Swarm is the newest work from Hothead Games, which is best known for last years quirky title Deathspank. Very much like Deathspank, there is only one word I can use to describe Swarm, that word is strange.
The game starts with your giant blue ship crashing on a random planet. This ship is alive however, and is also called ‘Mamma’. At the start of every level Mamma spits out all 50 of your little blue characters in from what I can only describe as something that looks like a giant blue umbilical cord. While not as humorous as their previous game Deathspank, but Swarm still has that same kind of humor as well as strangeness present.
After Mamma spits out your little Swarmlings, the objective is to guide all 50 of them as one mass to the end of the level collecting enough points throughout it to pass to the next level. In each level you have to collect enough points, which come in varying sizes of molecule kind of things on each level, as well as collecting DNA all to make Mamma bigger. You don’t need to worry too much about keeping all of the Swarmlings alive however, as long as you have one still alive you can run into a spawn point which will replenish almost all if not all of your lost swarmlings. In fact death is something that is almost encouraged in Swarm, there are a number of different medals and a couple of accompanying achievements for having swarmlings die in different ways. In addition if a swarmling dies it actually increases your multiplier, so there is a balance you have to find between killing swarmlings and increasing the multiplier but keeping enough alive to get further in the level. Overall, it is a fun concept that gets pulled off reasonably well.
The controls in Swarm do take a little getting used to. There are a multitude of different things you can do with your “Swarm” including the basic jump with the A button, but ultimately your two most effective controls are spreading out and closing in your swarmlings. The various levels have different puzzles that you have to get through, as well as things like boxes you can break with a dash move, although some of the bigger boxes require you to smash some swarmlings against it to break open. Environmental hazards will also get in your way, with things like lava, pitfalls, traps, and falling boulders all blocking the path forward at different points. Another useful move is the ability to stack your swarmites up to grab molecules or DNA pieces that are higher up.
The story and music in Swarm is unimportant, you focus much more on getting through the levels and keeping a watch on the multiplier. Luckily, the sound effects work well, swarmites have distinct noises and the rest of the sound effects work just as well. Swarm also has a unique look to it, the dark war torn world is an interesting look and the mother “ship” as well as the swarmites have a distinct look.
The biggest problem with Swarm for some people, would be the difficulty. It is an infuriatingly difficult game at times. Getting the required score to pass to the next level is a lot harder than you would think, and once things like completely dark levels and boss fights come in there are big difficulty spikes. Once you get completely used to the controls things get a bit better, however Swarm remains an incredibly challenging game all the way through. Levels encourage replaying through the game, and the inclusion of worldwide leader boards adds even more replay value on.
Swarm is definitely a unique feeling and looking game, and a different experience from most other games. The random difficulty spikes can get irritating and the game feels a bit monotonous near the end. Still, Swarms grim humor and fun but challenging game play make it a worthwhile title. It is a different experience from most other games, and definitely not for those who don’t have an abundance of patience.
*Ignition Entertainment provided SlimGamer.com with a promo code for a review copy.