HYPERCHARGE: Unboxed | Review
Searching for Nostalgia in Plastic Commodities
by Martin Hare Michno
Courtesy of Digital Cybercherries via HYPERCHARGE: Unboxed Press Kit
There is something amusing yet endearing about fighting a plastic robot in a bathtub. Just as many have done before, Hypercharge: Unboxed plucks at the heartstring of 90s nostalgia by looking at the world through the eyes of a toy. The brightly coloured action-figures, the classic LEGO bricks, the Beyblade-like spinners, the AA batteries and general clutter of plastic are all carefully crafted by Digital Cybercherries to inspire in the players a sense of deep familiarity and recollection.
As a tiny toy soldier, the everyday objects become gigantic and tower over you. The mundane becomes monumental.
The gameplay itself is fun but simple: you and your team protect the (probably important) ‘hyper-cores’ from the oncoming waves of (probably evil) toys. You do this by shooting, punching and building defences – there’s really not much else to it. Perhaps the simplicity of the gameplay is designed to reflect the simplicity of our childhood days, or perhaps it is due to the fact that it is still in early access. I don’t know. What I do know, however, is that you should play it with friends. The game relies heavily on co-op and the gameplay is clearly tailored to be experienced with your friends. The map layout demands some sort of communication or understanding with your teammates, and tactical talk over Discord is always fun.
Digital Cybercherries must realise that the nostalgic element in their games is found in the human, not the toy.
Nevertheless, despite its simplicity, there is an extra element of exploration which adds an interesting layer to how one might experience the game. When exploring the level designs, you quickly realise that there isn’t much to see at ground level. However, Digital Cybercherries are smart enough to think vertically. As a tiny toy soldier, the everyday objects become gigantic and tower over you. The mundane becomes monumental. As if by instinct, you begin to spam the jump key in an attempt to reach the highest point. Whether a shelf at a toy store or a bathroom sink, the maps are created to be climbed. The game’s focus on verticality is perhaps essential to capturing the nature of a toy-life. The studio should undoubtedly celebrate verticality even more throughout development.
The maps should possess the essence of a heartfelt memory.
I am more interested in how the studio will tackle the feeling of nostalgia. The bright colours and 90s toys won’t quite cut it for me; nostalgia does not spring from colourful commodities. Digital Cybercherries must realise that the nostalgic element in their games is found in the human, not the toy. The full laundry basket, the used toothpaste, the lonely basketball… This eerie, ghost-like presence of humans in the game is what creates a feeling of nostalgia. In this sense, Hypercharge can actually learn a lot from the indie-darling Gone Home. The developers should attempt to capture a moment – a human one – in their level design. The maps should possess the essence of a heartfelt memory. Exploration should reveal the life of the child whose room you’re playing in. The sun shining through the curtain should remind us of a distant summer day. If this is not achieved in the future, Hypercharge runs the risk of growing stale, robotic and plastic.