Hypercharge: Unboxed’s Joe Henson Talks the Game, Mental Health, a PS5 Release and the Future

Joe Henson talks the viral sensation Hypercharge: Unboxed.

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If you’ve not heard of Hypercharge: Unboxed at this point, where have you been? Having been successful on multiple consoles, it finally came to Xbox this month and has absolutely dominated its release, all without having been on Xbox Game Pass, AND whilst hitting some seriously good sales targets.


I was lucky enough to speak to Joe Henson the Creative Gameplay and Marketing Director for Hypercharge, over a written interview, about the game, the future, a sequel, and those sale targets (and much more besides!).

[Some answers have been edited for clarity and brevity]


For the readers of FandomWire who may not be aware of yourself, would you mind telling us who you are, your role with Hypercharge, and a little about yourself?

I’m Joe Henson, from the beautiful hills of West Yorkshire in the United Kingdom. I’m a game designer and marketing consultant, working with my good friends at Digital Cybercherries. Right now, I’m the Creative Gameplay and Marketing Director for Hypercharge!

And a good follow-up would be to ask exactly how you got started in the gaming industry, and what led you to where you are now?

What got me started in the games industry was my sheer passion for games. Growing up, I faced a lot of bullying in school, which really hit my confidence hard. I found it tough to make friends, skipped parties and wasn’t very social.

But everything changed when I got home and turned on my game console or PC. I could transform into an action hero, defusing bombs in Counter-Strike 1.6, time traveling in TimeSplitters 2, or battling Headcrabs in Half-Life 1! In those moments, I could escape reality and not worry about anything.


Getting to where I am now was quite the journey. In my early teens, my love for games led me to create fan websites for the games I adored. I made tons of them! What I didn’t realize at the time was that I was building connections with the game developers themselves – I was networking without even knowing it!

… like it’s been all smooth sailing and instant success, but that’s far from the truth.

By my early twenties, I had become friends with some amazing people. Those friends are now my closest buddies, and together in 2015, we formed our indie studio, Digital Cybercherries.

What many people don’t know is that for most of my career in games, I was actually a full-time painter and decorator in my family’s business (I started this right after leaving school at 15!). Most of my work with Digital Cybercherries was done while working full-time, and let me tell you, it wasn’t easy – I was essentially juggling two full-time jobs!


It wasn’t until I was 29 in 2020 (scary times) that I finally took the plunge and left the family business to start my own company, Indie Game Joe. Now, I help indie developers market their own games while still working alongside Digital Cybercherries.

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Hypercharge: Unboxed is a childhood nostalgia trip.

For a game with such a unique premise, I have to ask, how did you come up with it?

The idea actually came to life back in 2015. Our team decided to meet up in Edinburgh, Scotland to brainstorm game ideas and figure out the future of Digital Cybercherries. We booked a meeting room with a huge whiteboard and a TV on a stand, and we were just enjoying ourselves with good company and lots of pizza.

While discussing ideas, we started reminiscing about Counter-Strike 1.6 maps, especially the de_rat maps. Then, we began talking about Toy Story and Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. Suddenly, someone mentioned the movie Small Soldiers, and we all got so excited! It was a childhood favorite we had almost forgotten.


Right then and there, we loaded up the movie on the TV and watched it together, feeling the same awe as when we were kids. By the end of the film, we knew we had to make a game where you play as action figures. The nostalgia and excitement from that moment really inspired us to create something unique.

The game launched back in early access in 2017, then officially in 2020, so if I can ask, how come there was such a long gap between the versions from then to now?

So, when we first launched Hypercharge in 2017, it didn’t go as planned. We were a small indie team, and honestly, we just didn’t have the experience we needed. The game didn’t get much attention, and the few people who did play it weren’t impressed. Most of our team ended up leaving, so it was just the original founders of Digital Cybercherries who stayed. But we didn’t want to give up on Hypercharge.

Yeah, it’s really sad what we’ve been seeing and will likely keep seeing unfold in the future.

We spent the next few years completely overhauling the game. It wasn’t easy—honestly, it’s a miracle we managed to pull it off and stay together as a team. The early access version was a technical mess, and we had to redo everything. We couldn’t afford to start from scratch and make a new game, so we had to make the best of what we had. And you know what? We did it. We turned things around and made Hypercharge into the game we always knew it could be.


And how has it evolved since then? In fact, how has it evolved since your first initial idea?

It’s changed a lot! At first, Hypercharge was just going to be a multiplayer PvP game. But now, it’s so much more. We’ve added PvP and PvE with a wave-based story campaign, full split-screen support, hundreds of unlocks, lots of game modes, and tons of customization. It’s a completely different and much better game than what we first imagined. We’re really proud of how far it’s come!

Were there any inspirations that helped the formation of the idea? Being 34, I personally see Toy Story and Small Soldiers all over it, but were there any others?

Small Soldiers was definitely a big inspiration for us, but we also drew a lot from Toy Story, Sarge’s Heroes, Toy Commander, A Bug’s Life, The Borrowers, and The Indian in the Cupboard. These movies and stories really shaped our ideas and brought a lot of creativity to the table!

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Would you mind telling us about the different modes available in Hypercharge: Unboxed?

So, the main game mode in Hypercharge: Unboxed is a PvE wave-based story campaign. Here, you go up against tons of classic weaponized toys, all led by the villain, Major Evil. Throughout the campaign, you’ll get to explore and collect resources, weapons, and hidden secrets, plus tackle optional objectives.

There’s really a lot to dive into! Your main goal in the campaign is to protect the Hypercore. To help with this, you can build various defenses to fend off enemies. The story is presented through a super cool 90s-inspired cinematic comic, which really adds to the fun.

We also have several classic PvP game modes like Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Capture the Battery, King of the Hill, and Infection. Plus, there are some really fun local party games. You can either fight each other from a top-down view as toy tanks or battle it out on an air hockey table as spinners, trying to knock each other off!


The cheat codes were a great way of fully cementing in the nostalgic feeling the game brings to many. Split Screen PVP made me feel like I was sitting in front of my TV playing Goldeneye with my friends again. How did you balance wanting to hit the nostalgia without being a rehash/copy of what came before?

Balancing nostalgia without just copying the past is all about finding the right inspiration. Hypercharge has a unique gameplay premise that stands on its own, but we made sure to include elements that hit those nostalgic notes perfectly.

We’re going to take a well-deserved break after everything that’s happened.

We designed the game to make you feel like a kid again, bringing back those cherished childhood memories. The cheat codes are a small but significant part of that experience, capturing the fun and magic of classic gaming moments.

Skill-based matchmaking (SBMM) is a very contentious issue in the online multiplayer arena right now, and obviously Hypercharge: Unboxed doesn’t have it. What’s the reason behind that?

We wanted to keep Hypercharge: Unboxed true to the spirit of classic shooters from the 90s. Back then, we didn’t have skill-based matchmaking; we just loaded up the game and played. That’s the experience we wanted to recreate.


Also, our main focus is on the PvE experience, not PvP. The PvP mode is there for some good old-fashioned fun – nothing too serious, just simple and casual enjoyment!

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I’m interested in getting your take on the Nintendo Switch launch, as I remember it launching in January 2020, two months before lockdown thanks to COVID (at least in the UK).

It was a time no one needed reminding of for many reasons, but the reason I bring it up; everyone was going stir-crazy, bored, and needing something fun and different to do. Do you think this played into the success of the game at that point at all?

The COVID lockdowns were a tough time for everyone, but they definitely had a silver lining for the gaming world. People were stuck at home, looking for ways to pass the time and stay entertained, and gaming was a perfect solution.


This probably did boost game sales, but I think another big factor was the lack of first-person shooters on the Switch at that time. A lot of Switch players love FPS games, and our game, Hypercharge, really hit the spot for them!

You’ve been vocal about the difficulties you had with the game over the years, development, and finding the balance between what was possible and what users wanted. You’ve obviously found that now with the success of the game on Xbox being evident.

How does it feel to know your hard work has finally paid off and you can (hopefully) relax a little and feel vindicated you were right to push ahead with the game for so long?

Honestly, it feels absolutely surreal. It’s emotional; words can’t really do it justice. This journey has been tough, but it shows that if you work hard, believe in yourself, and focus on positive feedback, anything is possible.

Seeing the game succeed on Xbox makes all the struggles worth it. It’s a huge relief and incredibly validating to know that pushing forward, despite the challenges, was the right choice.


For yourself, you’ve probably got hundreds of hours in the game at this point. What’s your absolute favorite mode to play?

Oh man, that’s a tough one because I honestly love them all! But if I had to pick, I’d say the wave-based story campaign in split-screen is my favorite. It’s just incredibly fun and brings back so many nostalgic memories, especially on the higher-difficulty modes.

We booked a meeting room with a huge whiteboard and a TV on a stand, and we were just enjoying ourselves with good company and lots of pizza.

There’s something special about split screen that you can’t fully explain – you have to experience it. Sitting next to your significant other on the couch, blasting through waves of classic toys together, is such an amazing and fun experience!

I’ve seen nothing but good things from the players since the Xbox launch, and I’m glad to see that translate into some meaty sales figures, as a reward. Were you expecting such a resounding success?

Honestly, we didn’t expect it to be this huge. We’re already hitting 100,000 copies sold – and that’s with no publisher or big marketing budget! We knew the game was good, but we’re blown away by how popular and loved it’s become on Xbox!


And on that previous question, I’ve seen a few people attempting to bring the game and the developer down regarding the sales figures as if they’re not something to celebrate. How do you and the team deal with such ignorance and blatant trolling?

You know, it’s true what they say – if you’re not getting any haters, you’re not doing something right! Sure, it’s frustrating and it can be tough to see people trying to tear down what we’ve worked so hard for. But here’s the thing: we get to wake up every day and follow our dreams, making games we love. That’s something those trolls can’t take away from us.

We might not have sold millions of copies, but for our small team of six indie developers, the sales we have made are absolutely life-changing. It’s also not just about the numbers, though. The best part is knowing that even if just a handful of players are loving and enjoying what we’ve created, it makes all the hard work worth it. At the end of the day, we’re doing what we love, and that’s what really matters.

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Talking of sales, the last I saw you’d sold 40K, which is incredible for an indie game that’s been on two other platforms for years! What are your current sales figures?

We’re just hit 100,000 copies! To put this in perspective, we were aiming for at least 10,000 copies in the first month. So, this has far exceeded our expectations!

The biggest question I’ll ask; why should fans be excited for Hypercharge: Unboxed, as opposed to any other third-person shooter out there right now?

Fans should be excited because Hypercharge: Unboxed isn’t just your typical third-person shooter – it’s an action figure shooter game that you can play in both third and first-person! We’ve poured our hearts into this game, and it really shows. There’s nothing quite like it out there. You get full split-screen support, player bots for offline and online play, and there are no in-game microtransactions.

Plus, there are hundreds of unlocks and a story campaign to dive into. It’s packed with content and, best of all, it’s simple and easy to pick up. Hypercharge is all about light-hearted fun and nostalgia, guaranteed to put a smile on your face from start to finish!


The gaming industry is suffering right now, with layoffs and studio closures left and right. How do you think the industry needs to change to combat this, and ultimately make it more sustainable long term?

Yeah, it’s really sad what we’ve been seeing and will likely keep seeing unfold in the future. I think big companies need to invest more time into looking after their employees – that’s where the focus should be. My heart truly goes out to all those affected by the layoffs, it really does.

For a game that’s been such a big part of your life since the initial conception of the latest platform release, how do you continue to be excited for it?

That’s a great question! For me, staying excited about the game is all about listening to our players and being open to their constructive criticism. As developers, we often get so wrapped up in our own ideas and what we think is best for the game.

The COVID lockdowns were a tough time for everyone.

But when we pay attention to what the players are saying, we discover amazing ideas we might never have thought of. Their feedback keeps the game fresh and brings new energy to the whole development process, making it an ever-evolving experience.


Should fans expect any future support for either version of the game? If so, in what form will that take?

First, we’re going to take a well-deserved break after everything that’s happened. Our immediate focus will be on fixing any bugs and rolling out some quality-of-life improvements. But that’s not all – we’re also hoping to add a highly requested “Endless” game mode at some point, so stay tuned for more news on that!

As I mentioned earlier in the interview, we’re somewhat limited by the current setup of Hypercharge in terms of how many changes we can make. So, who knows? We might even consider creating a prequel or sequel to Hypercharge in the future. That way, we can really push the boundaries and create without limitations!

First Switch, Steam, and PC, then Xbox. Each has had different features added compared to the last. Should the PlayStation community expect something extra in their version?

No matter which platform you’re playing on – whether it’s Switch, Steam, PC, Xbox, or PlayStation – you can expect the same amazing content and features!


Talking of that, any tentative idea of a release window?

We’re aiming to launch on PS4 and PS5 by the end of this year. However, there’s a chance it might get pushed to early 2025.

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You’re probably sick of this question, but just in case you’ve never been asked. Fancy adding a battle royale mode for Hypercharge: Unboxed?

Haha! I get asked this a lot! And honestly, I usually say, “Aren’t we all a bit over the battle royale craze by now?” But seriously, I understand why people love them.


If anyone could pull off a battle royale with action figures, it would be us! For now, we don’t have plans to bring a BR mode to Hypercharge. But who knows? Maybe down the line, we might just surprise you with a new BR game!

What’s the future hold for yourself and Digital Cybercherries?

I hope we can keep working together for the rest of our lives, making the games we love. That’s the dream, and I never want it to end! Personally, I just want to keep learning and growing, and most importantly, be happy while doing what I love.

If you were to make Hypercharge 2: 2 Boxed 2 Shoot (open to offers for the title rights), how would you look to make it different and to evolve it?

All I can say is that if we were to make Hypercharge 2, we’d aim to take everything you loved about the first one and crank it up to eleven!


For fans of the game that sit back and think “This has inspired me to get into game dev”, what advice (or warnings) would you want to give them?

Surround yourself with like-minded people. It’s really important to understand that you are what you consume, and that includes the people around you. Make sure you’re around folks who have drive, ambition, and a positive attitude.

Their energy will rub off on you, and they’ll become your biggest advocates. Also, YouTube is your best friend! Watch tutorials and videos on game development. Learn as much as you can, experiment, and most of all, HAVE FUN!

Lastly, is there anything about Hypercharge you want to tell us that you simply never get to talk about, whether it’s something no one asks or you couldn’t disclose previously?

What I’d really like to share is that our journey might look like it’s been all smooth sailing and instant success, but that’s far from the truth. It’s taken a lot of time, effort, and hard work to get here. It hasn’t been easy, and it won’t always be easy. Behind the scenes, there are real people working on the games you love – and just like you, we have our highs and lows, we deal with mental health issues, and we navigate the ups and downs of life.


But you know what? It’s okay to not always be okay. What matters is that you keep getting back up and keep trying. If you’re struggling or doubting yourself, know that I believe in you. I started out painting gutters, literally! I went from brushes to pixels, and if I can make it, so can you!


Written by Luke Addison

Articles Published: 441

Luke Addison is the Lead Video Game Critic and Gaming Editor. As likely to be caught listening to noughties rock as he is watching the latest blockbuster cinema release, Luke is the quintessential millennial wistfully wishing after a forgotten era of entertainment. Also a diehard Chelsea fan, for his sins.

Twitter: @callmeafilmnerd