HYPER BEAM is the new arcade twin-stick shooter for iPhone from indie developer Rinikulous Games. As a followup to their 2016 debut Lonely Sun (check out our 9/10 review,) HYPER BEAM keeps the atmospheric space-vibe and ditches the lonely aspect, lobbing buckets of different enemies at players in a bullet-hell twin-stick mash-up that continues their march towards re-imagining classic control schemes in intuitive ways.
HYPER BEAM is available for a free limited trial for the iPhone on the AppStore, and the full game unlocks for a mere $2.99.
HYPER BEAM has no story to speak of, and its style is intentionally minimalist. That said, Lonely Sun also had a morose and beautiful atmosphere, and small well-written narrative descriptions of each planet added to the feel of the whole game. We miss them, and would be happy if there was some extra descriptive goodness in this new title, so long as it didn't impede the game's excellent flow–perhaps a line during the next stage titles would be sufficient.
Still, there's atmosphere aplenty in HYPER BEAM delivered via the sound, the visuals, and–most importantly–the gameplay.
Rinikulous Games continues to think outside the box when it comes to iOS gaming. In Lonely Sun, they forewent the now traditional touch controls made to mimic a D-Pad and face buttons, and instead had players use gestural strokes to "control gravity" and move their planet. HYPER BEAM, which could have been designed as a traditional overhead twin-stick shooter (ie, one thumb controls your character's movement, while the other controls the direction you fire in), instead offers control over two identical characters, one for each thumb, and your weapon is a laser beam stretched between the two. This means you have two spots that need protecting from enemy blasts, and can't fire haphazardly into a swarm of enemies, as that means one of your vulnerable spots would also be in the midst of them.
This is where Rinikulous's description of the game as "survival" comes into play; enemies are randomized, and the better you are at the game, the more complex each wave of enemies will be. This may sound unfair, but you'll actually want more enemies, as that's how you're scored–by how long you survive, but also by how many enemies you've killed. Scores are kept and compared via the iOS Game Center, and your standing can be checked via a button click on the game's main menu.
You'll die, and you'll die often, as you can only get hit twice. One hit, and you lose your beam for a cooldown period; get hit while in that defenseless time, and it's game over. Our first handful of games didn't last to the one minute mark, though now we're hovering in the 3-5 minute sphere, and steadily improving, which is what makes the game so addictive. You're bad at it, but you can feel your incremental progression, and it's rewarding enough that you'll tap the "Restart" button again and again.
Though varied, enemies can be divided into three general types: space ships, planetoids, and meteors (our phrasing). Space ships are easily dispatched by your beam in one hit, but certain types of them have projectile weapons of their own, and they can teleport into your field of view with little prior notice (just a circular blip, ala a radar screen). Planetoids are generally slow moving, but require multiple or sustained blasting from your beam in order to destroy; they are sometimes kitted with projectiles, as well, which launch outward when destroyed. The last enemy type are meteors, and act much like projectiles; they speed through your field of view quickly and in straight lines, and cannot be destroyed, only avoided.
There are a great number of space ship and planetoid types, and you'll be putting in a lot of time before seeing them all, and may not see the whole lot in a single play.
While the game described so far would be entertaining enough as a great arcade, high-score time killer, Rinikulous has seen fit to include unlockables that you'll gain through cumulative play. First are color schemes, each of which are composed of three hues that will tint the game. Which scheme each game is tinted with is randomized, and does well to make every round feel unique and less repetitive.
While not launched at the time of this writing, Rinikulous Games has also promised patch coming very soon that will include unlockable home-screen icons for HYPER BEAM (provided you have iOS 10.3), which is a nice added bonus, and a new one on us.
The most important and game-changing unlockables, however, are the differing beams you can unlock. Each beam has it's own look, but operates more or less the same until you activate your beam's hyper mode. These modes are temporary boosts that transform your ships into enemy obliterating kill-beasts, and range from white-hot horizontal rows, to spinning purple saw blades. Each has it's own pros and cons, and experimenting will help you find the best beam for your play style. Be cautious, though–most hyper modes still leave your ships vulnerable to projectiles, and getting hit will end hyper mode and force you into your laser cooldown.
While HYPER BEAM is intended only for use with your iPhone, we couldn't help giving it a try on our iPad Mini. It plays, and not too bad, either; however, Rinikulous Games made clear the fact that the game is not optimized specifically for the iPad, as it is on for the iPhone, so keep that in mind if you play primarily on one device or the other.
graphics and sound
The graphics of HYPER BEAM, like Lonely Sun, are minimal and stark, which imbues the game with that deep-space feel. Unlike Lonely Sun, which was full of chunky polygonal planets and effective mood lighting, HYPER BEAM features moving objects that are crisp two-dimensional shapes. Your ships are two sets of two concentric circles, and enemies range from molecule-like designs to modernized atari-inspired sprites. Combined with a Euro-dubstep/trance blend back beat, and the game easily gets you into that out-of-this-world head space.
While dubbed as a twin-stick survival shooter, one may more accurately describe HYPER BEAM as a touchscreen bullet-hell pong variant. Instead of a paddle anchored to the bottom of the screen on a horizontal plane, you control two points of that paddle, which cannot take damage, but can freely roam the screen, obliterating enemies with their sizzling center-line.
If you like attractive minimalist design, space, and bullet-hell action with inventive touch controls, you'd be well-served to give HYPER BEAM a try. You won't survive long, but what a life it will be!
|+ Hectic arcade perfection||– No narrative to enhance the atmosphere|
|+ Smooth minimalist graphics|
|+ Intense electronica jams|