Swarm: review

  • Format: PSN (version reviewed), XBLA
  • Unleashed: Out Now
  • Publisher: Ignition Entertainment
  • Developer: Hothead Games
  • Players: 1
  • Site: http://www.swarmites.com/

Upon launching Swarm you are greeted by a swarmite milling about the menu. Swarmites, you should know, are little blue fellows with blank stares and rotund bodies. They travel in packs with a hive-mind mentality and have a penchant for dying. Considering that the menu has a dedicated button for murdering the poor swarmites in a variety of horrific ways, you can expect to see plenty of blood run blue before the end.

Completing a level is simple enough: guide your army of swarmites to the hulking alien being known as Momma without losing them all to the cold embrace of death. You’ll take direct control of up to fifty at once, and their frantic skittering to stick together brings back memories of the clannish Pikmin. They can spread out or form a tight circle to fit the circumstances and are even coordinated enough to jump in unison. Charging their bodies into stuff and stacking atop each other’s heads are a couple of handy techniques your minions have up their sleeves, and they’ll gain a fleeting speed boost when you let go of the “squeeze together” trigger. It’s tough to get the hang of the convoluted control scheme – especially since the swarmites tend to spill out into dangerous areas if you’re not careful – but have no fear: dying is not only the herald of defeat, but the key to victory.

This is just a shot in the dark, but maybe you should press RT.

A combo timer will tick at an incessant pace, and grabbing orbs of light and finishing the stage in a hurry will keep the score going, but (as long as you keep at least one alive) so will letting your swarmites perish. They’ll get sliced, impaled, torched, electrocuted, blown up and more from a range of traps littered throughout the bizarre landscape which sometimes strays from “funny” territory into “sadistic”, despite the funky art design. But perish they must, for building the combo multiplier is an integral and exciting part of the game.

Learning when to sacrifice your swarmites for points as you struggle to hop them over deadly pits and through fields of bear traps can be frustrating at times, but this is a case where practice really does pay off. Complete failure often gives way to rousing success the second time around, and the feeling of nailing the required score is full of merriment. Moments that call for extra precision (specifically during the final boss) can test your patience, but mastering the versatile moveset counterbalances these annoyances.

Forcing your swarmites to physically bash themselves into explosive barrels seems immoral.

With only ten levels and two bosses, Swarm is over before you know it, clocking in at a little over two hours (and with almost 10,000 swarmite deaths to boot). Five DNA collectables can be found in each level and a smattering of Death Medals are awarded for killing swarmites in every way imaginable, but it’s the high score nature of the game that lends it the most replayability. Leaderboards taunt you to one-up the player above your name and merely besting your personal score is a good time. If you’re up for a challenging platformer with an emphasis on the massacre of cute aliens, Swarm is a good place to look.

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Written by Stephen K

A lover of video games in general, Stephen will happily play just about any sort of game on just about any sort of system, especially if it's a platformer or an RPG. Except sports games. Sports games are boring.

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