The Switch has been blessed with a multitude of great games of all sizes and sizes since launch, although there are a couple of genres which were lacking until relatively recently. Racers, for example - especially more realistic ones - were thin on the ground for a while, and the console wasn't blessed with an abundance of quality First-Person Shooters, either. Thankfully, that is gradually changing over time, although UK-based indie dev Digital Cybercherries reckons that there's still plenty of space for expansion in Switch's inventory of FPS games. When you look at the wealth of incredible options on other consoles, it's hard to disagree.
In HYPERCHARGE: Unboxed you are a child's plaything, but one that does battle side-by-side with your best pals. It's a local (or online) co-op FPS with a shot of tower defence and a dash of old-school retro splitscreen action which puts you in the tiny shoes of customisable G.I. Joe-a-likes as they defend against hordes of evil toys from across the other side of the kitchen (or other household area).
The Switch trailer caught our eye just after the game was first revealed in a montage during the Indie World Showcase last August, and it has been in Early Access on Steam for a couple of years. It's coming to Switch on 31st January, so we recently caught up with the team (Public Relations and Marketing Manager Joe Henson, Lead Programmer and Game Designer Dec Doyle and Lead Audio Engineer and Game Designer Ulrich Gollick) to find out more...
For anyone unfamiliar with Digital Cybercherries or Hypercharge: Unboxed, can you give us a little history about the studio and tell us about the game?
Henson: Hypercharge: Unboxed is a cooperative First-person shooter about living toys. You must work together with your friends to protect the HYPER-CORE. If it’s destroyed, you can bid farewell to your human friends. They’ll forget about you. It’ll be like you never existed. For the future of toy-kind, do not fail!
The game now has progression, balance, unlockables, new enemies, new weapons along with attachments, new levels, and a much more satisfying gameplay loop [compared to its Early Access launch]
We want the player to truly feel like a small toy. The environments are very authentic and detailed, they offer a sense of immersion. And when you're playing from the perspective of a pint-sized action figure, we’ve made sure it feels extremely accurate. The game focuses on realism. I know that may sound silly – 'You’re a toy that is alive, how is that realistic?' – but hear me out. We’ve all had imaginary battles with our toys as kids. And what was so interesting about them? They seemed so darn real. It was as if you were right there, amid it all. Lining your army men up, holding your toy plane and nose diving it into battle… You are in the mind of your younger self re-enacting your imaginary battles. Overall, being able to play as a small plastic soldier is fantastic. It opens a box of fun possibilities, and Hypercharge: Unboxed gives the player a lot of freedom when in-game.
Digital Cybercherries was founded in 2015. We’re a group of very close friends who share the same passion; we believe players are an integral part to the creation of the games we make. We always listen to feedback and value what the fans have to say. Oh, and we hate Pay-to-Win and Loot-boxes. You will never find that type of stuff in any of our games.
How did the project take off initially? What inspirations did you look to when developing Hypercharge: Unboxed (video games or otherwise)?
Henson: The development of Hypercharge: Unboxed started in 2015. We finally released an alpha version of the game via Steam Early Access in 2017, and it currently holds a 90% Very Positive rating. Most of us on the team are 90s babies, growing up with epic movies such as Small Soldiers and Toy Story. This gave us inspiration to create something that packs a ton of nostalgia. We loved the idea of being a small plastic toy, where the environment is much bigger than you. There’s a constant fear of danger. So, we thought, why not create a game where you can work together, but also battle against each other.
The game has been available in Early Access on Steam for around two-and-a-half years. Has it changed much over that time? If so, how?
We have always developed with a mindset that focuses on optimisation, which helped make the process [of porting to Switch] a more feasible challenge
Henson: Very much so. Hypercharge: Unboxed has been built with our hands, but from the vision of our players. Since its initial Early Access release, we've had a huge redesign of the game. Pretty much all core mechanics including; gameplay AI, physics, wave spawning, level layouts, and balance were re-designed or re-built to be more robust and scalable, as this allowed us to take the game into a new direction. Or rather, the community’s direction. The game now has progression, balance, unlockables, new enemies, new weapons along with attachments, new levels, and a much more satisfying gameplay loop that has players wanting to return to each map with new tactics to try and tackle the new scaling dynamic difficulty.
You’ve chosen to bring the game to Switch ahead of other consoles – what was your thinking behind that decision?
Doyle: We chose to bring the game first to Switch because we felt like the platform could do with a few more fun couch co-op/multiplayer first-person shooters, almost everyone on the team already owns a Switch and we all love shooters, and basically once we had the game running on the Switch we knew we had to share this with other Switch gamers who are just as FPS-starved as we are.
How have you found working with Switch? What have been the most challenging areas of development?
Gollick: From a technical standpoint, we had to be very careful in that everything was on par with the PC version. Those who have worked with the Switch before probably know what we mean. For example, we made sure the audio was optimised to the maximum, without there being any noticeable changes. We have always developed with a mindset that focuses on optimisation, which helped make the process a more feasible challenge. Overall, we’re extremely happy that nothing is missing [and we didn't have] to downgrade any of the audio elements. This means we can still offer a very clean and cool soundscape and experience for the players.
Will there be any differences between the game on PC and the Switch version? Will the Switch version feature motion aiming?
Doyle: We hope to keep the differences between the platforms to a minimal for the main base game, but there may be extra content for the Switch either on or close to launch. The Switch version does allow for use of Motion Controller aiming.
As well as online and local co-op play, 4-player split screen is also available on Switch, although only when the console is docked – which means it won’t work on Switch Lite. Is this a technical limitation or due to the diminished screen real estate of having four players on the same portable screen?
Doyle: The Handheld version CAN run up to 4 players, but players may be warned that the screen real estate does make it difficult, and that even though it will run, it will use a lot of processing power and battery to do so. We initially did not allow this, but after some last-minute optimisation before release, we managed to make it work in Handheld.
Lovely. Anything else about the game you'd like to mention?
Henson: Once Hypercharge: Unboxed is released, we will monitor player feedback and work closely with the community to improve the game. Any bugs you may encounter, we will do our best to squash them right away. We are also going to implement a fully working tutorial soon after launch.
Finally, if you had to pick your favourite 4-player split screen retro game – Nintendo or otherwise - what would it be and why?
The team: Favourite 4 player split-screen retro? GoldenEye, easy. It’s a classic and we’ve had many awesome memories from it!
Our thanks to the team - you can catch them on Twitter or Discord. Hypercharge: Unboxed is releasing on 31st January on the Switch eShop, with pre-purchase available from 13th Jan with 10% off its $19.99 launch price. Let us know below what you think and keep your eyes peeled for our verdict later in the month.