In a gaming landscape dominated by competitive online multiplayer games and battle royales it’s always nice to find something that you can gather up on the couch with a friend(s) together and play. Indie developer Bit Dragon has put together one such new game called Hyper Jam, a 1-4 player local (or online) isometric arena brawler/shooter coated in a neon aesthetic.
Hyper Jam is easy to pick up and play for pretty much anyone. There aren’t a lot of modes here to jump into so the first thing I tried out was the local multiplayer. You can jump in and play by yourself against 1-3 other AI bots or add local players if you have them. You pick from one of four different characters, all of which play the same and don’t look that different from one another. You then pick the stage as well as set custom match options if you choose and off you go.
The actual gameplay will be familiar to anyone who has played any of these indie arena games before. You goal is to kill all of the other players and be the last one standing. Controls are simple to learn with the left analog stick controlling your movement and the right stick allowing you to aim. You also have an attack button, a parry button and a dash button. You can also hold your attack button to charge it. Using your fists can deal damage sure but one of the key components of winning comes down to picking up the random weapons that drop around the arena. These include things like a hammer, a rocket launcher, a sword, a bow and a grenade launcher. Each weapon only has so many uses in it before it becomes useless. When that happens here’s a tip for you: instead of dropping it throw it at an opponent to deal some damage instead. Another tip is to charge some of the weapons so that they do more damage. The rocket launcher for instance will turn into a homing rocket when charged while the hammer will deal a ton more damage.
Some stages have environmental hazards too such as a train and holes in the floor that you can fall into. Death is not the end of the round for a player either as once they are dead they can move a cursor around the screen and rain down a laser beam on other players. It operates on a cooldown so you can’t spam it but it’s another interesting wrinkle that the players still alive need to be aware of. If a round drags on too long sudden death kicks in which causes a circle to close in bringing the fight closer and damaging anyone outside of the circle.
Matches are played out in rounds with each player gaining a certain amount of points at the end of each depending on how they performed. These points fill up a progress bar that when full allows the player to win the match if they survive that next round. Another element of each round are the perks that come into play each round after the first one. After each round a screen pops up with random perks that each player must select one of. However the player in last place always gets to pick first with the player in first place having to pick last. This opens up an interesting dynamic and gives players who maybe aren’t doing so well a better advantage. The perks vary from things likes starting with more health, doing elemental damage such as fire or freezing, doing more damage in general and many more. The perks also stack so if you picked one perk one round and then pick it again it will increase the effect of that perk each time. The game was a blast to play and the perk system keeps things different every round you play. Also know that if you are playing against bots they are pretty challenging so don’t overlook them.
The game offers online multiplayer support as well but in my time with it I had trouble finding anyone to play with. The game does have cross-platform matchmaking between PS4 and PC but that still wasn’t making things any easier. If you have online friends with the game though the option is there and I’m glad that it is rather than not being there at all. On PlayStation 4 the game has 12 trophies that I was able to unlock pretty quickly. There is no Platinum trophy sadly but if you like achievement/trophy hunting this is a fairly easy and quick completion. The only other disappointing thing about the game other than the lack of online players is the content itself. There are really no other modes to play and only the same handful of maps to play over and over. There is a leveling system that rewards you with skins and taunts as you level up but I found them kind of pointless.
The other thing I’ll say about Hyper Jam is that Bit Dragon did a great job with both the visuals and soundtrack. The visuals have this cyberpunk, neon look to them with lots of colors in all of the stages. It ran really smooth for me the entire time too. It’s got a fantastic synthwave soundtrack that was just an absolute joy to listen to while playing my matches. I even left it on the main menu running while I was doing some other things in the room just because of how good it sounded.
Despite the lack of content Bit Dragon has made a fun new multiplayer arena game in Hyper Jam. Anyone can pick it up and play and things like the perk system and weapons help keep things different enough as you play round to round. Even more importantly is how good it looks and sounds while doing so. I probably won’t be playing it long by myself but whenever I have some people together it will be on that local multiplayer list of mine for consideration.
*Hyper Jam is out now on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. Reviewed on a PS4 Pro. Review key provided by the publisher for this review.