Week 11 – Main Post – HYPER DEMON

A screenshot showing the title menu of Hyper Demon, a video game.

There’s something special about games which at first evoke a feeling of sensory overload and visual confusion, but upon repetition and a small investment of hours, make perfect sense – drawing the player into flow state.

Lately, I felt compelled to revisit two of my favorite games – Devils Daggers, and Hyper Demon. If you haven’t read my earlier article discussing Devil Daggers, I urge you to do so as I will draw comparisons within this article and doing so may provide context to this post. For the sake of this article, I may refer to Devil Daggers as DD and Hyper Demon as HD.

Hyper Demon is the spiritual successor to Devil Daggers, the second and most recent game developed by Sorath – a Melbourne-based independent video game development studio. Having invested so many hours into becoming one of the best in the world at Devil Daggers, you could only imagine the excitement I felt in 2022 when the first trailer for Hyper Demon was released. I’ll provide the game’s Steam page description along with the trailer below:

“HYPER DEMON is an FPS like no other. a pearl of lightning. a dream from the future. a drop of poison. a swan song. The faster you slay demons, the harder the game and the higher your score. There is an end. Will it see you?”

That first statement isn’t just a hyperbole to build excitement – this game truly is an FPS like no other. It borrows many of Devil Daggers’ themes, however, builds upon and expands them. Upon first glance at that trailer, you may be overwhelmed by the visuals – and truthfully, that feeling doesn’t subside until a few hours of practice – there’s certainly an acclimatization process. For the sake of the reader, and anyone considering picking this game up, I’ll do my best to break down the core features of this game.

One of the most unique features of HD is the player camera and FOV. Hyper Demon has a warping effect on the camera which allows the player to essentially have 360 degrees of vision. Looking down causes the world to warp around you, showing what’s in front and behind you. Taking this even further, regardless of how you point the camera, you can always see behind yourself. There is a red shadow in front of the player showing exactly what’s behind you in a mirrored view. It takes some getting used to – and contributes to the sensory overload of this game – but this has to be one of the coolest camera mechanics out of any FPS game I’ve encountered.

A screenshot showing the title menu of Hyper Demon, a video game. The image is abstract and show transparent red overlays of skulls in front of the player.

With these visuals, many of the early review of Hyper Demon joked that this is what you get when you combine Devil Daggers with a high dose of LSD.

Let’s start by drawing comparisons. Devils Daggers tasks you with surviving as long as you can, your place on the leaderboard is determined by how many seconds you managed to survive the onslaught of demons. There is no ending, the arena will continue to throw enemies at you until you are eventually overwhelmed, however, there is the goal to reach 500 seconds. Hyper Demon functions in the complete opposite sense – you want to complete a run as quickly as possible. This is due to its scoring mechanic. Upon starting a run, you have a starting score. This score will continuously deplete every second, however, with each demon you slay, score is added back to that pool. Your leaderboard position is based on score rather than time – which creates some interesting emergent mechanics, especially when it comes to the end of the game.

I’ll first detail the mechanics of Hyper Demon, then discussing the scoring system in more depth.

One thing that is the same, however, is the death condition – if you collide with ANY enemy, its game over. Just like DD, there are no lives, no HP, nothing. DO NOT COLLIDE.

Some of the core mechanics carry over, and there is definitely a carryover of skill – if you were good at Devil Daggers, most likely you will be more successful than most in Hyper Demon. The basic controls are similar, you run and hop around an arena, shoot a stream of projectiles by holding down left click and shoot a shotgun burst of projectile by clicking left click. As such, the aiming and target prioritization carry over. The arena format is also the same. A round flat arena that does not change. Although the “Squid” spawning towers from DD have been replaced by larger spawning towers with their gems embedded in the middle, they still spawn a batch of lowly skulls that can be easily disposed of, and a larger skull that chases/outruns the player. As such, the strategy to burst through these skull clouds while dodging them with tight circular movement also carries over. Overall, the two games do feel connected through similar assets and overlapping movement mechanics. Nonetheless, this is where the similarities end.

A screenshot showing the title menu of Hyper Demon, a video game. The image features a hand coming out of the bottom middle of the screen and an abstract dagger in the center of the screen. There are birds around the dagger.

One new mechanic is the laser beam projectile. Gems are not hoarded in HD as they were in DD. Rather, you can still collect gems and they will momentarily increase your machine gun fire rate while quickly being consumed. Rather than picking the gems up, it’s advised to hold down right click to draw them towards you. Once they reach your hand they will begin to glow and prepare a laser beam projectile. Releasing right click fires this beam. This can be aimed directly at enemies to melt through them, however, if you aim it at the ground and at just the right angle you will begin to hear a high-pitched noise. This noise indicates you’ve locked on to enemies and firing the laser at the ground will ricochet and directly hit what’s generally in front of you. Each gem fires one laser, and firing three lasers at a time will directly destroy a spawner. They can also be fired at scuttlebugs to instantly down them – the scuttlebugs will be discussed further below.

Hyper Demon has a much more complex movement system overall. While DD was primarily played in two dimensions, forward/backward, left/right, HD adds verticality. Rocket jumping, in this case dagger jumping is a core mechanic and can be pulled far more easily – you simply need to aim at the ground and left click to propel yourself into the air. Furthermore, whether you’re on the ground or airborne, you can now double tap space bar to do a dash in any direction you please, determined by which of the directional keys you’re holding at that time. Additionally, upon landing from a jump, you can now hold the spacebar to maintain your momentum and slide, the direction of this slide can be controlled through the directional keys and by adjusting your mouse.

With the addition of these new movement mechanics, there are new enemy interactions. The game provides the player some grace, should any enemy get close enough to collide with you, you will see their eyes flash and the game enters a state of slow-mo. Here you are given an opportunity to perform a dash and evade the potential collision. Additionally, while vertical, you can tap the spacebar to perform a stomp which puts out some AOE damage upon landing and briefly stuns enemies.

While the skulls were considered the primary enemies in DD, HD now features scuttlebugs – creatures that resemble trilobites – as their primary enemies; these spawn in groups of three. The scuttlebugs do not aggro the player by default, instead they are drawn to the center of the area and float around. If shot, they will drop to the ground and turn purple, in this state, players can dash into them or stomp onto them – doing so will trigger a grace period allowing you do dash again – as such you are able to down multiple scuttlebugs and combo your dashes from one to the next. Colliding with them in this downed state will insta-kill them. HOWEVER, this downed state is fairly short, and should the player not kill one while they’re downed, they will get back up and rush the player – more often than not, this will be how you die.

The second new enemy you will encounter is the three-headed serpent. These are long snakes that wander senselessly through the arena; however, they can be aggroed by shooting them from a distance. They will then rush towards the player. To dispose of the serpents you need to take out all three heads. Each head you destroy will cause that third of its body to burrow and flail its long tail in circles, creating additional environmental hazards. Additionally, while rushing you, if the player gets too close, they will turn their heads away and begin to expand and coil, once again, creating an environmental hazard which must be avoided.

A screenshot showing the title menu of Hyper Demon, a video game. The image features a three headed serpent with skulls as heads. The serpent is approaching the player.

Spiders make a return, however, this time around they’re three-headed skull spiders that float slightly off the ground and spawn within the arena rather than outside it in the sky. They still eat you gems and spawn a spider sack, however, rather than the spider sack spawning more enemies as it did in DD, they are now mini nukes. Explosives which can be grabbed by the player and thrown as one-time use AOE weapons. If a player shoots their gems (weak points) from a distance, the spiders will burrow into the arena and reappear elsewhere. As such, to dispose of these, you must either slide underneath them, or get relatively close. Doing so will get them to drop and force them to always point one of its gems directly towards the player. Destroying one of its three gems will make it quickly rotate and point its remaining gems towards you. Simply put, once downed, they can be destroyed by aiming at their center and holding the stream of projectiles for some time.

Another returning cast member is the centipede. Honestly there isn’t too much difference here. The centipede in HD is the same size as the one in DD – it still moves in sin wave patterns by default; however, it has the same behaviour as Devil Dagger’s gigapede – hunting and chasing the player aggressively. These are disposed of fairly easily, simply kite it with a tight turn as it approaches and fire away at each of its body segments.

The final enemy you encounter – and the final boss of this game is God. God Himself. I won’t spoil this bit as it’s the final portion of the game and something worth experiencing with your own eyes.

So that covers the enemies you’ll encounter in Hyper Demon. I’ve earlier alluded to completing the game as quickly as possible, which is now doable. HD is not an endless loop, truthfully once you’ve mastered the mechanics, you can reach the final boss in a couple of minutes. Which leads me into the scoring and leaderboard mechanics.

As stated, you have a default score that is always counting down. Each enemy you kill adds score to the total pool. As such, your score is always going up and down. The spawn pattern is fixed – for example, every run plays out the same. The moment you start, you encounter a spawner, then a serpent and three scuttelbugs, then a spider, then a spawner and three scuttle bugs, then a serpent, etc. However, rather than having enemies spawn on a timer, they spawn based on how many enemies you’ve killed. This means, the faster you kill enemies, the faster the spawn set progresses. This means a couple of things.

Firstly, the player has full agency over the game’s difficulty. There is nothing stopping you from taking things slow, learning the mechanics, and learning the enemy spawn patterns. The only downside to this is that your score will continue to count down and it’s possible to even get a negative score.

Secondly, this means that the better you get at the game, the quicker your runs will be and the sooner you will reach the final boss – and the higher your score will be as you mitigate the score bleed mechanic.

While Devil Daggers was a game about target prioritization, Hyper Demon is a game about optimization. It’s up to the player to determine how much difficulty they can take on at once.

Players will find themselves progressing in their skills, when first playing the game, it’s all about survival. However, once the muscle memory is built and the fundamentals are established it turns into a dance of sorts. You’ll being sliding around the arena, bursting down enemies with laser beams, only to use the gems of those enemies you kill to chain more laser beam bursts together. You’ll find yourself pulling of crazy combinations, downing scuttlebuggs and dashing from one to the other, firing off another laser mid-air to down more scuttlebugs, continuing the chain of stomps.

Eventually, you need to start making decisions. The final boss takes a significant amount of time to kill, which means your score is going to bleed heavily during this fight. If you’ve had a blessed run full of buttery smooth combos, it’s a viable strategy to walk into an enemy right before the final fight begins to lock in a higher score before it begins to bleed.

In conclusion, there’s only so much I can do to describe this game – words do not do it justice. As such, here’s a gameplay video from Sorath themselves:

Hyper Demon truly is an FPS like no other and you need to get your hands on it to really understand its beauty. There are deeper, advanced mechanics that can be learned to dispose of enemies quicker, only adding complexity to your dance with death. Just like Devil Daggers, there is only one achievement – this time it’s titled “Deicide” – and just like Devil Dagger, so few have managed to attain it. Currently, as I write this review, 1.5% of players have pulled off the impossible.

Unfortunately, I am not one of these players – yet. Despite that, I am still ranked amongst the top players, ranked 789 worldwide out of 50,484 players. Upon the first few months of this game hitting the market, however, I managed to place 92nd.

A screenshot showing the title menu of Hyper Demon, a video game. The image shows the global leaderboards and has my name beside the #92 ranking. My score is 261.559.
A screenshot showing the title menu of Hyper Demon, a video game. The image shows the global leaderboards and has my name beside the #789 ranking. My score is 267.743.

As a final note, each high score you attain is as satisfying as ever. The animation visually plucks your name out of the leaderboard and drags it above all those who are new below you. So, how high can you place?

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