Hyper-5 – PS5 Review

Hyper-5 is a side-scrolling shoot ’em up which comes to us from the mysterious Hyper Productions (well, mysterious in that they don’t seem to have a website) and prolific publishers eastasiasoft (their lack of capitalisation, not ours).  In terms of getting us down to a sub-genre, this is very much a ’90s shoot ’em up which plays out in 2D but with polygonal 3D enemies and the occasional bit of twisty, turny environmental movement too.

On first impressions it feels like a modern take on something like R-Type Delta or G-Darius with that standard shoot ’em up action of you controlling a ship as it flies onwards towards through horizontal levels full of enemies who’ll either crash into you or attempt to blow you out of the sky.  A more modern version of that would be Natsuki Chronicles, which was a sensational game from two years ago.   And while Hyper-5 does lack some of the bells and whistles of its more polished, and expensive, contemporary, it’s still got a few good tricks up its sleeves.

There’s some sort of generic shoot ’em up plot but it’s barely hinted at so we’ll crack right on with the game.  There are two difficulty modes, Progression and Precision.  The former is for beginners while the latter is for more experienced shoot ’em up players, so we went with the harder option and initially there is some difficulty there but it doesn’t come from clever enemy movements or bullet patterns but rather the fact that you’re armed with some sort of budget Lidl space Nerf gun.

You see, Hyper-5 only has five levels and they’re not even all that long but to beat them you need to beef up your arsenal and that is done by completing in-game missions to earn upgrade points.  But before we get into that, the levels themselves are the sort of thing you’ve come to expect from the genre.  You’ve got levels above terrain, one where you are underwater, one in a dark cave full of bioluminescent enemies and then one set around an enemy weapons factory.  Each level has a checkpoint just before its final boss and you’ve got limited retries.

So after crashing and burning a few times, you’ll start to look at the game’s in-depth but slightly unintuitive upgrade system.  Weapons can be upgraded (in terms of damage, fire rate and shooting pattern) and extra weapons and utilities can be added too.  However, new gear is unlocked with those in-game challenges too.  And there’s plenty of variation to be had with all your favourite types of guns, missiles, drones/options and shields on offer and, if you don’t want to waste precious upgrade points on them you can even see a simulation of what they do.  It’s all quite comprehensive and you can even downgrade weapons to recover upgrade points if you want to.  That said, once we found the right combo of weapons (spread fire, homing missile, spinning drones and a laser beam) we never really found anything to better that.

Most of the in-game challenges pretty much took care of themselves, even if they took multiple playthroughs of the same levels (something you’ll definitely need to do in order to make yourself powerful enough to consider the later stages) but there were a couple where you weren’t allowed to shoot which definitely added a bit more of a strategic element to the play.  But eventually you’ll make it through to the fifth and final stage and, most likely, within your first or second play session.

But even with the enforced grinding, we really liked Hyper-5‘s gameplay.  Shoot ’em ups are a favourite genre here at PlayStation Country and we like them even more when they try to give you lots of upgrades and have some nice visual touches and set pieces.  While it’s definitely got a bit of an Xbox 360 XBLA kind of look, the visuals are quite nice and the synthwave soundtrack was welcome in a genre that is usually full of generic metal or hyperactive Japanese game music.

There are niggles though.  The main one is that often it is hard to tell what is a foreground object (and therefore in play) and what isn’t.  The game attempts to address this by giving you a sort of glowing indicator when you get close to a damaging surface but we still died plenty of mystery deaths.  And enemies (and their bullets) aren’t always very clear either.  This is particularly true on stages three and four which are in water and a cave respectively and are a bit of a nightmare to navigate.  Indeed that’s why we stuck with the spread weapon as at least we had a chance of hitting things we couldn’t always see.

Stage four’s boss (a sort of giant seahorse thing) was also a bone of contention.  Initially, it’s quite easy to see what its weak points are as any damage caused the points to flash white but then, for over half of the fight, there’s no visual indicators at all.  We even tried going behind it to see if there was a weak point there (this was why we employed the homing missile).  But then, after many deaths, we eventually got it to a point where the white flashes come back.  It’s not good and a real failure of playtesting.

However, it was stage five which was our least favourite.  It’s a drab, and difficult, stage which drags on forever thanks to a dreary encounter with ‘The Extractor’ a sort of drilling platform that takes forever to destroy and likes to use an unclear red on red colour scheme for most of its turrets.

So, no, the game’s not perfect but to see a budget shoot ’em up with this level of ambition and reasonably good production values is definitely a surprise.  And while the grinding of it might annoy some, it’s still only an evening’s worth and you’ll have the game beaten pretty quickly.  We’d rather repeat a short shoot ’em up multiple times than have one that goes on for too long (such as the more recent Gradiusburst titles) so we were fine with the overall structure here.  And then once you’ve done all that, you can head over to the Arcade mode to test yourself on the global leaderboards or you can just try replaying the game with all the new weapons you ignored.  Either way, Hyper-5 is pretty good although stick to the PS5 version as the PS4 version is far less smooth.

7 Overall
+ Good replayability
+ Decent production
+ Lots of weapons to experiment with
- Visuals can be unclear at times
- Some issues with boss battles and pacing
- Early progress isn't much fun
- PS4 performance is surprisingly poor
It's not the most dynamic of shoot 'em ups but Hyper-5 has some decent ideas and surprisingly good replay value. We like it but we're definitely marks for this kind of thing.

About Richie

Rich is the editor of PlayStation Country. He likes his games lemony and low-budget with a lot of charm. This isn't his photo. That'll be Rik Mayall.

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