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Hyposphere Review

Hyposphere, overall, was an underwhelming experience.

It touts itself as an Unreal Engine 4 game, but aside from offering screen resolutions more than double normal HD and benefiting from the engines powerful lighting system, the title is surprisingly somewhat lackluster from a visual standpoint. For starters, the game seems to offer no anti-aliasing to speak of, and even on higher resolutions I found this painfully apparent. Further, graphics customization is limited to two sliders and a list of resolutions.

Let's go a bit deeper on those visuals though: Hyposphere has some lovely backgrounds, but the fixed camera angle prevents the player from really taking them in, and the actual foreground leaves a lot to be desired. The models used to create the stages themselves are simple, with little in the way of visual flair. The textures, no matter the resolution, look low resolution, and are also generally simple and bland. So, combined, Hyposphere is visually something of a mess, which I found disappointing because there were hints at potential for a beautiful surrealism.

Hyposphere is visually something of a mess, which I found disappointing because there were hints at potential for a beautiful surrealism.

But, why am I hammering the visuals when I haven't even addressed the title as a game? Well – aside from them really just being that disappointing – the gameplay is sadly somewhat under par as well. It's all well and good for a marble roller to be hard, but it behooves the game to have physics that feel like they make sense. Hyposphere does not. The ball feels extremely jumpy and hard to control, with the slightest bump in the ground sending it flying, even when just prior it seemed to have not been moving very quickly at all. This is a potent side effect of another negative, actually, because it's also sometimes very difficult to really gauge how quickly the ball is moving (which a fixed camera angle only exacerbates).

All of that might be overlooked, though, if it wasn't for the way the title handles aerial control, which is to say there is none (directly), but even though you can't control your path the moment your marble is airborne, you can continue to apply force and worse - momentum - to the point where upon landing your ball shoots away uncontrollably. I'll reiterate that the slightest contact with a non-flat surface has the potential to send you flying, and I think it becomes clear how this awkward aerial handling can become a serious problem. Combine with floors that can occasionally just be glitched through if you're going fast enough for a truly wonderful experience... not.

At this point I found myself wondering if there was anything else substantive that was inhibiting the experience. What even was left? Level design, I came to after playing a bit more, and boy do I have a few more choice words for this aspect. Level design in marble rollers can go a few ways, from intricate and puzzle-like, to a more fluid, flowing aspect that rewards skill more than wit. Hyposphere seems to at least recognize this, as the slower, more obstacle-laden maps are actually somewhat fun, providing a certain level of challenge while not forcing the player to partake in more difficult optional sections if they wish not to. Sadly, the maps that ostensibly look like they're designed for speed have hazards thrown on almost at random in some instances, and generally did not lend themselves to the kind of break-neck speed it's possible to get the marble going. Unfortunately, both types of track are severely undermined by the hypersensitive physics and controls.

Since we're on the subject of the track types, it's worth mentioning that there are actually a few types of item pickup that can be found in the game. There are coins, little score crystals, and various powerups. The coins can be spent at a shop between levels to unlock new skins or buy lives, while I was never able to determine what, if anything, the score crystals are for. If they really only keep track of score that seems redundant, but that isn't a major gripe, since they do at least offer some variety to the collectibles aspect.

The levels do introduce new mechanics gradually in the form of unique level obstacles like falling platforms or laser walls blocking the way intermittently.

Variety is a thing Hyposphere does well, at least. While I was frustrated with the look of levels from an artistic standpoint, and I felt the layout of a number of them was weak from a level design perspective, I did appreciate that despite these the level layouts were unique enough from each other to be actually somewhat memorable. Further, the levels do introduce new mechanics gradually, coming in the form of unique level obstacles like falling platforms or laser walls blocking the way intermittently. It was enough to keep me on my toes from time to time at least.

I also have to give Hyposphere this: the soundtrack was pleasant and despite repeated deaths I didn't find it particularly grating as one sometimes does. It's not something I would really call a selling point; I wouldn't expect anyone to pick it up for the music, but it's unobtrusive and, perhaps surprisingly, even managed to set a mood that tied in nicely to the level in those brief windows of time when my mood wasn't just frustration with the physics engine.


The Verdict

Hyposphere is a game that could have been more. It could have leveraged the Unreal Engine 4 more, it could have put more effort into textures and modeling. It absolutely could have put more into graphics control options and the UI in general, and, most disappointingly, it could have done so much more to make the gameplay smooth and inviting. But it didn't, and while I am generally the type to enjoy marble rollers, I can't see myself ever picking up Hyposphere again without it receiving some serious love from the devs.

Written by Colt Kortekaas
Thursday, 12 May 2016 00:00
Published in Strategy



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