes on. The devs have also done a superb job of balancing these perks to that point that there’s often no real obvious choice of which to go for.
Where Hyper Jam really shines though is in the core combat loop. It’s just so damn slick and polished. Each weapon has been finely tuned to feel satisfying and entertaining to use. The sword lets you close the distance and cause some devastating damage. The hammer sends enemies flying. Grenades from the grenade launcher can be bounced off objects to hit that perfect shot, and rockets can swing in a satisfying arc on the way to a locked-on target.
There’s those games which offer hidden depth via a surprising combination of smart mechanics – we all know the type. Hyper Jam is absolutely one of those. Time your parry and projectiles can be returned to the enemy, whether it’s a rocket or an arrow. How about if you parry a rocket back to an enemy…who then parries it back to you? Yep, that’s a thing. Or how about if you fire a rocket at an enemy, who then fires an arrow at the same time to stop said rocket…yep, that totally works.
Hyper Jam is jam-packed full of moments like this! There’s unexpected and hilarious events occurring constantly. It’s a game that provides endless laughs, with matches often offering countless hilarious moments.
Where the game falls down a little is just in the amount of content on offer. Whilst the game is reasonably priced at $14.99 on consoles and $12.99 on PC, it’s fairly light on the content front. There’s only a handful of arenas, 4 character models to choose from, and a sprinkling of progression with some unlockable skins / taunts. What’s here is great, but it feels a tad too basic.
It’d be nice to see a more fleshed out cosmetics approach, alongside support for teams e.g 2v2, which is currently absent. There’s also no ability to add bots to a private online lobby right now, however local matches are fine. That said the online matches that we experienced before launch have shown the netcode to hold up surprisingly well. There’s even cross-play between PC, PS4 and Xbox One – although we’re still not quite certain whether PS4 and Xbox One players can directly play together here.
The game’s soundtrack is also superb, with a range of awesome synthwave tracks throughout the game’s menus and battles. Visually the game’s neon fuelled 80’s art style suits the tone perfectly too. Performance remains incredibly tight also, locking to 60fps even with 4 players firing projectiles around the game’s arenas.
Hyper Jam will sit on my console for years to come. It’s a superb brawler that’s guaranteed to be an absolute blast to pick up and play when a few of my friends come over. Whilst playing with randoms or bots isn’t quite as fun, the game’s tight gameplay still keeps things feeling enjoyable for a session here or there. Where Hyper Jam undoubtedly shines however is with a group of friends – be it online or offline.