By Nathan Grayson on September 25th, 2013 at 10:00 am.
Hyper Gauntlet is speed.
Hyper Gauntlet is control.
Hyper Gauntlet is elegance.
Hyper Gauntlet is whirrrrrrrsplattttoooooooofpressspacetoretry.
Press space to never stop retrying.
The most direct inspiration I can find for Hyper Gauntlet is Terry Cavanagh’s equally masterful Super Hexagon, but Hyper Gauntlet expresses the sheer feeling of perfect flow and movement so much better. In short, you’re catapulted in first-person at increasingly blinding speeds with only the ability to dodge up, down, left, or right in a 3×3 grid formation keeping you from painting diabolically arranged blocks in a grim red. Along the way, there are occasional power-ups – for instance the ability to briefly slow down time and an error-free auto-pilot.
You can see blocks hurtling toward you off in the distance – careening at your face like evil Tetris structures – and you have a split-second, a hair’s breadth, a million years, a millisecond to react. The screen wobbles just so as you pass, and a buffeting woosh of wind accompanies it. As though you grazed the face of your own death, as though every second you keep on living should’ve been your last. It’s an exhilarating feeling. An intoxicating one. And it happens over and over and over. Rhythmically.
Hyper Gauntlet is not quite as ruthless as Hexagon. At least, not when you’re first getting up to speed. Early “levels” (they’re all randomly generated, but stay consistent in terms of difficulty on each playthrough) offer rather generous gaps, and a single mistake won’t bring your run to a screeching halt. You have a few “lives” to work with, but don’t take them for granted. They are easily snuffed, like a quiet flame in a gale force wind.
Hyper Gauntlet allows you, if only briefly, to feel like a ducking, dodging dynamo even if you’re not typically amazing at these sorts of games. Challenge quickly ramps up, but not in a way that precludes learning and progress. The simple, easily differentiated visual language of the game helps a lot, too. The background’s stark whiteness means that various colors of blocks always stand out – even way off in the distance – from both the walls and each other.
It’s a nearly perfect realization of this sort of experience, though I do have some minor quibbles. Mainly, power-ups often serve to interrupt flow and disorient more than they help. Auto-pilot, especially, does a terrible job of indicating when it’s active and when it’s run out of juice, instead opting to abruptly wrest control away from you and then leave you on a collision course with certain doom seconds later.
But that’s really the worst of it. Hyper Gauntlet is otherwise quite often sublime, a near-seamless melding of simplicity, feeling, and mechanics. It’s the sort of thing you don’t stop playing until long after your day’s responsibilities have rotted or left you a series of very angry text messages. And then after that, it sits in the back of your skull, screaming to the forefront every time you blink, colorful squares rushing by behind your eyelids like midnight traffic. It’s that kind of game. I guess what I’m saying is you should probably play it or something.