Review by Ron Brown, Jr. November 2005
As Hyperspace Invader begins, familiar-looking scrolling text fills you in on the story as it vanishes into infinity:
“A terrible war between mankind and a hostile alien race has been raging for centuries, yet the conflict is no closer to being resolved than when it began. Worse, the humans have suffered one stunning military defeat after another. Their army was smashed! Their cities were razed to the ground!
The survivors retreated into hyperspace in the hope of finding refuge, but the aliens followed them and continued their devastating assault. Only one human base and a single fighter craft created using advanced terrestrial and stolen alien technologies remain.
The AVENGER-29, as the new fighter is called, has brought hope of deliverance to the humans. The tide of war can only be changed, however, if their best pilot navigates the craft. That would be you…”
A few colorful ships float past the camera at the beginning of what appears to be a dramatic introductory cutscene – instead, it fades to black and the main menu appears.
Unfortunately, the intro illustrates my problems with this game: Hyperspace Invader is just another run-of-the-mill space shooter that lacks polish and excitement.
Typically, if you’ve played one shooter, you’ve played them all, and this is certainly the case with Hyperspace Invader. Enemies come from one side, you come from the other, and you both come out with lasers blazing.
Your fighter can pick up power-ups along the way, which may increase your main weapon’s firepower, supply your fighter with a cache of missiles, or replenish your ship’s shields. When your fighter picks up a new main weapon or missiles, you may switch between them by pressing the appropriate key. This is a nice feature, as you can stockpile your powerful missiles and save them for stronger opponents, or select the appropriate main weapon for different situations.
Other temporary enhancements range from Quad Damage to Invisibility, to the age-old Extra Life. The majority of bonuses dropped by enemies seem to be bonuses points, represented by giant gold numbers mysteriously floating in space. Actually seeing the points that you’re picking up rather than some other icon tends to jar you out of any possible immersion you may have been experiencing.
Though you start the game with merely the AVENGER-29, other ships are unlocked as you progress through the game. These new ships provide increased firepower, stronger shields, and faster regeneration abilities.
Each of the game’s six missions have 5 separate levels, the fifth level being a Boss battle. I was surprised at how quickly the first four stages of a mission seem to end; suddenly your ship just blasts off into the distance with little fanfare. It seems very abrupt, and there game doesn’t provide much of an explanation story-wise.
One nice feature of Hyperspace Invader is the ability to alter the view of the camera. Pressing the ‘C’ key on the keyboard will cycle between three behind-the-ship angles and a classic side-scrolling perspective (my personal favorite).
The playfield seems to stretch a bit further than can be seen on even the widest camera angle, and as such, some enemy fire seems to come from out of nowhere. Luckily, this goes both ways, and at times you will find yourself destroying enemies that have yet to appear on the screen.
Graphics and Sound
I have to be honest; I was not impressed in any way by the sound or music in this game. The music in the main menu started to grate on my nerves after a while, and the in-game music is quite dull and flat. The sound effects are very generic and give the game a muted feeling.
To me, one of the strengths of the space shooter genre in the past was the audio. There was nothing more satisfying than hearing the sounds of your weapons blowing your enemies back to wherever-it-was they came from. The music of shooters of the past was always upbeat and exciting; Hyperspace Invader’s music is on the complete opposite end of the spectrum.
The game has adequate 3D graphics, however the color palette seems a bit too uniform – it could certainly use a bit more eye candy. Explosions are handled well and laser effects are bright, but the real issue is that there just isn’t enough contrast between the action and the background.
Each level seems to take place outside of a giant space station filled with platforms and long decks, which tend to be a bit distracting. Also, the sector of space that Hyperspace Invader takes place in is apparently flooded with bright gases that completely mask the blackness of space. The result is that each level seems to take on one generic hue, and everything blends into everything else. The colors are pleasing, yet for a shooter, things really need to POP off of the screen.
Hyperspace Invader can run from 640x480 up to 1600x1200 (the default resolution is 1280x768), texture quality remains the same at the higher resolutions, just with less aliasing. Knowing that the game supports these resolutions is one thing, figuring out how to change the resolution is another. After reading through the aptly named “readme” file, I discovered that in order to change the game’s resolution, you must browse to the installation directory (“C:\Program Files\Alawar\Hyperspace Invader” in my case), and run the program “StartUp.exe”.
Being able to change the resolution from an in-game menu would have been appreciated, but even in the least, this shortcut should have absolutely been placed in the start menu under “Change Resolution” or another appropriate title along with the three or four other shortcuts back to Alawar’s website.
Hyperspace Invader can be controlled by keyboard, mouse, or joystick, under two different control schemes, Arcade or Simulator Mode. Arcade mode feels more like standard shooter controls, where your fighter can stop on a dime and change directions instantly. Simulator mode seems to be tailored for analog controls, such a flightstick or analog gamepad, as your fighter’s movement seems to have a bit more inertia – rather than just moving in a certain direction, you accelerate or decelerate. It feels almost “floaty”, for lack of a better term.
I really cannot recommend playing this game with the keyboard, under either setup. In arcade mode, the controls are a bit too sensitive, yet not responsive enough in simulator mode. This could just be a matter of personal preference, but in this reviewer’s opinion, they should be avoided.
After a few sessions with each control setup, it feels as if the game was designed to be played with the mouse controls. In the standard view in Arcade Mode, using the mouse makes dodging enemy fire a breeze; in fact, it’s almost too easy.
What really pulls this game together, in my opinion, is using an analog joystick. The controls seemed to be much tighter, and had the most realistic feel – as realistic as a starfighter banking back and forth in space can be, anyway.
One puzzling issue involved reconfiguring the joystick controls. Initially, the joystick’s Primary Weapon is set to Button 1, and the Secondary Weapon is set to Button 4. Buttons 2 and 3 are strangely not initialized to anything; to swap weapons, you must use the keyboard.
The Readme file states that the joystick controls can be configured in the game menu. Although reconfiguring the joystick buttons seemed to work in the menu, my settings remained unchanged when I returned to the game. This seems to be a major oversight and needs to be addressed immediately.
One of the interesting extras URSE has included in Hyperspace Invader is the ability to view their gallery of 3D models. Aside from inspecting their artwork, the gallery can be used to gather a bit of information about ships and weapons available to the player, as well as the stats on the enemies you’ll face.
The game also features a high score table with the ability to post your scores to the developer’s website. You are given the option after entering your name, however, doing so minimizes the game and brings up your default web browser.
Arcade Cabinet Issues
For those who may be interested in playing Hyperspace Invader on their home arcade cabinets, I can’t say that the game would be a good fit. The game should certainly be playable on most cabinet setups, as the menu may be navigated with the keyboard and spacebar. However, unless your control panel has an analog stick, playing the game with the keyboard controls might be frustrating.
One other cabinet-related issue is the high-score table; to enter your name on the list, you must use a keyboard. This is a minor issue, as you can leave the name blank, but where’s the fun in that?
Although on paper, this game seems like it has a lot of potential, I must admit I came away a bit disappointed. All of the individual ingredients for a great game seem to be there, but they just don’t add up. Though certainly fun at times, Hyperspace Invader ends up as yet another space shooter. Those looking for a game with a bit more spit and polish might want to pass on this one, especially considering the other games available for the same $19.95.