You can pretty much tell exactly what Hyperdot is, just by looking at it. It’s a game where you control a circle and avoid other shapes in another circular arena. There’s no story the game is trying to force, there’s no progression system or even any characters. But none of this is a bad thing. Hyperdot’s simplicity is partly why it succeeds at being a fun, relaxing, and bite-sized game. While Hyperdot might not be as endlessly repayable as other arcade games like Tetris or Pac-Man, it does what it sets out to do very well.
I might have been exaggerating Hyperdot’s simplicity though. The game does primarily revolve around dodging hostile shapes, but there’s usually always a secondary goal as you go through Hyperdot’s levels. Sometimes it is just about surviving for thirty seconds, but there are also objective types that require you to collect a certain number of ‘tokens’ without being hit, or objectives that work like a King of the Hill mode in shooters where you’ll need to stay in designated areas until a bar fills up.
These additional objectives aren’t the only element to add variety to Hyperdot’s gameplay. Certain levels also feature additional multipliers like darkness, which gives you limited vision, or ice which affects the way you move. The size of your titular hyperdot, as well as its speed, also varies from level to level. Power-ups will sporadically appear in levels, such as nodes that’ll slow down time or a shield that will allow you to endure an additional hit.
Modifiers, differing objectives, and different enemy patterns are all mixed and matched to create Hyperdot’s levels. The enemy shapes here do not all behave in the same way, though. Triangles follow you around for a while like a homing device. Squares simply move in straight lines and pentagons move in straight lines toward you. The game effectively changes the speed, pattern and directions of these threats throughout the single-player mode. The squares are mainly used to create blockades and restrict movement, and will never change. They add a certain level of predictability that is nicely balanced with the more dynamic triangles that’ll change each run through a level.
All of these elements are available for you to use in Hyperdot’s custom level builder. The game’s level editor allows you to go and change a surprising amount of tiny things. You can amend a level’s general aesthetic and size, add modifiers, change power-up frequency and play with objectives. However, it gets more interesting when it comes to placing enemies. Here, you’re able to affect their speed, direction and frequency. There’s a surprising amount to play around with and, as you can imagine, you’re able to create some brutal challenges. However, you can’t share your levels online and, curiously, you can only play with a friend locally, not through Xbox Live which should just be a standard in 2020.
Outside of Hyperdot’s levels and level creators, there are also a number of ‘Freeplay’ modes. These are essentially endless modes where you play for the highest scores. How long can you survive without being hit, or how many tokens can you collect without dying? They get progressively harder but, unless you’re playing with one or more friends, there’s not a lot of incentive to try and beat your own high scores.
This brings me to Hyperdot’s biggest problem. The game is mindless fun and enjoyable enough in small doses. However, its core gameplay isn’t suited to longer play sessions because of its simplistic nature, nor is it satisfying enough to become addictive.
This isn’t because Hyperdot is lacking in content. It isn’t. There are 100 levels, the replayable Freeplay modes, a level creator and multiplayer. The problem is that once you’ve played Hyperdot for about an hour you’ve pretty much experienced all there is to experience. The game doesn’t throw in a surprise late in the game. And while there is a level of spontaneity with the game’s enemies, each run through a level is never unique enough to justify going back and doing it again.
Overall, Hyperdot on Xbox One is a fun, minimal and inoffensive arcade game. With a friend, dodging a barrage of colourful shapes can be a blast. But playing the game alone only exposes how repetitive Hyperdot can get despite some really tense challenges and a surprisingly deep level editor. Omissions like online multiplayer and the inability to share and browse custom levels also hurt Hyperdot’s quality and make its asking price hard to justify.