This is a guest review by Fenr1c
Swarm has been around in development for a little while, and indeed it's a rare thing for a game for both the Playstation Network and Xbox 360 Live Arcade to have its own website. Whether or not it had as much anticipation as some releases from other studios is debatable but it certainly garnered some interest. So was it worth the wait? Well let's take a closer look shall we.
To be frank there's not much of a plot at all too this game. An opening animation shows Momma gliding as gracefully as a large blue, amorphous blob can, through space and landing on a strange planet. It would appear that Momma hasn't crashed here, but landed deliberately. Why? Well she carries the Swarmites, a horde of little blue aliens that have no idea what Momma has in store for them. And it soon becomes apparent that either Momma believes in tough love or she's grooming her little ones to survive in the tough environs of outer space.
Soon the little swarm leaves the security of Momma's belly and are literally spat out onto the surface of this planet. The little devils soon get the idea; they have to get from the start to the finish line. It sounds easy but as any gamer knows, the basic idea may sound easy but it will soon be obvious that there will be obstacles. These range from poisonous gas, to landmines, to ground em-placed spinning blades. There's tough love and then there's Momma's tough love. Can you guide the little blue blighter's to safety?
Within seconds of playing this memories of classics like Lemmings will come flooding back (for those of us old enough to remember it!) as these little fellas start their journey. However there are no different classes or type of blob here. There are no miners or diggers, here one blob is but part of a larger entity and they all must work together to get too their objective. They can run after they are 'charged' up to do so. This is achieved by pressing the R2 button as you move the swarm, and then releasing it at the desired moment. They can jump, which is achieved by a simple tap of the X button, holding it down makes them jump higher and further. Likewise, press R2 and tap X repeatedly and the little blighter's will stack themselves up by standing on each other's tiny shoulders. They can now run and jump whilst stacked, and indeed can perform a charged run whilst stacked.
They will encounter objects that can be interacted with by pressing the O button. This means they can lift up objects and then hurl them as missiles. On the second stage, they have to do this to lower a drawbridge. Be careful though, they can also throw any poor little swarm members that are standing too close! But therein lies the rub as I'll explain in a moment or two. As you progress you'll collect little pink spheres that boost your score and rack up nicely. Also look out for the DNA helixes that are scattered throughout the levels, collecting these are essential too success as the points they amass, unlock bosses and help Momma grow in size. As Momma grows, so does the swarm. Hitting a checkpoint will add a multiplier bonus to the score as will the disposal of a few swarm members. Now this may sound a little confusing but it soon becomes apparent that progress cannot be made without some sacrifice. Prior to the drawbridge I mentioned, there's a section that entails some air vents that pump gas into a pit that lies ahead. Now if the vents are blocked the gas stops being pumped. A quick glance tells you that there are no stones or anything else to block the vents with, so how do you do it I hear you ask? Stand by the vents and press the O button and some poor little swarm members will nobly block the vents, building up pressure until the machine explodes. See? No progress without sacrifice. However momma has prepared for this as there are little nests with eggs that if you cross them will re spawn the lost swarm members, so soon you have all fifty swarmites back under your control.
As mentioned earlier, Momma will grow in size as the DNA gets collected so the initial number of fifty swarmites should grow, I say should but I'll get to that later. You'll collect death medals for disposing of swarmites as they get gassed, sliced and impaled. These become your trophies on PS network as you progress. And that's where the game hits a roadblock. Progress isn't easy at all.
Now when I say I haven't got past the second level, you may well ask then why is this guy reviewing the game? To get too level three, you have to score 350,000 points or more. Trust me I have gotten close too this score, and that includes collecting the entire DNA that there is to collect up to this point, but I am struggling to score enough points to go onto the third level and beyond. I think that a lower score of 250,000 would have been more realistic as I have often reached that score and indeed beaten it. It's that extra hundred thousand that has remained up to now, elusive. So there is a level of frustration but the feeling of elation when you achieve a goal makes up for it. (Like Demon's Souls, it's hard but rewarding)
There is also a replay value to be had as you can go back to previously played levels and with new skills, like the stacking, you can try and break open boxes that previously you couldn't get at. Eventually the skill list will grow, as you will be able to ride air currents and glide to previously inaccessible areas for instance. Completing previous chapters in a quicker time than before will also give you a meaty score bonus. So by all means feel free to go back and try again!
Although not spectacular, they are more than adequate to do the job. Nice and colourful but not garish, just right.
Nice and response full, if swarmites die unnecessarily it's because your timing as a player has been a little off. Just take a deep breath and try again! Useful hint here, if you are not sure exactly what you are looking at, push the right stick upwards and the camera will perform a close up shot of the area where you are, and using this, you can then control the little blue devils and see exactly where they are going. Stuck? At certain points the game will give you hints, just press the triangle button when prompted.
Pretty spot on, larger obstacles will cause the swarm to split up and go around objects so keep that in mind. If they get too scattered press R2 and the little devils will cluster together so you can now control the swarm as a free flowing pack or as a group.
There isn't a soundtrack to be honest but sound effects are nicely executed and suit the atmosphere of the game perfectly.
Addictive, it can get its hooks into you and keep you coming back to try, try and try again. Heck, it's even kept me away from the likes of Red Dead Redemption and Dead Space! No mean feat I can tell you! Its fun, laced with a dark humour and you'll be juggling the moral obligation to guide them to safety with the desire to find new ways of dealing death and destruction to the little fellas! It's harks back to the days of many a happy hour playing games like Lemmings and that's no bad thing.
As addictive as it is, it can get very frustrating too. I have battled to resist the urge to launch the control pad into near orbit, but then have either given it yet another go, or just quit the game and play something else. It's a budget game so it lacks cooperative play or indeed online competition, but what would have been nice to have included, is a level editor where you could create your own levels ala Little Big Planet. Maybe they will do cooperative or level design on a sequel.
I can't help but think that maybe the goalposts for level completion are a little too wide. I refer again to that 350,000 point target to get to level 3. So although it is fun and highly playable it has its flaws. It will be a close call for players with less patience than others, if the cons outweigh the pros. For me the scales tip the other way, its humour and its addictiveness keep me coming back for more, although I partially dread what score is needed to get to level 3 to level 4. But anyway onwards and upwards little swarmites, I swear I shall get you back to Momma's loving embrace again as intact and unharmed as I am able to!