hyperbound is a hack of earthbound (the name is a portmanteau of that and “hypertext”), created by michael iantorno as a thesis project. iantorno inserted an entirely new script into the game, written by his brother and himself, repurposing earthbound’s locations and characters for the telling of this new story. (the protagonist wears his pajamas all game to help differentiate him from the protagonist of the original.) hyperbound is akin to a piece of interactive fiction – a piece of hypertext – but instead of typing commands or clicking images, you navigate the world the way you would a 1994 super famicom game.
earthbound’s combat and experience systems have been stripped away: the story is told entirely through seeking out and talking to (or, rather, listening to) the inhabitants of the world. the writing unfortunately isn’t very strong – the authors tried to stick maybe too close to the tone of the original title – and could have used some proofediting. (“its” in place of “it’s” everywhere.) nevertheless, the game world interested me enough, and gave me enough leads to follow, that i reached the game’s conclusion.
hyperbound’s other neat trick, demonstrated in the video, is the use of the glitch as a metaphor for mental deterioration. as in earthbound, one of the central trials of the game’s story takes place inside the protagonist’s mind. fail this challenge, and the game world crumbles in a videogame way: garbage blocks muck up the screen, dialogue becomes scrambled. i was able to finish the game without seeing this at all; the fact that you can easily save before the trial and reload if you mess up means that there’s probably no real consequence to it, which is too bad.
and despite finishing the game, i don’t feel as though i’ve solved the game’s central mystery. though one of the consequences of the game’s structure is that you can reach the ending without having seen all of the story (seeing more merely tips your odds of making the right choice at the critical moment), and it’s clear that there was material i missed.