Review: Swarm

In these days of 3D, ultra realism, motion control and blood splattered grit-fests it’s just lovely to see a good old-fashioned fun title. Now from the good people at Hothead Games (makers of guilty pleasure Deathspank) comes Swarm, for the PSN and XBLA. Swarm is  a game that if I had to categorise (and TSA dictates that I do) I would put it in the Lemmings meets Worms meets Pikmin area.

[boxout]The aim of Swarm is a familiar one, guide all 50 of your little, pudgy, blue Swarmites from one end of the level to another whilst dodging all manner of obstacles, traps and general dangers. It’s sounds really quite simple but mastering the techniques and tricks of Swarm in order to save as many Swarmites as possible is not an easy task.

Controlling the Swarm is done using the left stick. Players are able to guide the swarm as one entity rather than one at a time and they’re pretty nimble too most of the time. The Swarm responds well with the analogue controller and it’s important that they do as they’ll be navigating plenty of obstacles throughout the game. Of course there’s much more to it than merely pointing right and running, the swarm can spread out wide, move into a huddled group, stack on top of one another, run, jump and that’s just for starters.

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[drop]All these moves are indeed pretty difficult to truly master but they offer a fabulous feeling of control and flexibility of your quarry, and deftly guiding all 50 Swarmites to the end of the level without perishing will always feel like a massive achievement.

The levels themselves are obviously fraught with danger and your aim is to keep as many little Swarmites alive as possible. Luckily though, there are checkpoints scattered throughout stages that will return any Swarmites you’ve lost up until that point. This is a massively welcome addition to Swarm as you will lose many a creature throughout each stage. It is therefore a competitive and challenging title but it doesn’t always feel like it.

Visually Swarm manages to seem charming from the opening menu screen,  even the hilariously graphic death sequences are a real treat but some will be surprised by the visceral cartoony violence on show. Even the title screen contains a warning not to press a certain button on your controller pad, which everyone will inevitably do and this kills a little Swarmite on your screen in a randomly generated hilarious manner. It all depicts a game that doesn’t take itself too seriously and that’s always a humbling touch for any title obsessed with killing fat, blue, aliens.

[advert]In terms of aesthetics Swarm is not Crysis 2, it’s a downloadable title with little, blue, dudes so it really isn’t expected to be. It doesn’t by any means look bad, although the lighting of some stages can at times be overly dark, making traversing floored obstacles unnecessarily tricky.

The majority of the game has a cartoon like quality to it, but one of those edgy cartoons with adult humour in them that you didn’t get when you were 8 but you still watched them. Each level is a linear A to B affair but there’s plenty of variety in between them. Explosions look nice, obstacles are generally clearly displayed and the deaths are definitely the highlight of the presentation display.

Swarm is a great title for many reasons, one important one being that it’s such a joy to play but another is the amount of game time players can get out of it. For a downloadable title Swarm pushes players to work hard for their achievements and sweat for 100 percent completion. Every level has tiny orbs to collect and picking these up increases your multiplier which in turn increased your score, lose Swarmites and your multiplier/score goes down. Therein lies the challenge, then throw into the bargain that there are five DNA strands hidden in each level to collect.

Your overall game score depends on all these factors and each new level requires a certain score to unlock it, so players really will have to revisit levels and perfect their swarming skills.

Pros:

  • Incredibly fun gameplay
  • Charming yet gruesome graphics and animations
  • Plenty of items to collect, levels to unlock and scores to reach

Cons:

  • Levels can suffer from repetitiveness
  • Despite it’s appearance Swarm is not a game for beginners or those scared of a challenge

Swarm is not only an attractive looking title but it’s one that has similarly appealing gameplay as well. It’s becoming more and more commonplace for downloadable titles to take up consumer attention and Swarm is certainly a game that deserves yours.

Score: 8/10

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15 Comments

  1. Looks OK, would like to play a demo first though. Also this reminds me of an older Gamecube game, was it Pikmin or something like that?

    • It was indeed. Wasn’t a huge fan of the 2nd one but the 1st was one of my favourite cube games :)

      • Oh Pikmin, what a classic game that was.

      • Pikmin…I loved that game :D

  2. Looks decent. If it has a fun trophy list I may pick this up at some point.

  3. awesome. nice info box out, is it true though? 22nd march? I don’t think I’ve seen it on the EU PSN?

  4. Shall go look for a demo later. The last few dev-videos made me feel like it was straying away from what I usually like and a demo would seal the deal.

  5. the atmosphere reminds me of oddworld.

    • Oddworld with groooooowling vocals of DEATH!…. I guess

  6. Prog Death Metal!!!!!, I’ll be getting this so day haha

  7. Sounds and looks good, but I reckon it’s a bit steep for a tenner. May get it if it goes on sale.

  8. Son of a… *throws current game development ideas out the window* What are the chances someone makes your game before you’ve finished planning it?

  9. Just played the demo and I gotta say I was impressed. Really liked the feel of it. Looks really nice too. Poor little blue things do die a lot!

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