A lot of gaming's retro revival has centred around the beginning of the home console era- either the likes of resurrecting IP from the time like Double Dragon
or plundering the graphical limitations of early platforms for the sake of visuals like Castle In The Darkness
While a lot of that has started to push later in time and look to 16-bit consoles for inspiration, Huey Games are going the other way with Hyper Sentinel
, a game heavily influenced by the home computer era- and in particular, Uridium
This isn't an entirely arbitrary choice of game- the father of Huey Games Ltd's founder, Rob Hewson, is none other than Andrew Hewson of Hewson Consultants, publisher of the C64 original.
Both games share the same core- the player controls a ship which flies alongside a larger ship called a Dreadnought. The objective is to shoot away all its defenses, flying back and to until they're all destroyed while avoiding retaliation attacks from both the Dreadnought itself and other enemy craft.
As you'd expect from a game of the era, Uridium
is extremely challenging and it's this level of challenge developer Four5Six Pixel is aiming to replicate, upping the enemy count and speed to levels the computers of the era couldn't even dream of- this is also shown at the end of levels, where in 1986 it was enough to slow down and land, 2017 expects you to contend with a huge boss.
And these bosses can start to seriously fill the screen in later levels- a switch from the instadeath of the original to a regenerating health system, which could have been a lazy way of pandering to a modern audience turns these battles into compelling acts of brinksmanship, where you try and do as much damage to the boss as possible without dying, then retreating for a bit to recover.
When I caught up with the development team at EGX, they mentioned that the challenge aspect of the game was a huge draw for its Kickstarter backers, a group of people who have been instrumental in much of the bigger decisions made in development- notably a release on Nintendo Switch which didn't form part of the original Kickstarter campaign was added following community feedback.
The Switch version, getting its first public airing at EGX, is just as featured as its PC version, and the brighty-coloured pixel graphics and fancy effects pop on the screen when played in Handheld mode. The structure of short levels also makes it a great fit for the hybrid platform.
On the subject of Kickstarter, when asked about the future viability of crowdfunding following some fairly major failures and controversies recently, they did point out that it's still good for smaller teams with major followings- Hewson Consultants still have a following on the retro scene today, and a modest target of fifteen grand was very achievable (and exceedable, just breaking the £21k mark) and it's still a good way for indies to make themselves known to bigger publishers.
Its stretch goals went to further enhancements truly differentiating the modern game from its predecessor, including a Survival Mode, where you're simply faced with endless swarms of enemies and expected to keep going for as long as you can, and plenty of side objectives for fulfilling different criteria in each level.
There are also retro graphical modes, including ones which mimick the C64 and, as the developers seemed particularly proud of, ZX Spectrum.
looks to be a very assured game, knowing where to modernise and where to look backwards to its fan-pleasing roots.
Hyper Sentinel is due out early next year on PC, Switch, XBox One and PlayStation 4, with iOS and Android ports to follow