I can still remember the first time I played Lemmings. The concept boggled my mind. There was nothing like it that I had ever played. That concept has bred so many ideas over the years and was my first thought when booting up Hothead Games’ latest creation, Swarm. While implementing ideas from titles such as Pikmin and the aforementioned Lemmings, Swarm also brings plenty of its own sadistic ideas to the table. What we end up with is a creative downloadable title that will fly under many people’s radars, and it truly shouldn’t.
Grasping the initial concept behind Swarm is simple. Each level starts you off with 50 swarmites. Your goal is to collect enough points to satisfy Mother, and reach the end of the level. While this sounds easy on the surface, it is the obstacles and puzzles that you need to solve in order to gain enough points that make it addictive. Swarm combines the addiction of leaderboard hopping with some truly unique level design to keep you coming back for more. It also introduces new gameplay concepts along the way that can be used in previous levels to increase your score. It balances things perfectly to keep you coming back for more.
What sets the game apart from others of its kind is that it focuses on the way you kill your swarmites. In order to keep your score multiplier going and, of course, continue your journey through the level. Finding unique ways to off your swarmites also can earn you cards for their distinctiveness. Keeping the score multiplier becomes integral to progressing through the game’s ten levels as well as climbing the leaderboards. This is where Swarm really draws the player in. Finding new ways to complete levels, kill your swarmites, or simply making it through the level faster all become obsessions.
Navigating the levels can be cumbersome at times until you come to grips with some of the more advanced controls. You can spread out your swarmites to collect more orbs or avoid destroying them all in one well-placed explosion. Likewise, you can huddle them together to traverse narrow platforms. Both actions are performed using the respective triggers. You can also stack the swarmites on top of each other to reach higher areas. Getting the mechanics down takes several deaths and levels to master. You will undoubtedly still find yourself bouncing your loveable blue squishy companions all over the place from time to time, but once you grasp the core concept, things become easier.
For a downloadable game, Swarm is filled with the visual panache you would expect. The level designs are dark and have a tormented feel, perfect for sending your virtual lambs to the slaughter. Sure, this game sounds sadistic, but when you see how these deaths occur, it comes across as comical, more than anything else. Even on the title screen, you can continuously tap a button to watch the swarmite be obliterated in several fashions. This will be your first indication of the type of humor here, and the tone it will set throughout. This game is meant to be sadistically humorous and it works on every level of that aspect.
Swarm is the kind of game that you will be hard-pressed to get someone excited about just by explaining the concept. You need to play this game to understand what makes it special. I highly suggest fans of games like Pikmin and Lemmings to download the demo and give it a whirl. There is enough addiction here to warrant the price tag. Much like Super Meat Boy and Trials HD, this is one game that can have you replaying levels over and over again just to better your score. And that is a sign of fantastic game design.
Review copy provided by publisher.