Hothead’s latest downloadable title Swarm touches on the same allure and addictiveness that titles like Lemmings and Pikmin did years ago by offering a similar premise. You are tasked with aiding a large group of creatures travelling from one end of the level to the next. However, Swarm is certainly no clone of either and offers a unique and charming package on all its own merit.
Swarm promotes an easy to pickup and play style with hidden challenge that truly tests you as you progress. You take direct control of your swarm of 50, cute swarmites and guide them through the levels, teeming with dangers and platforming puzzles. Mines, lasers, fire and falls are set to hinder your progress and wipe out your swarmites in dark, comical ways, but this is part of the task. Simply getting to the end of the level isn’t enough. You need to score big to unlock the next stage and to do so you need to build up your score multiplier by collecting orbs strewn across the level and by killing a sizable chuck of your swarmites in the process. It’s an interesting and initially odd strategy to adopt. Having to actively try and kill your little blue swarmites whilst leaving a few left to push on and find spores for your swarmite ranks to be regenerated, is a refreshing and challenging experience.
Through the accidental deaths and purposeful murders of your swarmites you must, however, get at least some of them to the end alive. your direct control of them means you can move the swarm, have them sprint, jump, charge into and break objects, create a tower like some kind of otherworldly cheer leading squad, and all manner of other actions to help you guide the swarmites to the end of each stage. The platforming and obstacles aren’t too taxing, so the actual task of surviving the level is simple enough but acquiring a high enough score to progress is another story.
Swarm challenges you to do better. The first couple for levels allow you to find your feet before the next lot demand a tighter and more focus approach. It’s both a part of its charm and an issue. The simple premise with the hugely challenging undertone is engaging and competitive for the dedicated player, emphasising the want to not only beat the level but score big on the online leaderboards, but for others, this high barrier to overcome in order to progress can completely ruin the fun. Swarm does a decent job of walking this line for the most part though, however the occasional level will crop up that completely defeats you if you aren’t fully taken in by Swarm’s charm and fun.
Leading your swarmites around is fun and interesting, and with ten levels and two bosses, the challenge will keep you occupied. The morbid fun follows you throughout as well. Death Medals are awarded for killing your swarmites is different ways, and on the main menu you can press a button and watch dozens of creative and amusing kills on the poor swarmite adorning the screen. Sure it’s kind of morbid, but the cartoon-esque visuals and over the top killings gives the dark humour just enough light-heartedness to keep it on the right side of fun.
Swarm is a challenging but fun experience that will test your patience at times but is unquestionably endearing and well worth a go.
MLG Rating: 8/10
Platform: XBLA/PSN Release Date: 23/03/2011
Disclosure: Midlife Gamer were provided a digital copy of Swarm for review purposes by the promoter. The title was reviewed over the course of one week on an Xbox 360. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here.