Review by Matt Paprocki



Overall: 1


If the HyperScan is anything, it’s one of the largest mass market rip-offs the video game industry has ever seen. This is a piece of hardware that should have been recalled based on the quality of the product alone, not due to any manufacturing issues. The HyperScan now sits in rare company with Game.com and the obscure Channel F as one of the most miserable game consoles ever released to the market.

Surely this was a concept created by a marketing team and not the section of the company with the logic portion of their brain firing neurons. The idea, at best, is a solid one. With hot properties such as Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh making millions off their card games and the 5- to 12-year-old crowd, the HyperScan would surely work on the same principle, only the cards could be used in conjunction with a video game console.

Kids would land the system with a free X-Men game (on CD-ROM) and six cards. The basics of the game are on the disc. To gain access to the complete game (including a full roster of characters, stages, powers, etc.), they need to buy packs of cards. The rest of the game’s items are held on a small chip cramped inside each individual card. The cards are scanned over a portion of the system, grabbing the data out of thin air via RFID technology.

At least, that’s how it’s supposed to work.

The games retail for about $30, which is fair based on what you’re getting, not on the quality of the games. The extra cards come in packs of six, and retail for around $15. If there were 20 cards for each game, this might be acceptable. When you need up to 170 to complete the set for each individual game and unlock everything there is to see, Mattel priced themselves right out of the kids market (or the “anyone with common sense” market too).

Beyond the need to have cards for each character, they do have a secondary purpose. As you play the games, you’ll save your progress to the actual card, allowing you take to it to someone else who was suckered into buying this thing and fight them using your leveled up character. Again, this is purely a marketing gimmick, as the kid who played the most has an obvious advantage that can hardly be considered fair or fun.

The console itself features a bizarre, clunky flip open design. The top loading CD tray is on one end, the overly large red and brightly lit “scan” area sits on the other. Due to the off set weight and uneven outer shell, it doesn’t even sit flat. That can’t be good for the disc drive. There’s no purpose in keeping it closed other than taking it somewhere to protect it, yet this isn’t meant for portability.

Without specs listed anywhere either on the web or the manual, the best guess is that the CD drive is a dual speed drive, something PC users will remember being a huge deal about 17 years ago. To load and enter the first fight in the included X-Men game, total wait time is around seven minutes on a good day. No kid is going to wait that long, especially after they learn how atrocious the game is.

The hardwired video cable is composite only, and it’s a strange choice given the chance of ripping it out and not being able to replace it. A USB port sits on the back unused, and the shoddy, cheap plastic controllers are beyond clunky. They resemble a PlayStation controller design (even copying the four shoulder buttons) gone horribly wrong. The d-pad is more like an analog stick, even though it’s purely digital input. Only one is included in the box, and there are two ports total.

Power wise, the hardware sits somewhere between the Super Nintendo and PlayStation era. It can cleanly handle 2-D sprites with significant depth of color. Backgrounds are almost universally static, and animation barely noticeable on the characters. If the console has 3-D capabilities (and it’s doubtful) none of the four available games have used it. Audio runs off the CD, so music is cheap but clean.

Other strange effects with this hardware continue to reduce the redeeming value a consumer would be desperately searching for after dropping $70 for this junk. When the scanning process begins and the system waits for a card, this actually interferes horribly with the TV. It causes wavy lines and distortion, something the FCC apparently missed during the approval process.

A secondary issue is scanning the cards themselves. It’s entirely random if the system notices the card being swiped over the target area. While a few swipes are a mild annoyance when trying to continue a game or load a new character, in the midst of a game when you need a special power, it’s a disaster. Also, who had the brilliant idea to include a T-rated game inside a game console that is clearly marked for kids under 12?

If there was any success for the HyperScan, it’s not hard to see powered-up cards being sold on eBay for ridiculous amounts of money (assuming anyone cared enough to play the thing). That collector’s mentality was the basis for the product, yet corporate greed squashed this hardware’s chance to survive. If you’re tired of micro transactions on places like Xbox Live, imagine paying $15 for an expansion, with no guarantee that you’ll be getting new content (doubles are indeed possible inside the packs), or even what you’re interested in. That’s the most absurd concept in history of the industry.


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Last updated: Wednesday, September 05, 2007 10:17 PM