This title was reviewed on Nintendo Switch, but is also available on PC and WiiU.
Hive Jump is a Sci-fi action platformer with strategy elements published and developed by Graphite Lab after backing on Kickstarter. The game blends two genres that don’t normally meet each other and adds customisation where you wouldn’t expect. Is this another Kickstarter beauty or will it flop like wet lettuce?? Let’s find out!!
The graphics in Hive Jump are a beautiful pixel art type of graphics with the extra polish that lets you know it was an intentional choice. The art style and the way they’ve rendered the environments as different sections separated by little loading screens makes the game as a whole simply gorgeous.
Anyone who reads my reviews regularly knows that I’m an absolute stickler for good retro visuals and this is no exception, Graphite Lab have went in the exact perfect direction for this game and they’ve made a damn good job of it too. The environments are styled after caves filled with hostile aliens to shoot and the colouring used means you’re never having to squint to find the enemies as they’re practically highlighted in orange (as this is the colour of their race). This appears to be a choice of convenience for the player as most of the environments are green/black so picking a bright colour for the enemies helps them stand out and means you don’t end up with a headache from squinting constantly. Brilliant job, beautiful graphics, and well rendered cutscenes. Thumbs up!
This is one of the what I like to call ‘deep’ platformers that comes with a surprisingly in-depth story. You are a member of the HSA (which I assume stands for Human Space Agency as you’re never actually told), the jump corps specifically, troops dropped from low orbit into battle in highly specialised suits carrying backpacks that can re-spawn them and call for backup or artillery. Your name is decided by random generation, for example one minute I was Lt. K Miller and after I died and re-spawned I was Sir Flabbergast. Who you are isn’t important, what is important however is that humanity is under threat from an alien race known as the Ordovicians. They’re burrowing under human worlds and threatening human life, it falls to you and the jump corps led by Col. Kellar to stop them.
The story has clearly been given just as much time and effort as the rest of the game which is brilliant. Usually there will be one section of a game that’s not as important or wasn’t focused on as much but I can’t find that here, Hive Jump gives equal attention to each aspect I’ll be talking about. The story is enjoyable and engaging, you feel compelled to fight for humanity’s survival, not just because you’re being told to. So again big double thumbs up for the story! Just as a colliding remark here I just wanted to mention that the developers added detailed bios on all the main characters and enemy classes in the main menu which goes to show the level of detail they wanted to convey.
Ah yes, the gameplay, the cherry on top of a good story here. Hive Jump as I’ve said gives equal attention to each section of its game. The main style of the gameplay is a shooter platformer with elements of strategy. Where does the strategy come from I hear you ask? So the game is split into four acts each increasing in difficulty, when you enter an act you’re given a screen displaying the planet you’re defending, on this screen are different ‘nodes’ that you need to defend. You start with a few established and you need to capture free nodes and use the ‘goo’ you’ve collected from fallen enemies to reinforce it with extra troops, traps, or mech support. However this is in a turn based format meaning the Ordovicians also get to take over free nodes and take shots at attacking your controlled nodes which is why you reinforce them.
When you go to attack an enemy node this is when you begin the platforming. You’re dropped in and you need to fight your way through to the queen in that node and take her out thus capturing it for yourself. The enemies are many in number so you’ll never be short of things to shoot at and with different ammo types and grenades that can be switched between in the pre-mission screen. Once again I’m really impressed with the level of detail here, the added strategy elements make the game feel more immersive and it gives you a better view on the bigger picture instead of just pushing you through linear levels. It lets you choose where to go and whether or not you want to attack that node. Even if you do, no two levels are the same as they’re procedurally generated. So another thumbs up for the gameplay.
There is no voice acting in the game, the sound comes from the soundtrack itself and the noises emitted from equipment and enemies. The soundtrack isn’t very varied, it’s basically a similar 8-bit style that gets a little repetitive after a while. The noises enemies make are pretty much just popping sounds when they’re killed. I can’t say the sound side of things is very deeply made but it’s not a game that relies heavily on sound so it’s not the biggest loss in the world. Voice acting and a more varied soundtrack couldn’t hurt, but hey it was a Kickstarter backed game so maybe it just wasn’t in the budget.
Honestly I can’t find much to fault here, which is unusual for my cynical state of mind. I have actually loved playing this, the blending of platformer and strategy elements was a bold move but one I believe has worked out magically. Not to mention the brilliant story that’s not too deep that you’re two miles deep in lore and you’ve no idea what day it is but deep enough that the developers cared to give the characters a detailed biography that are actually referenced during gameplay. So as you can probably see I really really like this game and would thoroughly recommend it. Props to the guys at Graphite Lab for making such a detailed and fun game from Kickstarter backing, showing that the community really can make a game!