Swarm is the latest offering from Hothead Games the studio behind DeathSpank and Penny Arcade Adventures: On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness (That’s quite a mouthful). In Swarm you take control of 50 swarmites, little blue dudes that you need to guide through each level collecting DNA. You need to try and keep at least one alive.
I started Swarm thinking, “this will be a nice easy casual game to while away a few hours”. How wrong I was. The levels were definitely designed by some sort of sadist, the control system has quite a steep learning curve and the game very quickly ramps up the difficulty. Why then would I keep playing? Because it’s fun!
Controlling the entire swarm at the same time took me a while to get used to. I kept losing swarmites off the edge of the level or running half of them into a wall of fire without noticing. The swarm can be told to huddle up close together or spread out and you can make them stand on each others shoulders to reach DNA in high places. The swarm can also dash forwards in the air or on the ground, this can be used to jump over or break through obstacles.
The individual swarmites are quite easily squished, even breaking through obstacles with the dash will lose you a few of them. You can replenish your swarm at special points which is just as well. There are certain points in a level where you can unlock more DNA to collect but you need a certain number of swarmites to do it.
Although the levels can be quite devious they are by no means difficult to get through. It’s not enough just to survive the level though, you must also reach a target score to unlock the next level. As you collect DNA you gain a multiplier with a timer and if the timer runs out before you collect more DNA the multiplier resets. Take your time and you will find yourself nowhere near the score needed to progress to the next level. This means you have to plan out your attack on the level to maximise your score which also means you will rarely do it on the first attempt. It will often take 4 or 5 tries (or 100 if you suck, like me!) to surpass the required score as you map out the level and all of the paths you need to take to keep your multiplier up.
Swarm is good fun, with a steep learning curve and quite a large barrier for progression from level to level but, like Super Meat Boy, the constant failing spurred me on until I sucked just that little bit less.
7 squidgy blue DNA collectors out of 10