HyperBlade is a brutal game full of combat and severed arteries – the closest thing you could call it is ‘futuristic death hockey’. Plop four players and two goalies into a drome, drop a “rok” projectile in there, throw a bunch of weird power-up objects and jumps at them and let them beat the hell out of each other while trying to score a goal, rupturing spleens and crushing larynxes in the process (score a goal with your teammate’s severed head for extra fun).

Visually speaking, static screenshots do not do this game justice. It may look like a mass of polygons, but in motion the graphics do come to life. Even with the low details of early 3D, there’s a fluidity to the movement that few games have achieved, with the skaters moving their arms in rhythmic motion as they skate; watch also as they fly around when they get whacked up side the head.

3However, once you get beyond the visuals the gameplay holes start appearing; just a few at first, but then they start increasing to the point where you’re left with a game which is moderately entertaining but ultimately disappointing. As a pseudo-sports game, HyperBlade omits a number of features typical for the genre. True league play would have been nice. A “gauntlet” mode is substituted, but serves instead as a fighting game-style battle against all teams. Trading, free agent signings, diminishing skill for players after serious injuries and things like this could have given the game a lot more long-term playability.

While it’s evident the game makes use of basic physics, you do not generate more speed when you skate down the sides of the dome. Of course, the opposite should be true as well; lose speed up, gain it coming down. As it stands now, the game may as well take place in a flat drome, though if this were the case, you’d lose the slick animations of the guys doing flips.

HyperBlade also has a number of technical problems which range from the annoying (the improper detection of certain 3D hardware) to the infuriating (lock-ups, collision detection problems, disappearing roks and weird clipping). A bigger problem with the game is that it’s too easy. After a few games on the easy level, scores averaging around 25 to 1 are common. On the “all-star” level, the scores drop all the way to 10-2. The problem is that the computer goalies are too easy to fake out; attack with a teammate slightly ahead of you and they’ll always be drawn to the first player who approaches (apparently they can’t tell who has the rok). Let your teammate draw the goalie and score every time.

5_1On the harder levels, the computer has impossibly quick reactions, but you can just do flips off the side walls next to the goal, causing the goalie to pursue you and do a flip himself, and score right when you land. What’s unfortunate about these AI problems is that they overshadow the fact that the developers of the game have crafted AI routines specific to each team. The lumber Leeds team play safe, while Chicago will be more aggressive. Overall, HyperBlade is really close to being something special. But after a few games it grows tiresome, due to its lack of challenge and bothersome gameplay quirks.

System Requirements: Pentium 90 MHz, 8 MB RAM, Win95

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