Hyperspace Delivery Boy is a simple game, inspired in equal parts by the 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System game The Legend of Zelda and the 16-bit Super Nintendo game Chrono Trigger. It isn't as complex as either of those games, and it almost seems to revel in its dumbed-down nature: Even the title is a humorous reference to the fact that your only goal is to bring stuff to people. It may by surprising that it was built by industry veterans Tom Hall and John Romero, but it's clear that the back-to-basics approach of Hyperspace Delivery Boy is a direct reaction to the overblown budgets and egos of their previous ventures at id Software and Ion Storm.
Hyperspace Delivery Boy was originally developed for the Pocket PC, but it may as well have been developed for the SNES. When you play through the game, you may feel as though you're playing a lost classic on an emulator, rather than playing a brand-new game from two influential PC game designers. You play as Guy Carrington, fledging courier for the Hyperspace Delivery Service and crew member of the HDS Colby Jack. Your job is simply to visit other worlds and deliver the generic goods.
Getting to the recipient of your deliveries is the challenge. Usually, it involves moving crates and barrels around and finding keycards to open locked doors. While this may sound like a simple, boring task, Hyperspace Delivery Boy has some of the most ingenious crate-pushing puzzles ever. Figuring out how to use the various devices in combination is most of the fun, and the difficulty ramps up quickly. Some of the later puzzles are fairly challenging, and most have a very specific solution that leaves very little room for mistakes. This can be something of a problem with the puzzles that take place over a large area--you can see only a relatively small area onscreen at one time, so planning where to put what can be occasionally more difficult than necessary. The challenge is part of the enjoyment, though.
Hyperspace Delivery Boy has two modes: puzzle and action. Puzzle mode gives you just the puzzles and fewer environmental hazards to deal with. Action mode gives you both the puzzles and the enemies, and there are a few different weapons that will help you immobilize and kill the monsters you'll encounter. Hyperspace Delivery Boy has only one significant problem, which is that aiming the weapons is a bit too difficult. You can fire only in the direction you are facing, and you can change your facing only by moving. At times, this makes the action the most frustrating part of the game. The puzzle mode is slightly more fun, though it's also less difficult since it removes all of the combat and many of the other dangers as well.
Hyperspace Delivery Boy looks like an old game. While Hall and Romero's former place of business, id Software, is working on one of the most graphically intensive games ever, they've designed a game that gets by with two-frame animations and bright primary colors. Cartoonish dragons shoot columnlike fire streams, and most of the people you meet don't move at all. For all its technical deficiency, though, it looks good and has a good deal of personality. Much of this personality comes not from the art, but from the dialogue. Those who played Anachronox will recognize Tom Hall's sense of humor in almost every interaction. Scientists secretly confess their love to one another in hidden gardens, while a fellow crew member constantly needs you to retrieve his pet chicken. Even the names are silly--you'll need to give a password to Dr. Conundrum, and the aforementioned chicken enthusiast is named Cooper.
There's not much to the story. Guy mostly just does as he's told. There are subplots involving Guy's romantic infatuation with Dolly, the Colby Jack's engineer, and a strange conspiracy about a group that everyone refers to as "THEY." You'll learn a bit about THEY (for instance, you'll learn that THEY live THERE), and you'll find out even more if you explore every nook and cranny of every world you visit. Like the games that inspired it, Hyperspace Delivery Boy has plenty of secrets to discover and puzzle-filled areas that you might not even find the first time through. Most of the secrets are accessed by collecting monkeystones. For every seven of these you find, a secret area will open up on the main menu. There isn't much to the secret rooms, usually just a funny joke or the appearance of a character from the designers' previous work.
Hyperspace Delivery Boy doesn't sound as good as it looks. The sound effects and music are both minimal to an extreme. Every character speaks, and the amateur voices just add to the overall silliness of the game. It wouldn't be surprising to learn that all of the character voices were provided by the same small list of developers listed in the credits.
What's most impressive about Hyperspace Delivery Boy is just how fun it is. It's clear that the designers made this game because they wanted to, and the fun they had making it comes across when you play. The game is inexpensive and short, and you'll easily play through it in a couple of sittings. Hyperspace Delivery Boy won't appeal to everyone, but anyone who has a soft spot for classic games will doubtlessly enjoy it. And if you like it the first time, you'll definitely want to play through it again to catch everything you missed the first time.