Hive Jump

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Title: Hive Jump
Developer: GRAPHITE LAB
Publisher: GRAPHITE LAB
Website: http://hivejump.com/
Genre: Action, Platformer, Arcade
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Audience: 7
Release Date: 11/01/2019
Price: £9.99 – Rapid Reviews UK was very kindly provided with a review code for this title.

What the Developers say

Action Platforming: Engage swarms of aliens in frenetic combat. Avoid traps, withstand ambushes, discover treasures, rescue survivors, and more.

Co-op Multiplayer: Play single player, or 2-4 player co-op. (local (Wii U, PC) or online(PC)

Procedural Levels: Jump into procedurally generated alien hives. Level modifiers like dark levels keep you on your toes and offer new challenges to overcome.

Unique Permadeath: Keep the transponder backpack in one piece! It is your mobile respawn point and if it is destroyed by the aliens you have no more lives.

Challenging AI: Intelligent and fierce enemies await in the hive.

Upgradeable Sci-Fi Weapons: Pulverize aliens with pulse rifles, flamethrowers, and a variety of experimental bombs and weapons.

Hand-Designed Challenges: Plunder challenge rooms and uncover lost relics to upgrade your arsenal.

Dynamic Lighting: Experience pixel-perfect dynamic lighting using Sprite Lamp.

Strategic Campaigns: The results of your jumps directly impact the ongoing galactic war against the aliens. Manage your planetary campaign between jumps in a turn-based strategy mode.

Wii U GamePad Support: Play Hive Jump using your favorite console controller.

Platforms: PC / Mac / Linux (via Steam) and Wii U

Introduction

In August 2014, Graphite Lab launched the Kickstarter for Hive Jump and raised just shy of £50,000. First appearing on Steam in early 2017, the ‘part roguelike, part twin-stick shooter’ has now been released on both Xbox One and Nintendo Switch.

Players assume the role of a member of the Jump Corps, an army of soldiers (Jumpers) tasked with protecting humanity from an alien race. The campaign takes you through four acts, each escalating in difficulty as you successfully eradicate enemy hives on each planet. Led by Colonel Keller and her team, Hive Jump’s story focuses on the battle against the insect-like Ordovician. Mission briefings take place before the beginning of each act, setting up the story for the player. The writing is over the top and extremely corny! With lines such as “It’s time to fall from heaven and fight like hell” and “I can smell the bug-b-q already”, it’s nice to see Graphite Lab not taking themselves too seriously while on the brink of human extinction.

Looks and Sounds

As you play through Hive Jump, your mission is to defeat the Ordovicians, hive by hive. Each hive map is procedurally generated, and I was initially concerned that each mission would feel similar to the previous, thus becoming repetitive over time. Graphite Lab has cleverly used four separate biomes that are vastly different regarding the colour palette to keep the environments fresh, avoiding the feeling of jumping into the same hive over and over again. The 2D, 8-bit pixel art-style of Hive Jump looks great and the enemy types and bosses you encounter are well designed. This is both welcome and necessary because you are going to be seeing the same enemy types throughout the entirety of the game. While Hive Jump runs equally well on handheld mode, its bullet-hell style is less overwhelming on the big screen, and I found myself mainly playing it in this format.

Hive Jump’s composer, Jimmy Hinson, has previously worked on several AAA titles including Borderlands, Mass Effect and Call of Duty Black Ops 4. The chiptune soundtrack of almost fifty songs fits the chaotic gameplay of running and gunning perfectly. While you won’t be remembering them far beyond completion, each track complements the game’s fast-pace and irreverence at a planet’s demise. A personal standout track titled “Queen Killer” plays over the final encounter of each act and does an excellent job of raising the stakes in the climactic battle.

Gameplay and Replayability

Hive Jump’s prize mechanic is the core gameplay loop. Each mission challenges you to confront a bullet-sponge boss which is reached by progressing downwards through the hive, blasting your way through hoards of enemies and collecting as much goo (currency) as possible. Each map is full of optional challenge rooms that, when completed, provide relics that improve the jumper’s abilities. Perks such as a quicker respawn time, or faster player movement can help turn the tide in your favour.

Each jumper is armed with a primary weapon, grenade type and utility item, which can be upgraded through goo-based purchases. The arsenal is well varied, and there is a range of loadouts to suit your playstyle. As most of my playtime has been in single player, I found myself sticking with the shotgun and cluster grenades, while equipping the overshield as my utility item for extra support.

Hive Jump employs a permadeath mechanic that is linked to a backpack, carried by your jumper. While you will die (and repeatedly die for that matter), mission failure only occurs when your backpack’s health bar is fully depleted. Every respawns results in a new character, and Graphite Lab must have had a great time in coming up with names. From Clanky McGearface to Private Joystick and my personal favourite, Revolver Ocebot, each time a new character jumps in I find myself grinning from ear to ear.

There are various game modes included in Hive Jump. The planetary campaign implements what Graphite Lab calls an “XCOM Lite” meta-style, where you occupy nodes on a map, fortifying your strongholds with troops while pushing the aliens back to gain control of a planet. After a successful mission, you ‘win’ that alien node, however, if your mission fails, the aliens maintain control and have the opportunity to retaliate against the human-controlled nodes. Each campaign is completed when human bases occupy all nodes, and all hives have been eradicated.

An Arcade and Challenge mode is also available, adding to the replayability factor. Arcade mode strips away the node mechanic, allowing the player to jump straight into the action. Challenge mode provides the ultimate test and includes ‘Speedrun’, in which you are tasked with defeating a Hive in the quickest time possible, and ‘Clean Challenge’, where you enter a hive without any of your unlocked equipment to help you out.

Multiplayer is also available and can be played with up to four people, where one jumper is in charge of carrying the backpack. When played in a well-coordinated team, it’s a blast. However, Hive Jump is challenging and getting through the first few missions unscathed can be difficult to players unfamiliar with the genre. Even on the easiest difficulty, the game is punishing, and the end boss on the first campaign took me almost a dozen tries to come out victorious.

While the difficulty level doesn’t affect minute-to-minute gunfights, it does impact how many levels are within a hive, and they vary in multiples of three. On easy difficulty, almost every hive has three levels to traverse. As you progress in the campaign, it is not uncommon to come across a hive of nine or twelve levels. The difficulty also influences how you manage and defend your controlled nodes; enemy nodes are stronger and have more coordinated attacks on higher difficulty settings.

Conclusion

Hive Jump’s gameplay loop of clearing alien hives, upgrading your equipment and unlocking new gear is its strongest attribute. If the constant respawning hasn’t worn you out, the variety of game modes will keep you occupied well beyond the primary campaign. Multiplayer is a welcome addition and play will be more enjoyable with a competent group of friends. Hive Jump can be punishing at times, especially when venturing into the higher difficulties and for newcomers to the genre. This game is not for everyone, so next time you’re at a family gathering, think twice about passing the controller over to your gran.

Rapid Reviews UK Rating

You can purchase Hive Jump on the Nintendo Switch eShop at the following link, https://www.nintendo.co.uk/Games/Nintendo-Switch-download-software/Hive-Jump-1495051.html#Overview

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