It’s fair to say that one of the core features of the shooter genre is the ability to shoot things. While Hyperlight may look like it slots neatly into this particular niche, it’s unique in that the only projectile in the game is your craft itself.
All the other genre hallmarks are in place: neon-style visuals, hordes of enemies, and pick-up items being just three. However, Hyperlight’s unique selling point of being a shooter without shooting allows it to distance itself from the legions of twin-stick blasters currently available on the App Store.
Tilt to spill
You control you craft in Hyperlight using your iPhone’s accelerometer. Tilting the device influences the direction your ship moves in, and tilting it to an extreme degree causes it to enter ‘faster than light’ mode. Not only does the craft move more swiftly, but it becomes enveloped by a force field which allows it to vaporise hapless foes.
Triggering lightspeed mode drains your ‘FTL’ gauge, and once this is empty you return to your normal pace – which of course makes you vulnerable to enemy attacks once more. By picking up certain icons you can replenish your gauge, but actually collecting these can often put you in mortal peril.
Hyperlight therefore becomes a tactical game of risk and reward. While it’s tempting to dash about the screen happily obliterating enemies left, right, and centre, doing so eats through your FTL gauge swiftly.
Pick your targets
You’ll soon learn to prioritise your attacks: many enemies ignore you completely and simply swan about the arena minding their own business, while others actively seek you out. Conserving your FTL power for tackling these more stubborn foes is an eminently wise move.
Hyperlight boasts two game modes – Infinite and Arcade – although the gameplay in both is practically identical. There’s also support for Apple’s Game Centre service, which is a vital addition as Hyperlight’s main appeal is getting the best score possible.
It’s refreshing to play a game that takes a time-honoured concept and gives it a twist, but Hyperlight isn’t without its problems. The tilt control takes some getting used to, and it’s sometimes difficult to find that ‘sweet spot’ that activates your lightspeed attack.
That’s the spot
Tilt too much and you risk not being able to see the screen. Tilt too little and you’ll revert to your standard speed, which is a deadly mistake in the latter parts of the game.
In an ideal world the option to use on-screen controls would have been included alongside the tilt interface, but it could be argued that such a compromise would diminish the experience.
As frustrating as it is to lose a game because you missed that tilt ‘sweet spot’, Hyperlight calls for a fair degree of skill, and this would be missing if you merely controlled your ship with a pad.
Hyperlight is something of an acquired taste, then: shooter addicts are going to lament the lack of blasting action, but those of you who appreciate something a little different in your action titles should find this a diverting and challenging experience.