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Swarm Review

Swarm Review

HotHead Games are still relatively new to the downloadable games scene, with their first major independent release being DeathSpank last year. They've got straight back into the game though, releasing Swarm as their second title. It's a puzzle/platforming game where you control a bunch of up to fifty rather expendable little creatures called Swarmites, and it's actually rather quirky.

The story is a rather odd one. A large blue blob lands on a war-torn planet, and mutates into a rather huge being which is thereafter known as "Momma". She then breeds little Swarmites to help collect pieces of DNA in order to help save their race, and get off this terrible planet. There are only two real cutscenes in the entire game though, at the beginning and at the end, so if the story passes you by, don't be surprised. The only thing you'll probably notice is how weird it is.

There are numerous levels to go through, and at the start of each one "Momma" drops down fifty swarmites. It's then your job to guide them through the level, picking up pieces of DNA as they progress. You control all of them as a collective, but they all have minds of their own. What this means, is that if you walk them directly at an object and tell them to continue walking, they will find their own way around it. It's a fun little system and it's great seeing your little guys running around on the screen.

To help you try and keep a handle on the mayhem, you're allowed to control the Swarm's dispersion by telling them to either huddle or separate. You'll almost never tell them to disperse though, so it's slightly weird that they included this option - huddling benefits you the most, and it also allows you to launch speed boosts. The only time you'll probably ever use the disperse option, is in conjunction with the speed boost, as this then allows your swarmites to attack things.

There are also a few little bugs sometimes, as the Swarm will always tries to maintain a set distance from the "central" point. What this means, is that whenever you walk around, they will always be a set distance away from each other. However, sometimes if some of the swarmites get separated by being pushed out forcefully, they will continue to act as if they are in the "default" formation, not realising that they are in fact way outside of the pack. They don't instantly try to get back inside and despite you having moves to influence their behaviour, these don't actually help. Instead, if you huddle, they will bunch in, but still be well outside the pack.

It's not a massive issue though for the most part, as the whole concept behind Swarm is that your swarmites are fully expendable. Collecting DNA is of the utmost importance, as is maintaining your collection chain. Whenever you pick up a piece of DNA, it will accumulate in your overall score, but your multiplier will also increase. In order to keep your multiplier going, to need to be consistently be picking up pieces of DNA, so sometimes there may be a bit of collateral damage. It's quite difficult to get into this mindset really, because you need the swarmites, but you also don't need them. Your score multiplier is the most important thing, as if you don't obtain a certain score, the next level won't unlock. You can also get new swarmites if you get a checkpoint, so it's not the end of the word if almost all of them fall into a ravine.

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