Such is the premise of Hypership Out of Control! Or it would be if it was a trashy sci-fi novel from 1994. What it actually is is a frantic, retro shoot-em-up with ten levels, five game modes and a brilliantly pitched difficulty curve. Your speed keeps increasing until you die, whether you have finished the game or not. Asteroids and mines fly into your path, unknown alien structures block the way and your tiny space guns do so little damage that most of your time in the Captain's seat will be spent dodging the ever-increasing obstacles.
It is easy to pick up and play, your task is obvious from the outset but the real skill, the real nuance and the real pleasure comes in the balance between risk and reward. This is reflected well in the layout of the coins in the levels Ė they often guide you through safe routes or hide away in treacherous areas to tempt you to your death. It also costs a mere 80 Microsoft Points, which is less than £1.
Of the five game modes, normal is self explanatory: three lives, try and survive all the levels. Hardcore gives you only one life to finish the same task. Super Speed takes away the speed limitation, so you can go faster than warp 9.9. Coin mode is ĎSonic in Spaceí: you have to keep your coin tally topped up, they continually fall from your ship (out of the broken cargo-bay) and you lose a ton of them when you hit an obstacle. If you run out of coins you die. Practice mode is for honing your ship control.
And you will need to hone your ship control. Difficult routes hold the best power-ups and elegant play is rewarded whilst at the same time giving less experienced gamers a more open (albeit lower-scoring) route through the levels. Coins increase scores and scores increase the faster you go. Power-ups play a large part of advanced strategy and multiple playthroughs will be required to learn their layouts. The music is suitably old school and fittingly brilliant. It invokes all the right feelings of traditional shoot-em-ups and none of the wrong ones.
The ability to play with up to four players co-operatively is another great addition. You can help each other out or ruin each other's game-plan. It is a frantic retro shoot-em-up take on the New Super Mario Brothers multiplayer and, although it arguably didnít need to be in the main game, it adds another incentive for potential purchasers. Same-screen co-op is great fun and more games need to remind players of that.
Hypership OoC! proves that you donít need to spend millions on graphics to make a compelling game that eases new players in and gives the hardcore a reason to go back time and time again to destroy their own high scores. Given the current trend for retro demakes, remakes and re-remakes Hypership deserves to find an audience. A new IP, a fantastic price point, addictive, old-school gameplay and a justification for Microsoftís Indie developerís scheme. Get it and see if you can save your cursed, broken star-ship.