Hyperlight Ultimate is a hectic and challenging twin-stick shooter with a twist: instead of gunning enemies down, you speed up and crash into them. With smooth controls, chaotic modes, boss fights, multiplayer battles, and a cosmic look heavily inspired by Geometry Wars, this definitive version of the New 3DS title Hyperlight EX has a lot to offer. Fans of the original game and of the genre in general should certainly check this one out. While it does get a little repetitive after long sessions, Hyperlight Ultimate is the sort of game that you can revisit again and again over time as you rack up one high score after another.
The Faster Than Light (FTL) mechanic is central to gameplay. Activated by holding down the B button, FTL speeds up your ship and enables it to crash through enemies. Other than the short-lived weapon pickups scattered about the map, this is the only way to take down enemies. However, you can only handle so much FTL at a time. There is a meter at the top of your screen that drains when FTL is activated and is replenished by picking up FTL fuel drops, which appear throughout the map. In addition to FTL drops, you can also find single-use weapons that will greatly help to thin out the massive, seemingly-endless enemy hordes.
Gameplay is strengthened by creative boss battles and screen-crowding enemy formations. Opposing ships will align themselves in ways that force you into specific routes around the screen, such as screen-spanning horizontal or vertical rows. Other times, numbered enemy clusters will pop up that you must deal with in numerical order. While dealing with screens full of bogeys, these little twists go a long way in ensuring that every small encounter forces you to think critically. You must find a steady balance between conserving FTL and blasting through as many enemies as possible.
Boss battles are also great, and they generally require evasive maneuvers and smart attacks while forcing you to attack from specific angles with meticulous methods. I specifically remember one early boss where several space worms came at me at once. They had to be charged at from the back or side, and since there were so many of them, I had to weave through a lot of thin gaps to safely navigate before trying to attack.
Staying in the lanes
Unfortunately, the creativity in enemy formations and boss battles is partially wasted since it does not extend to enemy variety. Several of the longer missions get repetitive early on. Different modes do not alleviate this. One mode simply has endless enemies, while another builds itself around some absolutely awful tilt controls. During longer levels, the repetition grows from a nuisance to a mind-numbing affair. As a result, I often put down Hyperlight Ultimate pretty quickly.
As a remake of a New 3DS title, Hyperlight Ultimate has made a few additions and tweaks from the original. Hyperlight EX’s punishing difficulty has been toned down here due to a few small adjustments. In arcade mode, you now have three lives instead of one, and there are auto-firing drones you can pick up that will help you in the heat of battle. Through those tweaks, the developers managed to preserve the original game experience quite well while easing up on the difficulty. Aside from simple changes, Hyperlight Ultimate also sports a new multiplayer combat mode. It should not be the reason you buy the game, but the smooth controls and combat translate pretty well to a versus setting.
Ultimately, Hyperlight Ultimate is a solid entry in its genre. It is colorful, smooth, difficult, and comes packed with replay value. Unfortunately, it often does become repetitive. If you were not already a fan of the genre, this will not be the game that converts you. Should you be looking for a twin-stick shooter, though, Hyperlight Ultimate is an impressive and affordable title that is absolutely worth a look.
The publisher provided a code for this review. Our review policy.