Swarm review

  • Fast-paced platforming
  • Chasing high scores
  • Killing Swarmites
  • Quick spike in difficulty
  • Feeling guilty
  • Momma

If you were to smash Pikmin, Lemmings and Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysey into one game, you’d get something very close to Swarm. Aesthetically, anyway. The gameplay, on the other hand, is much different in that you’re not directing a group of goofy-ass looking aliens using some command system but, instead, controlling an entire pack of them directly.

The story is fairly simple. The Swarmites have crash-landed on a strange planet whose architecture looks to have been built by a psychotic murderer. It’s your job to guide the Swarmites through this preposterously dangerous place in order to collect glowing DNA orbs to feed their “Momma” – a giant blue mass that can only be described as something pulled from your worst nightmares.

At the start of each stage (10 in total), you begin with a pack of 50 Swarmites. Directing these little guys through the opening stages starts off simple enough, but the game quickly ups the ante by introducing more nuanced controls and deadlier stages. The goal is to reach the end with at least one surviving Swarmite while achieving a preset score to unlock the next stage. Getting that high score for each level boils down to moving through the stage as fast as humanly possible to grab a time bonus and maintaining a constant flow of DNA collection to maintain a high score multiplier. Unfortunately for the Swarmites, each level is filled with traps, so the majority of your guys will end up crushed, choked, burned, sliced, poisoned, impaled, so on and so forth. Fortunately, the game is very liberal with respawn points that replenish your horde, as well as checkpoints in case the whole pack dies.

Swarm’s humorous/twisted focus on death is one of the most fun aspects of the game. Oddly enough, Swarm actually rewards you with Death Medals for allowing your Swarmites to bite it in particularly gruesome ways. This nifty (if not incredibly sadistic) system makes level progression all the more satisfying as many of the later environments hit you with some particularly unforgiving platforming sections that require you to sacrifice a great deal of Swarmites simply to proceed. Sadly, while it is refreshing to see a game that will genuinely challenge you, this hardcore aspect of Swarm might turn off a few of the more casual gamers.

Whether you’re admiring the cartoonish environments or watching an entire pack of 50 Swarmites get blown into blue paste, Swarm is a visual treat. The graphics definitely show off a higher production value and the artistic design for each stage is fantastic.

It’s always refreshing to have a good game like this sneak up on you. Controlling the Swarm is solid and the platforming requires a deft precision. It might be hard to tell from the released footage and screenshots, but this game is frantic and fun to play. Those looking for their next set of achievements/trophies won’t be disappointed and the score-chasing crowd should be satisfied with the challenge Swarm presents.

Apr 6, 2011

More Info

Release date: Mar 23 2011 - Xbox 360
Mar 22 2011 - PS3 (US)
Mar 23 2011 - Xbox 360
Mar 22 2011 - PS3 (UK)
Available Platforms: Xbox 360, PC, PS3
Published by: Ignition Entertainment
Developed by: Hothead Games
ESRB Rating:
Teen: Animated Blood, Cartoon Violence

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  • philipshaw - April 7, 2011 11:19 a.m.

    I want to get this but I haven't seen an overly glowing review anywhere so I think I will wait for a price drop
  • FreedomPhantom - April 7, 2011 12:35 a.m.

    Is anyone else getting annoyed by that Mortal Kombat ad that keeps playing before all videos? Anyway, this game looks worth it enough to give it a try. I always say that and never do! oh well
  • ChickenFillet5140 - April 6, 2011 9:49 p.m.

    Thoroughly enjoyed the demo, definitely gonna pick this up.
  • reddeaddigestion - April 6, 2011 9:04 p.m.

    A must-buy for platformers and XBLA enthusiasts. A seriously-consider for everyone else. The true shining point of swarm is that it's a game that is still pretty dang fun even when you fail miserably. So many games are so overcompetitive these days to the point that losers have zero fun while winners cackle maniacally from tear-encrusted, jet-powered, golden chariots of death. Swarm is not a multi-player game. But the sheer fun of watching swarmites skitter about and die makes up for any and all frustration I feel when a stage run doesn't go my way. The difficulty spike is real and is significant around the 5th or 6th missions, but is perfectly surmountable with practice.
  • Baron164 - April 6, 2011 8:09 p.m.

    I've been meaning to try this game out. With all the sales XBLA has been having lately my wallet is really hurting :-(