This review was originally going to begin with the saying "Imitation is the best form of flattery," but we found that it wouldn't be accurate for Hyperlight EX. While, at first glance, the game looks like a simple Geometry Wars clone, Hyperlight EX soon reveals itself to be something quite different. CatfishBlues Games has taken the score attack shooter genre and taken out most of the shooting, resulting in a fun, frantic, difficult game that arcade fans will surely enjoy.
In Hyperlight EX players control a ship that enters faster-than-light mode (FTL) to collide with and destroy enemies. While in FTL the ship is nigh invulnerable, but it's also quick to drain. Various power ups appear throughout the stage, helping the ship kill the many enemies onscreen, and within a few seconds the 3DS screen is swarming with colour and action.
Of the three modes, Arcade provides the most depth and sense of progression. Each stage culminates in a boss battle that is frantic, fast and challenging; in fact, the entire game is challenging. Hyperlight EX is not for beginners of this genre, and that's not a knock against it. This title requires skill and understanding of how to play effectively, and it's highly satisfying to finally make it to a boss and defeat it after seeing the Game Over screen so many times. Bosses are cleverly designed, with multiple attack patterns and a variety of interesting looks. But for those who aren't used to one-hit kill shoot-em-ups, actually getting to those bosses may prove to be a tough challenge.
Infinite mode is endless (as expected), with the goal simply to beat your high score; bosses appear in this mode, as well. The one weak link is the third mode, Panic, which uses the New 3DS's motion controls. The game instructs the player to hold the system as though it's on a flat table, but that's not a comfortable position. This mode also eliminates Hyperlight altogether, relying on power ups to make kills. It's still fun, but the motion controls slow the momentum down considerably. There are also achievements in the form of medals and local leaderboards.
Hyperlight EX is visually pleasing, with bright, neon enemies and effects. It runs quite well on the New 3DS, even with the 3D turned on; of course, you're advised to turn 3D off if you're playing in Panic mode, as the motion controls don't lend themselves well to stable 3D. The sound is forgettable, with generic music and typical sound effects, but it's not grating and it's never intrusive or annoying.
Hyperlight EX is a fun shoot-em-up high score chaser with an interesting hook. It's recommended for fans of the genre, but for those who aren't used to extremely challenging games like this it may prove to be too intense. Still, Overall it proves to be a worthy new entry in the 3DS library.