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During BitSummit I had the chance to talk with James Barnard, the founder of Springloaded. I was particularly interested in learning about their two upcoming Switch titles, Görsd, and Ultra Hyperball. Both looked like they were incredibly strong multiplayer titles that have the potential to really connect with a wide range of audiences. Today, I get to see if Ultra Hyperball passed its goal in delivering this type of content to the Switch.
Ultra Hyperball is best described as a game of ‘keep-up’. The goal is simple: don’t let the ball touch the ground!
Note: James Barnard provided a review copy to Source Gaming.
The story is about a 17 year old boy named Jay who dreams of becoming a Hyperball Champion. Some levels have some dialogue in their introduction but it never feels mandatory/overbearing. The story is pretty light — no voice acting, and usually entails Jay just saying something like ‘I need to train to be the best!’ The story was cute but it doesn’t feel like an integral part of the experience.
However, that’s okay — Ultra Hyperball is very much about its gameplay and that’s where it excels.
Each set of levels breaks up the gameplay style. In total, there are eight sets of five levels and five standard VS. types. Of the 40 levels, 15 are co-op. The rest are single player and have various control options. I’ve played the game for about five hours and have unlocked nearly every single player level (Of those five hours about an hour was co-op). However, completing them efficiently in order to earn a ‘gold medal’ is tough. Earning gold medals unlocks new characters to use, but this is purely a cosmetic difference.
For the first set of levels, players can only jump. This allows players to really understand the timing of the jump.
The next set of levels requires players to use the touch screen to time their jumps. As players are controlling multiple people These levels were incredibly frustrating for me — possibly the hardest set out of the single player levels.
The third set uses tilt controls which can be hit or miss. The controller can be recalibrated by pressing L or ZL. Luckily these levels tend to be more forgiving.
The fourth set is where the game finally takes off its’ training wheels. This is where players are free to move around using the joystick.
The last set again uses tilt controls are once again pretty forgiving.
The game makes use of a lot of different features of the Switch — gyro, touch, HD rumble. It’s really great to see a game that took a lot of the core features of the Switch and use them. Ultra Hyperball is a game that’s meant to be played in short bursts. It loads up quickly enough, and it’s simple enough to explain to friends. After all, the game is a ‘one-button game’.
There isn’t online play, and no option to play against the A.I. outside of the challenges. So I feel like once the main campaign is finished, Ultra Hyperball will really shine as a quick pick up and play game. A game that is best played at a party with lots of friends.
For people who play by themselves, some of the characters are locked behind co-op missions. This means for some play styles, some of the unlockables will be impossible to attain. This could be solved if online co-op is introduced, and I hope something that Springloaded will consider.
Ultra Hyperball feels really good to play. The HD rumble makes it feel incredibly satisfying to hit the ball at the top of the jump. The music is great and doesn’t get annoying at all. A plus is that the music changes every so often after retrying a level. This means that even after players start the same level for the tenth time the music won’t be driving players insane! The graphics are pretty clean, and the UI has all of the elements that it needs. It’s sometimes difficult to hit the ball when it’s in the “in-between” zone — that is, on the edge of the screen before it loops around. I’ve lost a number of balls in this area.
Overall, I think Ultra Hyperball is a good arcade pick up and play game for the Switch. The challenges are fun, but I worry about the long term replayability once all the medals are won. Ultra Hyperball is strongly suggested for those who carry their Switch around. It’s an easy game to introduce to people and will be fun to play. The game has constantly kept me engaged (even if the touch control levels are frustrating) and I’ve found myself saying “okay, this will be my last attempt” for well over an hour. This was also the case with the person I played some of the co-op missions and multiplayer with. It’s a good game to have on your Switch but not a must own — especially for single player enthusiasts.
Ultra Hyperball is 9.99 USD.