Ever wondered what the ‘Toy Story’ movies would look like if only the little army guys had minds of their own, and all of their weapons were real? That’s the inspiration behind ‘Hypercharge: Unboxed’, which received a second lease of life on the PC at the end of February. If you don’t know the story behind the game, chances are you’ll look at it and think it looks pretty cool. If you’ve been following the story since it began, the fact it exists at all is a near miracle.
For those who missed it the first time around, the game is a first-person shooter with incredibly slick graphics for an indie game, produced by British developer Digital Cybercherries. Built on the Unreal game engine, the first version of the game was released in June 2017. Despite appearing great in early previews, players soon ran into a series of serious errors within the game that looked to have doomed it at launch. The discovery of the errors led to finger-pointing and recriminations within the Digital Cybercherries team, and the will to right all the wrongs disappeared. Everybody hated the game, and half the people who worked on it wanted to walk away.
The programmers who have brought the game back to life are very keen to ensure that players only engage with the new version of the game, not the old one. The 2017 version of ‘Hypercharge: Unboxed; can be found if you look hard enough, but Joe and the original four developers have taken the unusual step of calling it a ‘boring cluster mess’ with ‘no idea and no direction.’ So much work has been done on the game since the abortive first attempt that no code whatsoever from the original remains. The graphical style is similar, but it’s been programmed a different way. Every aspect of the game from the AI to the sound has been re-imagined and rebuilt from the ground up.
Joe Henson one of the original developers has elaborated on the problems that beset the team after the first launch. He refers to a segment of the company who were fine with what had been released and didn’t agree with the reported problems, and another segment who hated everything about it and wanted to tear it to shreds. Ultimately it was Lead Game Designer; Ulrich Gollick and Dec Doyle who decided that changes would have to be made. By the time the smoke had cleared, only four developers had chosen to remain with the company, and Henson had to go back to work full time to keep a roof over his head.
The official title of this new ‘Hypercharge: Unboxed’ may be ‘Early Access 2.0′, but in every sense that matters, it’s now a totally new game.
Playing With Toy Soldiers
One of the major criticisms thrown at the first version of the game was that it looked great, but it was mostly empty and lacked substance. That’s the first thing the developers have addressed with the second version. Now, ‘Hypercharge: Unboxed’ is a co-operative shooter in which players must defend a ‘hypercore’ (hence the name of the game), either by way of gunfights or by building protective structures around the core. The latter feature bears similarity to the building functions in ‘Fortnite’ which have proved so popular that full scale rebellions were threatened if Epic dared to make changes to it.
Unlike the fantasy-based environment of ‘Fortnite,’ this game takes place inside a wonderfully-realized three dimensional house, with plenty of winks and nods toward the things you used to do when you played with toy soldiers as a child. The building materials you’ll use to make forts and other structures are made of everyday household objects, and old-fashioned batteries have to be connected in order to provide power to them.
This attention to detail extends to the customization options for your soldiers; when you make changes to them, the old parts snap off, and new parts snap into place as if you were physically swapping parts on a real toy. If you come up against a battery-powered foe, it will keep coming at you even if you shoot off a limb, because that’s how a battery-powered toy would work in real life.
There are hundreds of army or soldier games on the market, but very few which feature toy soldiers. That feels wrong when playing with toy soldiers was such an integral part of so many people’s youth. As with most things we love in childhood, we go through life with an attachment to our favorite toys long after we’ve put the toys in a box and put them back on the shelf, or handed them down to the next generation.
Historically, there have been several successful entertainment products which have used toy soldiers as characters. There’s the ‘Small Soldiers’ movie in the film world, but there have also been games which have been based on toy soldiers. Long-term PC gamers may remember both ‘Cannon Fodder’ and ‘Command & Conquer’ making use of tiny soldiers. Online slot players may have played ‘Small Soldiers’ at UK Slot Games. The slot game isn’t connected to the movie of the same name, and so represents yet another separate use of the theme. If toy soldiers recur again and again from our cinema screens to our video games and casino choices, they must be deeply ingrained into our consciousness.
By releasing this new and improved version of ‘Hypercharge: Unboxed’, Digital Cybercherries are putting us directly back in touch with our childhood memories. That alone is worth thanking them for. The fact that the game is great is a bonus.
Back To Having Fun
Henson’s final thoughts on the new version of the game are ones of relief. It took more than eighteen months to pull the game apart and put it back together again, and so it’s the end of a long road for him and the rest of the team. He says the thing he’s most proud of is that “we all now have fun playing the game, which was never possible for us with the original version
Hypercharge: Unboxed is available to players now on Steam.