PAX impressions – Swarm
Swarm really isn’t as like Lemmings as I first thought. It still has some similarities to the classic puzzle game, but the key difference here is that you have direct control of your Swarmites, and can change their formation in any way that you please
Hothead has been working on the game for a while now (since the inception of the company, in fact), and PAX was the game’s coming out party, so to speak. Swarm was spawned out of the PHD research of a member of Hothead, who majored in artificial life.
Once Hothead started demoing the game, if became apparent that there’s a sense of humour to this game, as the Swarmites themselves’ idle animations range from starting blankly into space, to scratching their nether regions. Once Hothead’s Joel DeYoung started moving them around, however, it was extremely interesting to see the formation systems in action. There are different formations for different needs, with Narrow being good for quick precise movements, and Spread being great for avoiding things like splash damage. Joel also showed off the fact that, if you jump whilst in narrow formation, the Swarmites will start to stack (somewhat precariously), allowing you to reach higher up areas.
Now, the Swarmites are extremely stupid, so you’re really going to have your work cut out for you if you want to keep them alive for the course of the level (the level Joel was demoing had these little blue plants, which gave you back lost Swarmites, but I’m sure later levels will be far more stingy with these) There are also checkpoints, in case you lose all of your Swarmites in a freak accident, such as getting them all chopped into blue festive confetti by a circular saw.
The guiding mechanics look extremely solid, and the presentation is colourful and entertaining, with the Swarmite’s death animations being particularly amusing (the asphyxiation one in particular). There is an “interact” button, which Joel used to tell the Swarm to go and stick themselves in some holes, to blow up a generator that was creating poisonous gas, thereby clearing a path for the rest of them.
Swarm is looking really great. There’s a humour permeating every facet of the game, with the critters’ lack of brains just making them all the more entertaining to play as. After seeing it at PAX, I just know the other guys are, and their excitement has only made me want to get my hands on it more. Look for Swarm next year.