Game Review: Swarm
Release: 22nd March, 2011
Genre: Puzzle, Platform
Developer: Hothead Games
Available Platforms: PSN / XBLA
MSRP: $14.99 / 1200 MS Points
ESRB Rating: Teen
Swarm is the new Lemmings ‘em up style puzzle platformer from Hothead Games, creators of the critically acclaimed Braid and Deathspank. In Swarm, the player takes control of 50 “Swarmites” and has to shepherd them from point A to point B while amassing as many points as possible in-between. The idea is to have asmany Swarmites as possible at the end of the level but to make things a little difficult the only way to really increase your score is by clever use of checkpoints and sacrificing some of your not so-precious herd to increase the score multiplier and then pick up some more Swarmites (or victims, depending on your viewpoint) at the next spawn point. The peril of not getting enough points is not being able to progress to the next level so if you’re not quick to pick up the whole sacrifice multiplier mechanic then you could be playing the same level a few too many times.
I speak from experience.
Graphically, the game is very easy on the eye and the gameplay can get quite addictive once you do get to grips with the scoring system. Swarm is not without its problems, though.
While the Swarmites do look cute they have absolutely no personality and so sacrificing them didn’t make me feel guilty at all. Rather than being a herd for me to take care of and have to begrudgingly sacrifice some of them for the greater good, they’re just a means to an end, soulless tools that I didn’t care about. Other than the slapstick of Swarmites getting crushed, burned and sliced there is also a distinct lack of humor in Swarm. In contrast to the Deathspank games which tried too hard to be funny, Swarm doesn’t try at all. These points don’t exactly make or break a game, but I felt that they were missed opportunities.
What does make or break a game though, are things like the control system and level design and Swarm is severely lacking in both departments.
The controls are quite fiddly, which was surprising as there aren’t that many controls needed. The level design isn’t exactly bad, but after playing the first few I was getting serious déjà vu which never went away and left me thinking that if you’ve seen one level, you’ve pretty much seen them all. The learning curve is more of a 90° angle than a curve and the levels, although very “samey”, do get very difficult, some fiendishly so and others are just plain frustrating. None of the dangers ahead are obvious so a lot of time is spent blundering through a level with a trial and error attitude.
Swarm tries desperately to be the next-gen Lemmings but falls short of the mark and is just a “fun for an hour or two” game that gets old after a .. well after an hour or two, which is quite unforgivable at this price point.
To sum up,
- Nice graphics
- Sacrifice = score is a fun mechanic
- Steep learning curve
- Level design is repetitive and uninspired
- No personality
5 out of 10