Hyperforma, originally released on iOS back in March of 2018, is a hacking game based around block-breaking mechanics very much in the style of good old Atari classic Breakout. Set in a delightfully dark and malevolent version of cyberspace, it sees you take control of The User, who must delve deep into The Great Network – a mysterious creation left behind by The Ancients – to uncover the strange secrets of its creators. In order to do this, you must break through the shifting defences of a series of rotating 3D puzzles in order to target and hit their central cores, in doing so shutting them down and moving deeper into the system.
Taking the very basic gameplay of a block-breaker, developer Fedor Danilov makes things more interesting by adding to the usual straightforward aim and ricochet mechanics. There's lots of feedback to each attack you make on a puzzle's defence modules here, making your shots zing, feeling more like a sniper's well-aimed bullets than simple block bashes. There are also skills to unlock by gaining XP that see your little golden hero increase in power, clone itself to attack multiple areas of a puzzle at a time, increase the damage radius of its attacks, and so on. All of these skills can also be upgraded in a variety of ways over the course of the game; you can choose to have shorter cooldown periods, for example, or perhaps have your preferred skills become available right at the beginning of a round rather than sit through an inactive period before they can be fired off.
Puzzle cubes are also manually rotated in three dimensions by the player, helping to give each level much more depth, with constant manipulation absolutely essential to lining up shots on troublesome defence modules or into small spaces to maximise ricochet damage. Having to twist and turn the play area also makes things feel much more immediately involving as you've got more to do than simply time your chance and slap a button to fire off a shot.
All of this onscreen action is presented in an impressively beautiful way with each level looking like an almost hellish cyberpunk version of the likes of Monument Valley, full of pulsating neon lines and glyphs, towering robotic demigods and foreboding cyber-chasms. Puzzle cubes throb and warp in time to the soundtrack and the whole thing has a rather impressively unsettling tone to it.
Instead of having you simply move from level-to-level smashing stuff apart for no real reason, there is also a decent (if somewhat confusing) narrative framing the action with each multi-level chapter seeing you take on various cyberspace behemoths, living interfaces and guardians of the matrix, who you take down bit by bit by destroying their cores, whittling at their defences before engaging them in a final boss battle.
One problem we did find with Hyperforma, at the outset especially, is that, although it has a tutorial, it doesn’t really explain enough about its deeper mechanics – in particular, the various glyphed blocks that adorn the defensive systems you are attacking. This led to us not really having any clue what we were trying to achieve in hitting certain areas of the early puzzles as we didn’t know what their defensive functions were. All of these things are of course revealed eventually but, especially in the first chapter, you’re left guessing what most of the small details are, left instead to just whack away at cubes, spinning them around randomly and hoping for the best.
As things progress and you unlock more skills, becoming increasingly more powerful, you’ll also find that things become perhaps a little too easy. There's still an enormous amount going on in each level and death can happen frequently and abruptly, but it does feel as though tactics can, if you choose, be almost entirely discarded in favour of blasting away at each cube, eventually finding your way to the centre through brute force rather than using puzzle smarts.
Having said that, each level is augmented with challenges to make things a little more interesting and discourage just blasting away randomly. You’ll be rewarded for reaching the core in a set time limit, minimising connection interruptions, which is to say avoiding blocks which reset the entire puzzle’s defences, or destroying a predetermined number of defence modules before setting your sights on the final takedown.
Hyperforma does a great job of making what is essentially a straightforward hacking game feel pretty awesome and lining up a long-range effort through tight defences, timing your attack and rotating the puzzle to just the right angle to allow your hero to blast through the narrowest opening to take down a core does have a bit of 'Luke’s Death Star torpedo-shot' cool to it. There have also been a handful of additions made to this Switch version, the headline being a two-player versus mode which adds a reasonable amount of life to proceedings, as well as a revamped and reworked UI, gyro controls and HD rumble; pretty much everything you could ask for in a Switch port, beyond touchscreen controls. The game also performs perfectly in both docked and handheld modes and really does look stupendously pretty in action.
Hyperforma was well-received when it released on IOS last year and it's a genuinely inventive and stylish little puzzle game that adds enough to the tried-and-tested block-breaking format to make it worth seeking out, if this type of thing is your cup of tea. Unlocking skills as you progress does render a little of the challenge obsolete as you can choose to let tactics take a back seat and just blast away at blocks to brute force the victory but, if you play within the rules and try to clear all those tricky side challenges, you'll find a tasty little puzzler here that's well worth the small entry fee.