October 6, 2022
  • October 6, 2022

Hyper Demon Reviews | Rock Paper Shotgun

By on September 21, 2022 0

The best way to explain the difference between Devil Daggers and its surprise sequel is by comparing it to another pair of goth-o-ramas: Devil Daggers is Dark Souls to Hyper Demon’s Bloodborne. Both first-person score-attack shooters are dressed in gorgeous cloaks of similar skulls and gurgling industrial soundscapes, but while Devil Daggers pushes you into cautious survival, Hyper Demon pushes you into aggression. In Hyper Demon, a long, careful run will likely score lower than a short burst of Ultraviolence. What glorious ultraviolence that is!

When I first saw the Hyper Demon trailer, I felt excitement, wonder, and awe. Here’s the important thing to realize: the supernatural, incomprehensible violence you see in this trailer is truly what the game is like. It’s what it feels like to play, too.

I’m delighted that the most beautiful game of 2016 was followed by the most beautiful game of 2022. Its many skulls have a crystalline metamorphosis, shimmering like citrine and shattering the spectrum into rainbow reflections. Devil Daggers meets Skate Story. And when the action resumes and the screen becomes a fisheye view of unfathomable violence navigated by sound and intuition more than sight, my God! Screenshots cannot capture it.

Hyper Demon has the same setup as our favorite game of 2016: you stand atop a barren plane in a void where hovering skulls and other skeletal horrors will spawn for getcha, a wide array of critters with different behaviors. Bony pillars belch swarms of small skulls, skeletal snakes twist and charge at you before retreating into defensive coils, wyrms drift through the skies, big greedy beasts suck power gems into their many maws, and so on. right now. You will die if even one of them touches you, but luckily your hand shoots unholy knives. Either way, you’re dodging, shooting, collecting gems for more powerful attacks, and just trying to put up a good score.

It can get… intense

In Devil Daggers, you’re here to survive as long as possible, with a timer serving as your score. In Hyper Demon, the timer works against you, your score decreases with each passing millisecond (even negative). Killing is what gets you points here. Lots of killing, and fast, fast enough to beat the clock. Hyper Demon puts you on the offensive. The faster you kill, the faster enemies spawn, the harder it becomes, but the greater your potential for violence.

You are encouraged to jump right into the action with new abilities and opportunities. A dodge move works like Bayonetta’s Witch Time, delivering a short burst of slow-motion if you hit space just when a nearby enemy’s eyes are glowing. You can now follow the “dagger jump” (look down and shoot to throw up, like a rocket jump) with a downward stomp that makes enemies more vulnerable to damage. An annoying teleporting enemy can be tricked into descending on their little paws and chasing you. You can also fly, glide and slide to get closer. Power-ups and skillful kills also send the game into slow motion. Hyper Demon wants you deep in the Bone Zone at all times.

In Devil Daggers, there comes a point in a race where, as an intermediate player (my best time is 283 seconds), I know a race is lost. All I can do then is run and dodge in hopes of surviving a few more seconds. At the most intense moment, I focus on flight. Hyper Demon forces me to fight this. With the clock eating away at my score, it’s better to fight than to run out of time. Who knows, maybe I will even survive! At the most intense moment, when hope is slim, I lean heavily into the game and push back. It’s a good twist.

Chased by the reflections of skulls in a Hyper Demon screenshot.

The red reflection of a skull closes behind me, with glowing eyes signaling an opportunity to dodge and enter in slow motion

The game even features a rear view mirror to increase spatial awareness. Enemies following you closely will appear onscreen in front of you as a translucent crimson glint. I was amazed at how quickly it felt natural, not to mention priceless. I still strongly recommend the headphones to understand the sound reflection of the battlefield, of course, without forgetting to enjoy the awful noise.

Hyper Demon sounds great again. It has a few bits of (good) composed music, but for the most part it fills your ears with an emergent soundtrack of weird industrial vibes of daggers throwing and moaning, gurgling, screaming and moaning of enemies. It all sounds so good that after dying in intense races, while I take a break to fortify my constitution, I happily altered and continued to listen to the creatures surrounding my corpse. It’s a real atmosphere. I mean, the vibe is mostly terror. But what anguish!

Here’s a problem: I’m pretty bad at Hyper Demon, and upgrading isn’t intuitive. It has tutorials, offering 13 short playable tracks introducing key aspects of movement, monsters, and killing in a controlled environment. But there’s a huge chasm between learning the lessons of the tutorial and learning the flow of a successful run. Practicing movement, tricks and constant aggression is a process of throwing yourself against an instadeath wall again and again. Although I will never improve without experimentation, daring can get boring when failure leads to a restart. That’s just the type of game it’s about.

Shiny skeletal snakes in a Hyper Demon screenshot.

just snakes

Even more than Devil Daggers, playing Hyper Demon is about submitting to a deadly challenge filled with failures. I understand that many people will find this extremely off-putting, and I understand. I’m persevering because I’ve glimpsed what Hyper Demon can be, and I can’t wait to achieve that more.

In my best runs, I’ve gotten to a point where near-permanent slow motion kicks in, field of view recedes, sound muffles, and the screen fills with wild effects as I bounce and explode and shoot and dodge. I stopped seeing and thinking, and became a conduit for instinctive killing. This is the game I fight to see more.

It has an end, you know. You can beat a final boss and complete this game. This is an achievement is for that. I suspect most players will never reach the end. I doubt I will. But the satisfaction comes from pushing me to do better, commit wilder and weirder violence, and beat my Steam friends on the leaderboards.

Don’t ask me to explain the current world record, because I can’t

Speaking of leaderboards, Hyper Demon is bringing back a great Devil Daggers feature: watching replays of other players’ races right from the leaderboards. I like to see what the best ones handle, even if I can barely understand their movements even with the reduced playback speed. Hyper Demon also lets players cut sections of races, like Twitch clips, that anyone can watch in-game or as videos on its website. It’s zonte.

Although I’m bad at Hyper Demon now, I aim to get ok over time. Or at least my goal is to come back ahead of former RPS resident Matt Cox’s best time. I can hardly wait for him to grow old and shrivel up like me. He will see. Memento Mori, Matthew. Contemplate the skulls.

Back to that dodgy opening comparison. Like Dark Souls and Bloodborne, Devil Daggers and Hyper Demon may look alike at a glance, but the differences are enough to make for an exciting new experience.