Review – Ultra Hyperball
Ultra Hyperball is a game that led me to a nearly unhealthy level of fury during many of its levels. I have most likely cursed the developers over a dozen times when failing to get a gold medal because of half a meter. Nevertheless, I kept playing the game until four o’clock in the morning, four hours after the time I usually go to bed, without even noticing, and still willing to keep on playing it in order to get more medals and more bonus characters. That’s Ultra Hyperball for you, one of the most infuriating but addictive party games I’ve played so far on the Switch.
The premise is pretty simple: you choose one of a bagillion pixel-art characters and partake in a series of minigames involving using your head to knock something that looks like a badminton shuttlecock (I assume a jianzi, given the game’s Asian origin) as high as you can. Right from the get-go, Ultra Hyperball reminded me of California Games for the long gone Atari Lynx, which featured a (quite boring) hacky-sack minigame. Thankfully, Ultra Hyperball was much better than that, being even easier to play but a tremendous nightmare to master. Controls are very simple, usually resorting to just precisely pressing the B button to keep your shuttlecock in the air and trying to make the little thing go as high as possible. You can also do that while moving sideways with either the analog stick or some pretty decent motion controls in order not to let the ball fall down. For the most part, all controls work, with one exception that I’ll get back to later.
Unlike other party games on the Switch, Ultra Hyperball actually features enough interesting content for solo play. Getting gold medals in each level is very difficult and will demand precise controls and a lot of retries. It’s all pretty feasible in most modes, with the exception of a very complicated minigame consisting of tapping your character onscreen in order to keep the shuttlecocks afloat. Juggling three characters at once, each one at a different time, was one of the most challenging things I’ve seen in a while, and it nearly dragged me to tears in frustration. The good thing about struggling for those beloved gold medals is the vast amount of characters you can unlock, ranging from a Nathan Drake wannabe to a dog in a top hat.
The real draw in this game is the multiplayer for up to four players. Both “competitive” and co-op modes are available, with exclusive unlockable characters. The best thing I can say about the multiplayer is how simple it was for the games to be set up and how everything worked fine even with a single joycon. By managing to teach and play with my 60 year old folks, that’s already proof that it’s easy for multiplayer sessions to be set up, and quite fun at that, if you stick to the simpler levels, of course. Ultra Hyperball‘s multiplayer gets the job done, being more fun and varied than, say, Battle Sports Mekuru (Flip Wars in the West) or even Snipperclips.
Ultra Hyperball also featured a small story of sorts, but admittedly I didn’t care much for it. It wasn’t shoved into your face that much, being limited to very brief cutscenes, but the main problem with them was the insane amount of dialogue present in each speech bubble, being a visual hindrance to anyone reading it. It might sound like a nitpick, but it was irritating to the eyes every time it showed up.
When it comes to its visuals and sound design, I’d say Ultra Hyperball was decent enough. Both the graphics and the soundtrack appealed to a retro 8-bit vibe (the songs sounding like if they were ripped straight from a Game Boy Color game). There were some issues with both aspects, though, one being the lack of variety in the song department and, when it comes to the visuals, times in which objects would blend in with the scenery, given how everything was heavily pixelated with no easily noticeable borders.
If you’re looking for more party games on the Switch, Ultra Hyperball is a great suggestion, and a nice exclusive title for the console. It also helps that it’s actually fun when playing solo and has lots of unlockables, therefore not making you want to play the game for a maximum of 5 minutes per session. If anyone actually threw rooftop Switch parties just like the original console reveal trailers, this game would have been a good option for all the hip kids on that building. Ultra Hyperball might have its fair share of flaws but it was a good time nonetheless. Except that tap minigame. I can’t beat it for the life of me. That damn thing is now my nemesis.
Reviewed on Switch.
Copy of Ultra Hyperball was provided by publisher