Hyper Rift, a game by the small developer CKS Studio, is an interesting mix between a graphic adventure and a gamebook. In this story, we wake up with no memory of our past in the medical bay of a spaceship. During our investigation, we will discover the alien threat in the ship and its sinister past.
This game tries to do some very interesting things with the gamebook media. Even if it is a text-heavy game, the way we navigate this space ship is through a graphical map, clicking at the objects in the room we want to interact with. Also, it has a lot more puzzles than your average gamebook, giving it more of a graphical-adventure feel. Considering also that it nominally deals with two of my favourite themes – sci-fi and horror – this game has everything on the paper to be a gamebook I’d greatly enjoy. Still… it fell short of my expectations.
I must say, much to my embarassement, that I haven’t been able to finish this game. I always try to reach the end of any game I review, but even if I spent three weeks trying to break some of its hardest puzzles, I finally admitted defeat. This game is hard, which is not necessarily something bad in my book. But the more time I spent with it, the more conscious I was of its flaws.
To begin with, the story isn’t capable of maintaining the feeling of fear and menace that it aims for. The aliens are not common or dangerous enough to make you feel like you could die at any moment. Add to it the many humorous scenes and characters -so shallow they seemed just excuses to have their names on the sheet-, that may want to lighten the mood of the story every once in a while, but break immersion instead, changing the tone of the story too abruptly. The result is a game that doesn’t quite achieve that “Alien” or “Event Horizon” feel it is looking for.
Also, it has the problem of many graphical adventures; since we can move freely through the map of the space ship, and we have to use objects from one room to another, once we have discovered every place, we will still have to do a lot of backtracking; going back and forth from floor to floor, looking for that elusive object or clue that will make us move the story forward. It ends up being more frustrating than fun.
After reading all I have written so far, it may seem that I loathe this game, and I don’t want to give that impression. It is an interesting story, that tries to experiment with new mechanics, and I can only commend CKS Studio for it. Also, the background story of this ship is interesting once you get to understand what really happened. I think it just fell short of my expectations.
But I certanly would want them to try again in this direction in future products; I can see there are ideas worth exploring in this game, and a competent writer in these texts, that may only need another try to “get it right”, both as a story and as a game.
In any case, considering that this is a free game, there is not much risk in giving it a go, right?