Hypnorain is a charmingly simple ‘bullet hell’ vertical shooter game with an anime/manga art style. The game was released by indie dev ‘Keyreal’ back March of this year (2016). The player guides one of two characters through a neon city backdrop whilst shooting at multiple enemies and all the while dodging their bombardment of attacks. The game offers no story or context to what is going on, instead the focus is entirely on the gameplay and building up as big a score as possible while doing your best not to die and lose it all.
Hypnorain is a harsh and punishing experience, great news if you love a challenge like I do! Before you play you have nothing to prepare you but an optional tutorial; a non-interactive one that does nothing but tell you to push the vague shoot button to shoot, focus button to use focus…etc. To actually find out what the controls are you have to go in to the settings and take a look for yourself, but on the plus side, you do get to customise them to whatever you are comfortable with using. If you ever forget the controls you can check them very easily from the pause menu (which I found myself having to do quite often, whoops) but once you un pause, the game gives you three seconds to prepare, which I found really useful. You go in with the ability to make your character move, shoot, use a shield, use a special attack or use focus to slow down. Both your special attack and your shield share a cool down so you must be sure to only use them when needed.
As I mentioned earlier, you pick one of two characters, each with their own unique set of abilities. It’s a shame there are only two to choose from but two is certainly better than having just one! If you haven’t played the Touhou project, Ikaruga or another similar ‘bullet hell’ game before, you’ll probably feel as I did, a little overwhelmed with the amount of attacks trying to kill you at once. It’s very easy to know what you are meant to be dodging but you’ll still die, a lot. I was playing on the easiest difficulty and I felt hopeless! I found myself often thinking “I’ve played games for years, I should be better than this!”. Once I started getting used to using the controls, the real fun began. I managed to dodge more and more attacks until I finally survived long enough to reach my first boss and the feeling of finally beating the stage made all of the experience worthwhile.
Just completing a stage is no easy task on its own but if you get super good you can then go back and do it again to maximise your score. Sadly, there are no in game leader boards which I find to be a big let-down in a game that does encourage you to play for the best score. The game does however have a save replay function which lets you play back the last stage you played, allowing you to show off your awesome skills or watch it back and see why that last bullet killed you so you can do better next time.
Over all I found Hypnorain to be quite enjoyable but I wouldn’t be quick to recommend it to any of my friends. The game is far too similar to a multitude of other games and doesn’t really stand out to me in any way. If you have a love for the ‘bullet hell’ genre and you need a new game to play, then maybe this is for you but if you want something fresh and unique you won’t find it in Hypnorain.