|System: Xbox 360, PS3|
|Dev: Hothead Games|
|Pub: Ignition Entertainment|
|Release: March 22, 2011|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Animated Blood, Cartoon Violence|
The swarmites themselves act as a flawed solitary unit, and can be made to disperse or huddle together, create living ladders, run, jump, and throw in unison. Considering how messy this could have been, Hothead handles your swarmite group admirably, and with a significantly realistic sensibility in terms of what happens when one or multiple swarmites fall behind. Though they move in a relatively small space when consolidated, you can lose half your horde easily by mistiming a jump, moving too quickly through a timed trap, or simply not being mindful of a particularly precarious edge. Thankfully, organic cluster points that resupply your mass are frequent, though it'll still take a deft hand in order to activate some of the motherload DNA bonuses, which require a certain number of swarmites to use, scattered throughout each level.
Swarm is more of a platformer than an all-out strategy game, but you do need to be mindful of how carefully you get through each area of a level if you want to max out your points. The gameplay becomes that much more interesting once you realize that after initiating DNA pick up, the game become a mad dash to its end. The more DNA you collect, the higher your score multiplier becomes, and before long the timed nature of your combo multiplayer makes it necessary to string together long chains of actions as you frantically overcome trap after trap within any given level.
Things get particularly stressful in the later levels, when you have to balance swarmite deaths from, say, bashing DNA-containing boxes, while simultaneously spacing actions out enough to keep your multiplier going while also navigating the traps in the ever-more perilous level layouts. You can also send swarmites to do their doom in a pinch to give the clock on your multiplier an extra boost, although the deeper into the game you get, the less useful this tactic seems to be. Needless to say, blindly running through an environment, which the game often forces you to do, means you're going to have to replay most levels multiple times in order to get a good enough score to move on. This can be trying sometimes, but with the game's pacing and the sheer number of points you can get if you're good, it quickly becomes an addictive challenge.
Swarm probably won't appeal to everyone, but it's a good example of the kind of indie design sensibility that can really flourish in a smaller market where development risks aren't as much of an issue. The $15 asking price is a little steep, considering you can beat the game in a handful of hours, but despite its brevity, Swarm is a very original and entertaining little game that I would encourage platform fans—especially those liable to laugh at the game's black comedic tone—to pick up.
CCC Freelance Writer