Review Copy provided by Graphite Lab.
There are few things in the realm of gaming that bring me such joy as blasting an alien invader in the face with an incredibly unnecessary amount of bullets.
Mix that feeling with side scrolling, twin-stick shooter, action platforming gameplay, toss a couple of multiplayer grenades in there, and you’ve got yourself an explosive recipe for fun times to be had by all.
Hive Jump, created by Graphite Lab, has just what you need for frantic gameplay on the go with the Nintendo Switch, and even brings some refreshing new mechanics to the platform shooter genre.
So strap on your boots, load up your favorite ammo, pack a clean pair of underwear, and get ready to run, gun, and have some fun!
It’s time to jump.
The main campaign of Hive Jump acts more like a purpose driven mode that provides the briefest of explanations as to why you’re actually fighting the alien race known as the Ordovicians.
The story is your typical alien invader against buff and mean soldier bros., but that’s actually part of the goofiness of the whole thing.
Graphite Lab consistently pokes fun at how expendable every member of the J.U.M.P. Corps is, even going so far as to create an entire gameplay mechanic around soldiers dying, and using kickstarter backers submitted names as the names of each new recruit.
Speaking for myself, this allows the possibility to make my own story as I go deeper and deeper into the hive.
I always check the name of each of my new soldiers and commit them to memory, because at the end of each mission you’ll be presented with a results screen that also includes a statue in memory of the fallen troops.
The gameplay of Hive Jump is non-stop and frantic chaos, and I absolutely adore it.
With a multitude of skins, colors, and player icons to choose from, as well as twelve different ammo options to upgrade, eight unique grenade types, and nine powerful abilities at your disposal, you and up to three friends can really stick it to the swarm.
You’ll make your way down the tunnels of the Ordovician hives, running and gunning through procedurally generated levels, finding branching rooms along the way with hand designed challenges, and reaching a boss to slay in glorious shooter bro fashion.
Keep an eye out as you traverse through the hive by the way, as certain geeky references are made as you find and talk to survivors stranded in the depths of the alien planets.
Personally, I find the controls to be very intuitive, especially if you’ve ever played a twin stick shooter before, though some new recruits I played with felt they were a bit strange to pick up right away.
You move your soldier around the 2D plane using the left joystick, and aim your gun with the right joystick.
The right and left triggers control firing your weapon and jumping/jetpack boosting respectively, which leaves your thumbs to nimbly navigate the maze that is the hive.
Your gun is kitted out with a overheat sensor, which will stop all firing if you let it get too hot, and this creates moments of panic while the bugs swarm around you if it activates.
Luckily, the game helps you keep track of this feature through the rumble of your controller, so you can kinda get a feel for how quickly your gun will overheat and when to stop firing before it makes you stop.
The right and left shoulder buttons will toss your grenades and activate your chosen ability.
As far as face buttons go, the only two that actually do anything are the A and B buttons.
The A button is your typical “activate/use” button, which you’ll use to open up chests, go through doors, and pick up your backpack.
Speaking of the backpack, the B button will toss it, which can be cleverly used to your advantage if you get into a heated battle but wanna keep the backpack safe.
And keep it safe you should, because Hive Jump uses the backpack as your lives.
Remember when I mentioned that the game constantly reminds you that soldiers are expendable?
That’s because when each soldier dies, the next recruit will take the fallen troop’s place by “jumping” in to the fight wherever the backpack is located.
When you die in single player mode, you can use thrusters on the backpack to maneuver it around and continue to dodge enemy fire to keep it’s health up while you wait for the jump to occur, but in multiplayer you’ll have to rely on a fellow squamate to pick the backpack up and keep fighting the good fight.
You’ll want to bring your friends along with you for the ride, because Hive Jump really shines when you’ve got four players blasting bug guts all over the walls.
Unfortunately, this is also where some of the small cracks start to show in Hive Jump’s gameplay.
With three different main modes to play in, Campaign, Arcade, and Challenges, and the fact that each player has their own profile with separate unlock tiers, you’d naturally want to play as much as you can with your friends.
However, it would seem that Graphite Lab had other plans in mind, as only Campaign and Arcade are available for local multiplayer play, and there is zero online multiplayer option available.
This is real disappointment due to the fact that Challenges offers four really great modes that would be a blast to play with others.
Clean Run has you entering the hive with fresh boots, and your goal is to decimate the bugs lair without any of your upgrades or unlocked equipment.
Speed Run is pretty self explanatory, but your goal here is to get through a staggering 12 depth hive in as quick a time as possible.
Hardcore not only ramps up the difficulty and strength of the Ordovicians, but also removes the backpack mechanic, giving you just one life to destroy the hive.
Endless, which would be my favorite multiplayer mode if it was available, is where you go until you can’t go any further, fighting bosses and ambushes and queens along the way.
This felt a little backwards to me, and I really think Hive Jump would be at it’s greatest potential if multiplayer was brought to every mode.
I’ve already talked a little bit about Campaign mode, but there is something unique to it that I haven’t gone over, which is how in-between each side-scrolling shooter mission, you’re presented with a strategy-lite game.
This little mini-game is actually kind of enjoyable, though I do wish it was flushed out a little bit more, as even in the later difficulties it really just felt like I was far too overpowered.
Strangely the difficulty of Hive Jump, while playing single player, seems to escalate at a staggering rate only once you reach the Queen’s lair.
In fact, after countless attempts made by myself with every combination of equipment that I could think of, I was only finally able to beat the Queen when my fiancé, Amanda, jumped in and played with me.
Not only that, but we beat her in one try, and Amanda was fresh to the game other than one rampage with me through an arcade mode on easy, which just felt a little off to me since the choice was made to not include multiplayer everywhere.
All in all though, the gameplay mechanics of Hive Jump are really addicting, and Graphite Lab has done a great job at giving you reason to continuously jump, pardon the pun, back into the game for more.
After unlocking everything, and beating the game to the best of my ability (some of the harder challenges have yet to be achieved), I still find myself gravitating towards this beautifully crafted title, despite shortcomings from a multiplayer standpoint.
Audio & Visuals
The graphics in hive jump are pixel perfect, and remind me of Contra crossed with Halo/Gears of War.
It gets a little complicated to keep up with everything going on while you play, especially when the hive start to swarm on you, but just keep shooting and you’ll be fine.
There are four different cavern styles that will be selected upon entering each level of the hive, and each one offers their own unique color palette and environmental hazards, which keeps things feeling fresh as you delve deeper and deeper.
One note though, it does sometimes get difficult to understand your progression through the hive, but thanks to a mini-map you can pull up with the — button, you can keep track of your progress fairly easily.
The soundtrack to hive jump gives off a galaxy themed chip tune vibe, and in the heat of the moment during battle, really settles in nicely behind all the heart pumping action on screen.
Hive Jump is a great pick up in my opinion, and being Graphic Lab’s first foray onto the Switch, I can’t wait to see what else they can do for this console.
I will note, due to the twin stick nature of the game, you do require both joy cons for each person, so no “out of the box” multiplayer to be found here.
You will have to shell out the money for another controller, unfortunately.
While the slight lack of multiplayer really bugs me, the gameplay overall just keeps me wanting more, and that’s really what you want out of a game.
Hive Jump is a great purchase at $9.99 on the Nintendo eShop, and I really recommend you give it a try, especially if you’re into twin sticks like me.
When everything is said and done, I will continue to jump into the fray and take out as many Ordovicians as I can before being slaughtered myself, even long after I 100% the game.
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