Alien Hunting, I Saw That on TV Too
There’s nothing that represents 16-bit games quite like hunting down monstrous aliens with a slew of devastating weapons at your side. As a game built like something you’d find on the SEGA Genesis, Hive Jump is mostly what you’d expect. It throws players into hives of evil aliens and tasks them with cleaning out the menace until the galaxy is saved. With an added co-op function, a blending of genres in its campaign, and a few extra modes, is Hive Jump the next big arcade shooter on Nintendo Switch?
Run N’ Gun
Controls and gameplay are important in shooting games, and Hive Jump does a good job of making its players move and react just like a super soldier. Weapons are based on heat rather than ammo, jump jets are mapped to the ZL button to let players get to higher areas, and players can aim in any direction by adjusting the right stick. It all responds well and feels nice. Sometimes, movement can feel a bit slow for a game that encourages running through levels quickly, but overall, it’s done well.
The game is sectioned off into procedurally-generated levels that take the style of games like Spelunky. Players have to navigate through a maze of enemies and challenge rooms before finding the exit door at the bottom of each level to move on to the next one. This system allows players to complete each level at their own pace. If they want to get as much goo as possible, they can stick around and destroy all of the aliens. If they just want to breeze through for completion’s sake, they can do that as well.
Unlike Spelunky, though, there isn’t much reason to stick around and explore. In that game, there are better weapon and equipment rewards for those who want to dig around a bit further. In Hive Jump, players are only rewarded with goo, more grenade ammo, or an attribute that only lasts for the remainder of the level. Having players navigate through a maze teaches them how to adapt, but the layouts aren’t utilized quite as well as they could’ve been. This is also true in the enemies and level aesthetics. Most of the time, you’ll be going through similar-looking environments and fighting the same types of enemies. It makes a lot of the game blend together, which causes it to become boring during some parts. It’s best played in short bursts (if playing by yourself).
The rewards for playing Hive Jump are mostly in the form of goo. Players can spend their goo on new weapons, weapon upgrades, and special equipment. However, once players find their groove with the weapons they want, the currency doesn’t offer much else. It’s easy to just fall into a groove and accumulate goo for other purposes.
Different weapons aren’t the only things that Hive Jump lets players choose, though. There are a number of icons and character skins that they can unlock through playing the game and completing levels. This is likely what will serve as the greatest motivation, as each skin unlocks after a set number of levels are won. Having this level of customization is great for differentiating players in co-op mode, and it’s just satisfying to see your character change appearance.
While Hive Jump seems more like a standard game from the description above, it does have three unique changes that help it stand out a bit. The first is the backpack system.
Instead of forcing players back to the start upon death, each time they die, their backpack floats around. The backpack has a health bar that, when fully depleted, causes a game over. As long as players protect that backpack, though, they’re in the clear. It was a nice way, in my opinion, to show how a military force sends in a series of Hive Jumpers to clear out the aliens. It’s also punishing for death, but not to the point where playing the game becomes aggravating.
The second unique addition is in the campaign. Hive Jump‘s campaign is segmented into four acts of gradually increasing difficulty. What’s different about them is that they start with a section reminiscent of real-time strategy games. Humans and aliens take turns occupying nodes to try and control the whole map. If players try to take over an alien node, they have to send Hive Jumpers in to clear it out, which leads to the standard run n’ gun levels. While it’s a novel idea, it’s something that I feel only gets in the way of the real action at times. The strategy segments aren’t very deep, and options for how to tackle each problem are small. There were many times when I just wanted to go from one level right to the next instead of waiting through ending turns and having my progress pushed back further.
The final addition to Hive Jump that makes it stand out is co-op. Up to four players can join in each game to tackle hives together. While it’s certainly much more fun to play the game with friends, two is probably what I would recommend. With four players sharing the same screen, things can become hectic and difficult to decipher. Players will kill each other and not understand what happened. It becomes more of a hindrance than an advantage at that point.
System reviewed on: Nintendo Switch.
Disclaimer: A review code for Hive Jump was provided by GraphiteLab.