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PAX Prime 2010: Swarm

PAX Prime 2010

For some reason the blue critters of Hothead’s new title Swarm, live in the most dangerous, god forsaken corner of the universe. Little at this point is known about the curious creatures, but one thing is painfully obvious, they do not belong in this terrible place.

Demoed by one of the development team, Swarm is a game about the bigger picture. Players pilot a swarm of the astutely titled swarmites through a hellish gauntlet of platforms and environmental puzzles. Along the way swarmites will die and often times in hilarious, but sad fashions. But that’s okay as long as some of the swarm survives to soldier on to the next spawn point, which replenishes the groups’ numbers, allowing the march towards better days to continue.

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During the demonstration the developer showed some of the abilities the swarm could use to various affects. The swarm can be quickly contracted or expanded to cover more ground, which proved useful while pressing a group of timed pressure plates. Swarmites can also stack themselves into a shaky, living mess of a tower, which is necessary to reach specific areas or grab previously unreachable items. Of course employing the tower in many platforming sections eventually sacrifices the unlucky swarmites who happen to occupy the ladders foundation, but it’s a sacrifice you’ll learn to make.

The most striking aspect of the entire presentation was the attention to detail of the swarm and the overall physicality of the group. Although I didn’t get to play it firsthand I could see the time it took to shift the momentum of the group and was thoroughly impressed with the animation. Speaking with the developer after the demo, he noted the amount of fun the animators at Hothead have had creating the animations for the swarm, particularly their deaths. Swarmites will get chopped to pieces, fall off cliffs and be blown to bits, and it’s apparent the team has had as much fun creating these demises as we’ll have watching them. The oblivious, innocent nature of the swarmites combined with the unavoidable deaths they run into gives the game a certain Lemmings quality.

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Given the non-traditional premise and protagonists, it’s refreshing to see Swarm rendered in its own distinct aesthetic. The level itself – that was demoed – wasn’t terribly striking as it was filled with reds and browns but the swarm itself is a bright blue, a color that contrasted quite vividly against the environment. As the little guys die, they often spray blue blood across the stages, creating these stark blue streaks that tend to highlight the little tragedy found in each of their deaths.

By the time the demo had been completed and the shpiel digested, Swarm had won me over. The idea itself looks fun and zany enough, but it’s that same personality Hothead has managed to cram into each of their previous releases that really elevates the title. Swarm hasn’t been officially unveiled for any specific platforms at this point, but they’d like to see it available on as many as possible. Swarm is due sometime in 2011 and I can’t wait to test drive the little blue buggers myself.

The author of this fine article

is an Associate Editor at Thunderbolt, having joined in April 2008. Get in touch on Twitter @_seankelley.

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