Hyperspace, to Dogfight, to Hyperspace, to Dogfight. It’s a simple format, but does it work well?
Hyperspace Dogfights does what it says on the tin, plonking the player in the middle of a dogfight, having them battle through, and then use hyperspace to jump to the next. There isn’t much in the way of story, save for the quick remark your handler makes during the hyper space jump — normally something about you killing a bunch of stuff or that they’re gonna have to cover something up.
The levels are all basically the same, featuring the same sky above the same desert. The more levels you go through though, the harder it gets. Simple.
While at the start you will probably just be facing off a few enemy fighters, over time you’ll get to tango with assault helicopters, flak cannons, and ground-based missile launchers. At the end of the game, there is an armed aircraft carrier, not too far from the shield helicarrier out of the ‘Avengers’. Although it’s a fierce battle, the game is still in alpha, and the dev is looking to make good on their promise of a proper big boss battle in the future.
Your fighter can have several weapons equipped at once (though you can only use one at a time) and you can gain more in between levels. These weapons range from the standard (machine guns and laser guns) to the plain weird (a big spear to shank anything in front of you, or a big sword to wave around like your little brother, clinging tightly on your prized Master Sword replica). You only start off with one randomly selected weapon, any additional ones can be switched at any time just by using the left shift and control, which gives a surprising amount of freedom during combat -once you’ve built up the numbers.
As mentioned before, after you have finished a fight and have warped out, you have the chance to buy additional tools. Money is collected by flying slowly over the place where an enemy died.
Another way to unlock tools is through the loot boxes which occasionally drop into the world; these require also require your hard-earned space bucks; although there’s definitely a correlation between the cost and the contents, unlike traditional loot boxes with their random elements. These boxes will stick around between rounds, so a super expensive box you pick up at the start of the game can stick with you all the way through, tempting you with its promises of delicious death and destruction.
Along with sweet, sweet weaponry, loot boxes can also contain power ups, which are either passive and active abilities. Some are very simple, giving your craft spikes to damage nearby enemy’s, another a better engine for increased speed. But, then you have interesting, quirky ones, like the bomb-bay printer, which will randomly chuck a bomb out the back of your plane when you fire. These abilities stack, so over time you can have a very busy craft, with bit and bobs falling out of every nook and cranny.
Finally, you have your special ability – which you get at the start of the game and stays with you until you die. These abilities are very powerful, and as such take a lot of time to charge up. Charge comes from killing enemies, a deliciously violent vicious-circle. These abilities range from a simple engine boost (to get you out of that bad spot), to bombing runs, and mine layers, which can really change how a map is playing out -especially when those mines hurt you as well.
The flying works really well, with only firing the engine and rotating left and right to worry about. Your plane has a real heft to it, flying and falling with style – just like Buzz Lightyear. Your turning circle is increased when using your engine, so its best to turn it off to get those really tight turns. Your controls are really responsive, allowing you to duck and weave through enemy fire. Some weapons have a really long charging time, with a tiny arc of fire, so a good strategy is to fly in front of an enemy, then turn off your engine and wait for them to fly into your cross hairs, making you feel just like Finn in the Force Awakens.
The combat in Hyperspace Dogfights is really tight, with the enemies equipped with decent AI, filling the sky right in front of you with bully and missiles, yet still giving you a chance to fight back. The worst thing, though, is the bloody SAMs — fired in batches of three, they lock onto you and relentlessly pursue from one end of the level to the other, ever growing closer. Undeterred by the hail of fire you can put out, there’s only really a few ways to get rid of them: flying just below the damaging cloud cover, or just above the ground. You can let their serpentine movement crash themselves, or, -and I’ve only pulled this off twice- you can fly close to an enemy plane, then perform a short jump (right click) and manage to get to vicious missiles to lock onto the hapless, soon shredded, enemy craft.
Hyperspace Dogfights is a tight little game, and channels a lot of the feelings of the arcade with it’s controls, and with those split-second moments where you can’t tell if it was luck or skill that kept you intact. While it does not, currently, have much variety in it, much is promised for future releases.
Best suited for short games, or maybe competitive couch gaming, it’s fun, short, and enjoyable.