Hyper Demon is, as its name might suggest, a game of extremes. Viewing the new video game’s Steam page creates more questions than answers. Namely: What? The visuals are indecipherable at best and painful to view at worst. The description is no help either, describing Hyper Demon as “a pearl of lightning. a dream from the future. a drop of poison. a swan song.” Underneath the sharp aesthetic and arcane description, however, Hyper Demon is thrilling, complex and above all else, dangerously addicting.
At its core, Hyper Demon is a first-person shooter about eliminating a parade of monstrous skeletons in a dark, minimalist arena. You begin by picking up a gnarled blade at the center of a flock of doves. Then, the monsters phase into existence, as if seeping into the arena from another dimension. Inevitably, you die.
Hyper Demon is hard. Enemies move quickly, attack suddenly and kill instantly. Their grotesque, skeletal forms are almost animalistic in nature, pouncing on the player like ambush predators. Coupled with the bizarre aesthetic that renders figures as if they’re part of a nightmarish stained-glass mosaic, it all seems like too much for a human being to handle.
The term “boomer shooter” has recently come into common gaming parlance to describe modern games inspired by early FPSs of the 1990’s and early 2000’s, and has come to be marked by a return to primitive graphics, fluid movement and near-absurd levels of blood and gore. Hyper Demon takes the boomer shooter DNA and snorts it like cocaine, creating a spectacle of violence at once incomprehensible and jaw-dropping.
Slowly, however, you master the game’s systems, a satisfying process that rewards cleverness as much as it does quickness. Sucking up gems dropped by killed enemies can be used to power up attacks or unleash a devastating laser beam, which can be shot at larger crystals to create a kaleidoscopic cavalcade of destruction. Enemies have patterns that can be learned and weaknesses to be exploited. You begin to survive longer, but that’s not the point. Hyper Demon doesn’t seem to think mere survival is worth merit. Only killing is rewarded. It’s about doing as much stylish violence as quickly as possible.
Hyper Demon’s clock, which also functions as a marker for score, doesn’t count up, but down. Killing enemies both adds time to your clock and spawns additional foes, resulting in an exponential explosion of chaos unfolding on-screen. Through this simple system, Hyper Demon makes its priorities for the player clear: Never. Stop. Killing.
With speed comes a certain kind of madness. Split-second dodges slow down time. Collecting power ups warp the screen’s field of view, allowing you to see an impossible 360 degrees around. It’s less about thinking, and more about feeling and it’s a great feeling.
Adding an omnipresent leaderboard and the ability to share particularly impressive clips with other players makes it clear just how easily one could flitter away hours playing Hyper Demon, even though most runs last seconds at most. Hyper Demon may not be for everyone thanks to its divisive visual style and its demanding difficulty level ruthless enough to frustrate even the most seasoned gamer, but it might have a special appeal to time-starved college students who don’t have the ability to delve into a more expansive game and its dead simple controls mean players can jump right into the slaughter. For those who can see past the jarring aesthetic and get to the delectable gameplay within, it’s angelic.