Space is filled with possibilities, but if the people at Graphite Labs have anything to say about it, space is filled with alien bugs ready to rip the faces off of anyone in their way. That’s where the Jumpers come in, equipped with high tech weaponry, gadgets, and armor. Players will be able to take up the cause and bring the fight to the bugs with Hive Jump, a run-and-gun action game with Roguelike elements.
I was lucky enough to preview the early access build of the game and here are my impressions so far. The video below shows off some gameplay footage on my Youtube Channel.
Hive Jump is a 2D action game sporting snazzy 16-bit graphics coupled with an interesting lighting system. Players will be dropped, literally, into a hive of monstrous bugs to fight their way tooth and nail to defeat the queen or survive as long as possible. Levels are randomly generated with upgrades spread out through play and at the end of miniature challenges. Beating levels lets the player upgrade and unlock more gear to take on the slowly tougher enemies. All of this takes place while a rocking retro soundtrack keeps the energy high, creating a symphony of chaos and bug squashing.
Upgrading weapons is a must as the game is quite challenging, especially as swarms of enemies flood the screen. As the Jumpers dive deeper into enemy territory, there will be moments of respite in the challenges one can find. These can be tricky as instant death awaits at every turn in the form of wicked spikes that sprout out from the walls, floors, and ceilings. At the end of these, there is usually a buff item like one that increase movement speed or reduce weapon cooldown. Some of these rooms can have cheap deaths, as the camera doesn’t always show danger, leading to leaps of faith.
Dying in Hive Jump is interesting as the lives players have to succeed is determined purely on the survival of the Transponder Backpack. As long as the backpack remains intact, new soldiers will drop into the hive. Losing the backpack results in a lost game. The Roguelike elements kick in, at least in Arcade mode, as players try to beat their last run, with only minor upgrades being available after death. Each Jumper dropped also has a random name, some of which allude to other games such as Keen Commander, an obvious nod to Commander Keen, one of the first PC games to include scrolling levels.
After a few levels, Boss Encounters will appear, creating some of the best spectacle of the game and some of the greatest challenge. These bosses are often massive, testing patience and encouraging knowing how each boss attacks. Boss fights usually hit their peak when the backpack is damaged and each jumper is dying almost as soon as they drop. Juggling this situation creates some of the game’s most exciting moments. Some weapons work better than others, so experimentation with a build is a must, especially when tackling these behemoths alone. Defeating these monsters grant tons of goo (the game’s currency) and of course the privilege to go deeper into the hive.
There is four player multiplayer in Hive Jump, with online lobbies coming soon to the game. Couch co-op is also available, assuming there are plenty of controllers to go around the PC. After the game sees launch on PC, a Wii U version is in the works, which will bring the game into the living room for all the madness and challenge of blasting bugs with friends. I haven’t got to try out Hive Jump’s multiplayer yet, but if its anything like Risk of Rain I can’t wait to have a bug blasting party!
All and all, Hive Jump is looking to be one of the best examples of an easy to pick up Rougelike action game. The design of it is nostalgic, but also impressive as each cavern hold possibilities and looks foreboding. Controls are tight, even in this early access build, but I would imagine using a controller would feel more natural as the mouse and keyboard set up can get exhausting. The difficulty of the game balances extreme challenge with empowerment of the player pretty well, but a tighter balance would be appreciated. As far as bugs (no the humor didn’t escape me) there have been a couple I’ve ran into, like one where my Jumper got caught in a hole he couldn’t slip out of. Some of the weapons could also be re-balanced as some feel loads better than others, but overall there is a ton of fun to be had in this version of the game.
Hive Jump is a retro-inspired romp through a nest of angry bugs who deserve nothing more than boots and lead. Being put in the boots of these soldiers is frantic and exhilarating. With that I can recommend Hive Jump to Roguelike junkies, retro gamers, fans of the Starship Troopers films, or anyone with an itch to shoot some bugs.
I anxiously await the full release of this game, until then I’m bound a determined to finish an arcade run. Wish me luck!