Review: Hypercharged Unbox – A Fragtastic Throwback Shooter

Nostalgia Abounds

Hypercharge Unboxed is an engaging and rewarding shooter – the type we sorely need more of these days

I have long since past the age of being “too old” to keep up with moderrn shooters, but if I’m being honest, I’m not all that upset about it. Having retired from playing Call of Duty with 2022’s Modern Warfare 2, I’m glad I don’t have to slide, crouch-spam, bunny hop and play whatever “meta” is happening in the game at the time to even stand a chance. Without a regular shooter to play, I felt like a piece of me is missing. That is, until I discovered Hypercharge Unboxed from developer/publisher Digital Cybercherries.

The game’s character design takes inspiration from 80’s and 90’s Saturday morning cartoons such as G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero, Dino-Riders, and He-Man & the Masters of the Universe. The release date trailer for the game cleverly blends gameplay as well as an intro for the Hypercharge cartoon that exists in the game’s universe. Complete with a rockin’ intro song that introduces the cartoon’s plot, the blurred VHS-rip look somehow gives me nostalgia for something that doesn’t technically exist. We’re off to a fantastic start!

Not only does the game feature starting characters inspired by Saturday morning cartoons, but you’re able to unlock extra parts to customise these characters further. While some of these additional parts are fantastic, some of them feel unrelated to the character’s original design, so I’m less inclined to use those. If there’s a Hypercore sequel in the works, I hope that all of the additional unlocks relate to the original character. Think of when Batman has a scuba suit, or is a knight with a battle axe, something like that.

Tower Defense

On an Epic Scale

Being a tower defense shooter, Hypercharge Unboxed sees players defending the Hypercore from waves of enemy toys and action figures. They’ll place turrets and traps, but they’re also free to run, jump, shoot and launch themselves all over the game’s various levels. The game is up to four players in co-op, with bots filling the vacant slots should the player count be less than full. Obviously, the game is bext experienced with a full team of friends, but the bots mostly manage to hold their own.

Upon starting the game, a cutscene in the style of a comic book introduces the player to the game’s plot. Max ammo defends the Hypercores from Major Evil, who is hellbent on destroying them. The Hypercores hold all the powerful nostalgia people have from playing with their favourite toys. If Major Evil completes his evil mission, people will forget about those toys and perhaps, lose a massive part of themselves as well.

Games such as Grounded offer players a literal new perspective on everyday environments, with backyard features such as ponds, long grass, and forgotten toys all represented in staggering size and detail. Hypercharge Unboxed embraces map design in a way that takes full advantage of its premise, with bedrooms, toolsheds, playgrounds and even hallways all offering engaging shooting with an epic sense of scale.

Bobbleheads and Jumping On Beds

While not necessary to completing to defending the Hypercores, each level offers tons of options for exploration, whether its simply for fun, finding a collectible, or gaining advantageous high ground in a firefight. In fact, the contrast in gameplay between online versus modes and the campaign is fascinating, in that they both showcase the game’s versatility. One map might see you building turrets and standing behind defensive walls in campaign, then flying from launchpad to launchpad, running along the top of a doorframe, then diving onto a bed that feels like it’s hundreds of feet below.

In addition to the primary goal of protecting the Hypercore, each level has a number of unique optional challenges to complete as well. From collecting coins, to finding bobbleheads and clearing jumps from one landmark to another, each map encourages exploration in an engaging fashion. These are also able to be completed in Free Roam mode, should you find balancing defending the Hypercores while completing a challenge checklist a little too arduous.

Serviceable Tower Defense Meets Versatile Guns

With regards to its gameplay, Hypercharge Unboxed exceeds expectations overall, however the tower defense elements don’t reinvent the wheel. The subgenre has made a comeback these past few years (shout out to franchises like Orcs Must Die! for keeping the flames alive) but it feels as though it is past innovation, ultimately. Instead, we see refined, balanced and accessible mechanics that serve their purpose. You already know what to expect, you’ll plant traps such as the gas trap, explosive trap, turrets, defensive walls and more as you shoot waves of baddies all vying to destroy the Hypercore.

So the tower defense elements are perfectly fine, but how are the guns and the gunplay? After all, the only thing more important than the defenses in Hypercharge Unboxed are the weapons the players wield themselves. Thankfully, there are plenty of options available for even the most discerning shooter fan. Grenade launchers, shotguns, sniper rifles, assault rifles, and some more fantastical weapons all feature. Not only that, but you can find and purchase weapons parts while on missions to change the performance of an equipped weapon. I managed to turn my trust assault rifle into an ultra-accurate long-range weapons, able to be transformed into a spread-shot short-range cannon on the fly.

I will say that while it may be tempting to use a certain weapon in campaign mode, I fell back onto one or two different types and stuck with them. This contrasts with the multiplayer modes where finding a random weapon adds tension and excitement as you never truly know what you’re going to get. You might hope to find a laser or mini-gun that absolutely belts players, but find a shotgun or other short-range weapon, forcing you to change your tactics quickly – or wind up fragged.

One other issue I found is there is a lack of turning off visual effects in the game’s settings. One thing in particular that grinds my gears is when aiming your weapon, the game blurs its visuals (unless using a sniper rifle). This feels counter-intuitive and unrealistic, even for a game about toy warfare.

Online is a Brilliant Throwback

There’s something truly special about Hypercharge’s multiplayer modes, too. It would have been easy to build an experience that feels like other shooters of today, but instead, Digital Cybercherries have crafted online modes that harken back to the glory days of the FPS games of yesteryear. The action is fast-paced, the weapons varied, and some of the maps have focused on verticality and mobility. It isn’t as frantic as Unreal Tournament or Quake III: Arena, but you’ll still be flying through the air from a launchpad, slinging grenades and explosives downard at your hapless foes, then burrowing into a sniper nest, popping shots at those foolish enough to run around without a proper-formed strategy.

Perfectly Playable and Enjoyable, Straight Out of the Box

Hypercharge Unboxed is an engaging and rewarding shooter – the type we sorely need more of these days. Another welcome feature is that the game has been refined in Early Access and has launched on Xbox in a state of completion. You can pick up the game now, frag some baddies or other players, earn parts for your character, and call it a day. You don’t need to purchase DLC or microtransactions, and nothing has been omitted from the player and sold back to them at a premium price later. Kudos to Digital Cybercherries.

While the story didn’t blow my mind, it was perfectly serviceable. To be fair, it accomplishes its goal of serving the game’s premise. I wasn’t expecting anything epic or evocative, and it certainly surpasses something like the Army Men games.

Conclusion

If you’re a shooter fan of a certain age, Hypercharge Unboxed is an absolute must-have. If you’re younger and the premise has you interested, ditto. The game takes tower defense and melds it with stylish as heck characters, varied and interesting weapons, and engrossing multiplayer modes. This is how shooters should be.

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