Sunday, May 13

Review: Hyper Sentinel [Nintendo Switch eShop]

Between playing at the arcades and going home to play games on my Commodore 64 (for Europeans just switch out for the ZX Spectrum) the early to mid 80s were a great time for being a gamer. While obviously the graphics you could get on a home system weren’t in any way comparable to what you’d see on dedicated hardware the quality of the games on these systems was quickly evolving. One popular game from this era was the space shooter Uridium, putting you in the pilot seat of a fighter determined to bring down a series of powerful Dreadnoughts. Hyper Sentinel is a somewhat spiritual neo-retro reinvention of that original, taking many of the gameplay elements and creating a retro experience with a more modern flair.

Mastering the basics of the game isn’t terribly difficult, though as you move on to higher levels the demands put on you increase pretty rapidly. You have the ability to move up and down, change direction, shoot, and boost. You’ll quickly get to know what each of the power-ups you’ll see represent, and though you’ll likely prefer some to others the good news is that though they’re temporary they will stack. Your primary objective is to wipe out each Dreadnought’s ground defenses, which will then trigger it’s Guardian to attack you. Wipe out the Guardian and the Dreadnought will be destroyed. Each ship’s layout will vary, and the nature of their defenses will steadily get tougher. Barriers on the ground you can’t fly over and energy shields that not only block you but do damage are just 2 examples but by the last ship you’ll find there are a wide variety of elements put in place to take you down.

Where things get complicated, and nuanced, is in everything layered on top of that. You’ll have to constantly keep an eye on your shield, as once things get intense it will deplete on you quickly. In Arcade mode if you’re able to keep from being hit for a given period of time it will replenish but that often puts you at odds with your score multiplier which you’ll typically want to keep high, but to do so demands that you’re constantly taking out enemies. Technique will often play a vital role in latter boss fights as well, since mastery of changing direction at just the right time is a key to survival as that temporarily makes you invulnerable. The feeling of aggressively coming at a boss and turning repeatedly at just the right time to nullify their return fire is quite satisfying. As you beat each stage in Arcade mode that will then unlock the Survival and Boss modes as well, with Survival demanding that you last X minutes (good luck on the last level making it 4 minutes), and Boss Mode focusing just on your taking down each stage’s Guardian, just for the most part with no power-ups to raise the stakes. Of course global online leaderboards will help you tally your success for all of this as well.

While I would say this is all by the game’s design, it being arcade-like, I’d say about the only criticism I can come up with is how completely different every run you have is. Perhaps where it would be more of a criticism would be in Survival mode where which power-ups you randomly get drastically affect how long you’ll last. You’ll need skill and a strategy to be successful, no doubt, but when you feel like you’re running a string of shield power-ups that is unusually generous it can seem a bit too random. There are times when in Arcade mode you just happen to trigger the Guardian at the same time a major bonus appears which you’ll then lose while you can’t move, and this is annoying, but perhaps not as significant. I think it would be more fair if anything that appeared in this window would either stay stuck in place or even automatically awarded. You instantly losing it kind of blows since it is out of your control.

Overall, Hyper Sentinel is a real treat for fans of retro gaming as it celebrates so many things, including the look, the absolutely excellent music, and a challenging style of play that will never go out of style. The fact that time was spent to layer in modern graphical touches that look incredible but don’t overshadow the retro look is very much appreciated and the sheer volume of insanity regularly on-screen more than demonstrates this game couldn’t have been possible back in the day. If you’re a retro gaming fanatic, or appreciate a good and challenging arcade-style shooter, Hyper Sentinel is highly recommended.

Score: 8

  • The looks and sounds scream retro while the quality and intensity are very well modern
  • Multiple modes and skill levels will test gamers at any level of experience
  • Online leaderboards help create a motivation to put up an unbeatable score

  • Game to game power-ups can seem more generous/stingy
  • The pause when Guardians appear makes you lose power-ups or bonus multipliers that are on-screen at that moment
  • If you don’t appreciate arcade-style games it is likely a pass for you