Review: Swarm


A review for Hothead Games’ action platformer.

A simple summary of the game is that you control creatures known as Swarmites and have to get them to the end of the level while trying to achieve a high score. Sounds pretty familiar, right? Well, the main difference is that you’re controlling 50 of these Swarmites all at once and you’ll find it near impossible to get through a level without a lot of them dying.

You have to navigate a destroyed planet while avoiding all the dangers it contains: fire, gas, traps; many things that will hinder your progress while you collect strands of DNA for the mother to grow bigger, all while trying to achieve the highest score possible mainly by trying to get the score multiplier as high as you can. This can be done by collecting a lot of DNA, reaching checkpoints and even by getting your Swarmites killed.

Screenshot #1It’s a pretty interesting idea and it works quite well, a lot of the time. The game is quite challenging and trying to keep a good balance between speed and score can be difficult. On top of the multiplier is the time bonus; the quicker you complete the level, the higher the bonus, but if you rush through too quickly, you risk missing a lot of DNA that could get you a large multiplier. There are also Death Medals to collect, which are awarded based on the numerous ways your Swarmites die. There are 3 types: Death Medal, Mega Death Medal and Progressive Death Medal. The first one is achieved via your last Swarmite getting killed in a specific way, such as vaporization or getting crushed; Mega Death Medals are given for having at least 10 Swarmites and getting them all killed in the same way; and Progressive tracks your total Swarmite deaths, awarding them when you hit a milestone. There are 9 different ways for your Swarmites to meet their doom, so collecting these medals should take you some time; they’re a pretty good extra, I can’t think of many games that reward you for the deaths of the characters you control.

The game plays pretty well too. The controls are simple and, considering you’re controlling 50 Swarmites at once, they work nicely. You can move them, make them jump, tell them to huddle together or spread apart. There are also a fair few abilities such as stacking them up to reach higher places, speed boosts and bashing things; all which have to be employed in various situations to overcome many obstacles. Doing this effectively can be difficult at first but you soon get the hang of it.

Screenshot #2There are a few small problems though. A lot of the time the game is a good challenge but sometimes it can get a little frustrating, especially if you haven’t quite got the hang of making use of the various abilities. Also, there are only a couple of bosses in the game. I quite enjoyed these boss fights, they were fun to play and had just the right amount of challenge, but there are only two of them; one halfway through and one at the end.

Note: I played the Xbox 360 version available on the XBLA for 1200 points. The review code was supplied by the publisher, Ignition Entertainment.

Developer: Hothead Games

Genre: Action Platformer

Time: The main story can be completed in about 3-4 hours, but if you’re wanting to try and beat other players’ high scores, get all the Death Medals and collect the achievements/trophies, it adds quite a bit of time onto that.

Gripes: The bosses were a good, enjoyable challenge but there’s only two of them and I felt it was a bit too short.

Get it for the: Pretty unique, fun gameplay and the competitive high score-beating.