Hacking made a huge presence in 2016 video games. Deus Ex: Mankind Divided‘s set of mini games was simple but rewarding. Quadrilateral Cowboy was a weird game that was interesting, but perhaps not fun. And Watch Dogs 2 improved everything sour about the first and made hacking just a fun tool to mess around with, whether it was exploding pipes, or diving cars through windows remotely. How does Radiantflux: Hyperfractal compare?
Radiantflux: Hyperfractal is a game within a game. When you first start it up, you’ll be presented with an interface very similar to a Windows 95 desktop. You’re invited by a mysterious individual to start hacking with his custom software called Radiantflux: Hyperfractal. Taking his program will begin a set of ‘trials’, though much of the story has to be inferred. Despite the game’s emphasis on hacking, Radiantflux: Hyperfractal plays more like a twin stick shooter with a Pong-like twist.
Every level in Radiantflux: Hyperfractal is set between yourself and the defence of a firewall. This defence mechanism shoots out pixelated ships and monsters that look like they were ripped straight out of Space Invaders, gliding around a vast open 3D space. The juxtaposition between the dark background pulsating with a 3D purple object as 2D ships zoom around and explode with cheap effects looks fantastic. The flat objects really draw the eyes so much so that the entire time I was playing it made me want it on 3DS with full 3D support. Nothing about the actual design of the art is good, but the way it’s used is interesting to say the least.
As ships and creatures zoom toward you, your little ship can fire back in three ways. First, there’s a an extra hacking tool attached to your primary vessel that acts like a spread shot, but it has limited ammo. Once that ammo is depleted it will launch across the screen as a massive destructive orb of doom. While it’s away, a standard one line burst of energy can be fired, which is fine, but given the amount of enemies on screen, it’s like signing a death warrant if you don’t try and catch the tool again. Of course, like most shooters you also have bombs that take out anything on screen with a clean blast. While firing away at foes will boost your score, the goal is to strike the firewall, which, like your secondary ball attachment, will fly across the screen – this where my comparison to Pong kicks in.
Each of the five stages has no end, so they play more like survival modes, or wave-based combat. Eventually, no matter how good your piloting skills, the defence will swarm your ship to an overwhelming degree that there is no hope for victory, but that’s fine, as the mysterious individual watching doesn’t expect perfection. Instead, he’ll reward you based on fairly simplistic scores, which not only unlock the next level, but new hacking tools as well. For example, the first reward is a painting program that allows you to customise your ship by drawing inside a small box. Perhaps you could be sensible and just colour it in nicely – or as the more juvenile among us are probably tempted to do, draw genitalia, because why not? There are also three mini games based on Mine Sweeper, Bomber Man and Doom. They all function fine, but are encased in tiny windows on the desktop so their enjoyment is diminished especially compared to the actual “hacking” game of Radiantflux: Hyperfractal.
There’s also a comedic side to Radiantflux: Hyperfractal that brings up meme humor, but doesn’t go all the way with it so it falls somewhat flat and pointless – but you could call everything surrounding Radiantflux: Hyperfractal pointless, really. Instead of these additions to the game, it would have been better if the developers had spent more time expanding upon the primary gameplay. Instead, we wind up with a confusing hodgepodge of ideas that go nowhere. It’s also worth noting that I was able to unlock everything the game has to offer in about an hour.
Radiantflux: Hyperfractal is an odd package with a solid, but not great, arcade game locked inside. The main mode lacks tight controls and the variety of most twin stick shooters, but it’s fun regardless for a time and spouts some simple, but unique graphics. The emails, tools, and mini games included could have been a nice touch had they not been sloppily implemented to simply give the game a gimmick. Still, the $3 price tag is inviting for those craving a new Wii U title before they upgrade to the Nintendo Switch next year.