Swarm screenshot
Swarm screenshot

You never feel like you're in control when playing Swarm, though that's probably because guiding 50 hapless blue blobs to any particular destination was always going to cause problems.

The controls don't help. On a basic level you're weaving your squad of swarmites through a multitude of puzzles, with tactful squeezes of the left and right triggers to spread and contract the ranks. More advanced manoeuvres, such as getting the little sods to assemble into a thin vertical stack or even jump in unison, feel woefully imprecise. When the game progresses to the point that it's asking you to perform these fiddly actions with both accuracy and haste, well, that's the point you're likely to get in a huff and switch off.

A wafer-thin exposition instructs you to collect strands of DNA - five of which are scattered around each of the game's ten levels - to ensure the development of the swarm, but for the most part you'll be fighting the combo meter. This sits in the top right corner and ticks up steadily when swarmites die, or by hoovering up the swathes of purple orbs littering each level. Nurturing your combo is especially important because progression is blocked until you hit each level's strict score target.

Checkpoints dot each stage, and hitting one banks your current score while keeping your multiplier running - effectively handing you two caches of points for the price of one. In theory a checkpoint should give you a bit of breathing room and make fumbling at one of the game's many pitfalls less devastating, but the inherent need for scoring means you're better off restarting the level whenever anything goes south. And, believe me, it will.

Almost everything in the game hates you. Spinning blades chop your guys in half, walls of electricity spit out fatal blasts, and cracks in the ground hiss asphyxiating gas. Entire corridors are strewn with bear traps, landmines, and sensitive explosive barrels, though the game's biggest killer is easily the many vertical drops into the frankly baffling amount of jagged spike pits.

Death is not the end, however. Because their untimely demises keep your combo multiplying, loss of individual swarmites is a good thing - the trick is to ensure the survival of enough cyan cretins to get to the next cache of eggs and pad out the ranks. This, as you might expect, is not necessarily as easy as it sounds.

The game revels in fatalities. Your army of pudgy, gormless swarmites are designed as lovable insects, dropped out of the weird throbbing tail-thing of a 'mother' entity burrowing through each of the game's levels, and whose growth is illustrated on the world map. The designs of the swarmites are uniformly excellent, with the game's primary characters exuding plenty of cheeky charm. If I saw a plush version of a swarmite for sale I would almost definitely be compelled to purchase it.

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dav2612's Avatar

dav2612

I was intrigued after playing the demo but not enough to part with 1200 points.
Posted 13:56 on 31 March 2011
Clockpunk's Avatar

Clockpunk

I must admit - from trying the demo - the game does look like it could be quite fun! But only 800 msp worth of fun, and I'm not quite sure it can justify the 1200 msp pricetag as it stands, which is a real shame. As soon as it comes on sale, I'll certainly get it!
Posted 13:53 on 31 March 2011

Game Stats

Swarm
7
Out of 10
Swarm
  • The swarmites are great
  • Decent concept
  • Controls are too fiddly
  • Little incentive to progress
Agree? Disagree? Get Involved!
Release Date: 30/03/2011
Platforms: PS3 , Xbox 360
Developer: Hothead Games
Publisher: Ignition
Genre: Action
Rating: PEGI 12+
Site Rank: 10,209 112
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