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Thursday, June 13, 2024

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Review: Ultra Hyperball (Switch)

This may look like a retro-style sports game but I can assure you it isn’t. Ultra Hyperball is a game that just happens to have a helmet-wearing character as the central protagonist. What players do here is nothing like football or soccer. But before I talk about how the game does play, how about we go over the plot?


The story of this game focuses on a young wannabe athlete working at a place that sells noodles; he strives to enter the Hyperball Federation, no matter how “old” he is to start a sporting career. It’s kinda funny seeing how serious this clich├ęd plot goes when taking into account how extremely simple the game itself is (which I suppose is the intention, anyway). I’ll explain more about that later on.


Well, color me impressed! The pixel art in Ultra Hyperball is excellent stuff! Backgrounds are filled to the brim with details and the action moves at a super-smooth silky framerate without a drop in sight. There is also a very wide cast of varied characters; while they don’t have unique gameplay abilities or anything like that, they offer plenty of eye candy in their own right.


The music is appropriately on-point for something like this. There aren’t a lot of pieces in the soundtrack, but what’s there is deliciously upbeat and catchy. The sound effects are equally stimulating and have a nice sense of reward to them when the ball is struck or when a mission is complete.


Alright, get this: You hit a ball into the air by jumping. That’s it. There are variations that make the player do a teeny bit more, but that doesn’t change how extremely simple this is. Despite the simplicity, Ultra Hyperball is split into forty missions. Twenty-five of them are single-player missions, while fifteen are for co-op multiplayer. The missions themselves are further split into different types of gameplay, such as getting to run around, using touch controls, etc. The result is actually more fun than it should be, somewhat bearing a resemblance to the classic Game & Watch game, Chef. Still, it only goes so far before the appeal starts to wear.

My issue with Ultra Hyperball, aside from its Kid Tripp-esque length, is that it doesn’t really capitalize on the established gameplay mechanics. The basic goal is always the same: Hit the ball into the air as high or as much as you can. The execution of the core gameplay is entertaining but what if I don’t want to use tilt controls or stop using the TV to play my Switch just to do the touch-screen missions? Players don’t really have a choice if they want to play all the missions. This applies to the multiplayer as well. It can be more fun to play with friends, but even during the versus mode, the game will randomly alternate between control styles to keep them on their toes. I just don’t believe that’s a good enough substitute for further ways to experiment with the gameplay itself.


Ultra Hyperball briefly explores a simple premise, but the best way to enhance the fun factor of it is if there’s more done with it. Using different control styles for different sets of missions isn’t a bad idea per se, but it’s not something that could fill the void for more depth. If you like the sound of its simplicity and are interested in playing the missions (especially with friends), then there may be some merit here. It’s hard for me to give this game a higher recommendation, otherwise. It may be best to proceed with caution.

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