Studio Bit Dragon has nailed the frantic, fast-paced gameplay of an arcade-style twin-stick arena brawler with their new game, Hyper Jam. It gives me nostalgic butterflies, from being in the arcade playing games like Smash TV. Hyper Jam lets you battle it out with three other people or bots in a small enclosed arena. You’ll slash, bash, and explode your way to the top spot using five possible weapons and your fists, each with a regular or charged attack.
At the end of each round, players are allowed to select a perk, or powerup, from a pool of 14 unique randomly selected cards. They augment your character with buffs or enhancements, such as life-on-hit with their attacks or increased speed. This perk system is one of the most brilliant additions that Bit Dragon has sewn into the mix with this title that I would love to see present in other games going forward. It adds a nice little additional mix of strategy that allows players to, albeit not on a permanent basis, make their character their own until the winner of the game is decided.
Once you are killed in a round, it’s usually a bore to sit and wait for everyone else to finish playing. Hyper Jam fixes this by giving dead players access to orbital space laser that they can then use to rain death down from above. It’s a little thing, but it is perfectly woven into the world that is this game. And who doesn’t want to shoot their friends with an orbital space laser, am I right? Dashing around the games ever-increasing pool of levels while dodging enemy fire was a tense,pulse-pounding experience. But even with all the neon, lasers, and perks, Hyper Jam is a game that is a hard sell for me. On the basis of aesthetic, controls, and underlying gameplay, Hyper Jam knocks it out of the 80’s neon-lit park. But the overall package leaves much to be desired. At the time of this article, which is just prior to the games full release, there is a drastic lack of gameplay modes and substance that would help grow a player-base and make people want to come back day after day.
Players have the option of facing off locally with friends, online with friends, offline with bots, or online with bots and friends in a free-for-all deathmatch. You can slightly tweak match settings from adjusting what weapons are available, enabling infinite ammo for weapons, what perks can be chosen and the like. Outside of those tweaks, however, currently there are no alternate game modes, even team deathmatch isn’t present which is the most glaring omission.
There are four different characters that players can choose from, each with additional costumes that can be unlocked via leveling up your profile. While each character has their own distinct style and personality in their design – such as Yuki the cyber-ninja, or Ghost the totally-not-from-Daft-Punk – each plays the exact same with nothing outside of their appearances and short quips they make. There is nothing that makes each character unique.
I was able to speak with the Hyper Jam’s Game Director, Roman Maksymyschyn and ask him some questions regarding Bit Dragons future plans with Hyper Jam.
When asked about any plans for additional game modes such as Team Deathmatch, King of the Hill, etc, Roman told me that while there are prototypes of new modes being worked on internally, nothing has been locked in just yet. With the ability to adjust a match’s weapon, perks, ammo, laser, and points settings, I asked him if there were any plans to be able to save presets of those options. As of right now, every time you turn the game back on, you will have to reset all the options back to your preferred set manually, which he assured me are quality-of-life improvements are improvements they want to work on, and assured me that features like this, and others suggested by the community, help the team decide which ones to prioritize. It’s clear that Bit Dragon is a team that interacts and listens to their player base.
Prior to the game’s release I solely played against bots offline, the early matches I played, even with the bots, were a blast to play. Unfortunately, it quickly lost it’s luster and grew repetitive as I grinded levels to unlock more outfits for characters and taunts. I played a number of matches with fellow Irrational Passions staff Mike Burgess and Jarrett Green and it was a great time. This is where the game shines 100 %, in spurts with friends. Trying to playing with random people online though, at least at the time of this article, is a bit another story. Two days after the launch I went in and tried to join a game. The first time, it took about a minute and was matched with a single player. Connection and gameplay was silky smooth both during my time playing with Mike and Jarrett and this random person, which is paramount in a twitchy game like this, I don’t see this quick burnout as being something that will be solved simply by playing online either. After this match though, I waited more than 5 minutes before giving up trying to find another player. The fact that I had this issue a mere two days after the game’s launch when a game should be the most populated, has me concerned.
Hyper Jam feels like many things to me, but a retail release isn’t one of them. In its current form, I can clearly picture it as an arcade cabinet that you could play in a great barcade anywhere in the world or a polished and well-executed early-access or Kickstarter title. The game also strikes me as a multiplayer mode of a larger game, as a nice extra option to play with friends between playing the main game. Without ranked matches, a leaderboard, and only a single game mode, it just lacks basic features that people expect in today’s online multiplayer offerings for the main release of a game.
There is a very strong base that Hyper Jam has established that it can build on top of and continue to expand on. From my direct interactions with the developers, it is clear to see that they have no intention of letting this game sit idle as they are actively working on adding additional features and listening to their community’s feedback and ideas. I am excited to see what this game ends up being a year from now, and am fully confident in the team at Bit Dragon to deliver, making it a great party game to play with a group of friends. Right now though, it’s a hard sell, but give it a month or two and I think it can easily become an easy buy and a staple of many game-nights-with-friends. I plan to continue to update this review and the score in the coming months as more features get added as I do have a lot of confidence that Bit Dragon can make this game a rockstar.
This game was played on a PlayStation 4 Pro system with a review code provided by the developer, Bit Dragon.