The lights are on
What new ideas the game brings to the table and how well old ideas are presented.
How good a game looks, taking into account any flaws such as bad collision or pop-up.
Does the game’s music and sound effects get you involved or do they make you resolve to always play with the volume down?
Basically, the controller to human interface. The less you think about the hunk of plastic in your hands, the better the playability.
Flat out, just how fun the game is to play. The most important factor in rating a game.
Death is universally abhorrent. In games, it can often mean losing
hours of progress. Even in the most forgiving titles, losing a life
often makes one feel a sense of deflated pride. Hothead’s new
downloadable title, Swarm, is still capable of damaging your ego, but if
you want to succeed in the game, you’ll need to embrace death and allow
it to happen…a lot.
In Swarm, you don’t play as a single entity; you control the swarm – a
mass of dopey bug-eyed aliens. After these cuddly little blue guys
crash-land on a foreboding planet, their motherly queen bee tells them
to scatter through the world’s rusted industrial environments in search
of orbs that will help her grow strong. This hostile planet is filled
with tumbling boulders, laser trip mines, lava flows, and more than a
few hungry beasts – enough dangers to whittle your numbers to zero if
you’re not careful. There is a purpose to all this peril. Each time one
of your swarmites dies, your score multiplier ticks up, and since you
need to earn a set number of points to progress to the next level,
you’ll need to keep collecting orbs and killing your members to rack up
the highest possible score.
Swarm has a dark charm that is hard to resist. The environments are
busy with deadly activity, making them exciting places to explore. The
challenges you face offer a lot of creative ways to die, which is good
because your swarmites expire in some of the most delightful ways. The
early levels of the game show a lot of promise, as you slowly learn how
to spread out your swarm to collect orbs, pile them on top of each
other, or dash forward to break open containers. Swarm’s scoring system
requires that you tackle each level at a brisk pace, ensuring that you
never get bogged down in one area for too long. After a few levels,
however, the game’s faults become more apparent.
Navigating most of Swarm’s deadly obstacle courses is a frustrating
affair. There are moments in the game where you are pushed up against so
many different explosions and so much flying debris that you’ll lose
track of your herd. If you’re not careful, before you know it, your
numbers shrink to zero, and you’ve failed the level. There are several
places where you can replenish your swarm, but the challenge of this
game really comes from achieving a high enough score to move on to the
next level. If you play the game too cautiously, you’ll have a hard time
getting a multiplier large enough to reach the required score. If
you’re too carefree, you might not make it to the end of the level. This
is a hard balance to strike, and I found myself replaying many levels
several times before I hit it.
Swarm starts out strong with its zany vibe and amusing critters, but
only a few light platforming and puzzle moments break up what is
otherwise an orb-collecting march to the finish. The game fails to
innovate on its early mechanics, and it can feel like a chore to master
some of the later levels, which you’ll be forced to do if you want to
see the end credits. It may be fun to watch these little guys die, but
there were too many moments where I wanted to kill the power to my
Email the author Ben Reeves, or follow on Twitter, Google+, Facebook, and Game Informer.