Review : Hive Jump

Shoot gun, splat bug. Any questions?

Review Platform : PC (Steam)

Hive Jump is a rogue-like shooter that does a pretty good job of speaking for itself. Between the crazy weapons and cheesy soldier mojo, you’re here to bust up some bugs and bust them up good. Frankly, things don’t get much more complicated than that. But if unloading ridiculous amounts of firepower on thousands upon thousands of insect grunts sounds like a good time, you have no shortage of ways to do it in this game.

hive-jump-image-1
Pinwheels and flamethrowers… who would’ve thought?

In Hive Jump, you are tasked with “jumping” alien bug hives that have taken up residence a bit too close to human civilization. This can be done solo or with friends, local or online. The online portion is supposedly still beta-ish, and I can confirm that I ran into a few hiccups. The developers appear active in fixing up launch issues though, and if I was able to get into a match without an immediate lag spike, things went pretty smoothly.

Hives (or levels) in the game are procedurally generated; the strength or difficulty of the hive typically determines how many floors you’ll have to best to consider it cleared. There are four different environments to explore and mid-hive bosses to conquer, as well as player-boosting “relics” to find. A form of permadeath is present here but its implemented in a unique way: the team must hold onto and protect a backpack that acts as a mobile spawn point for reinforcements. Its one of the more interesting wrinkles in this game: instead of being cast as a single soldier, you’re actually a legion of soldiers who one-by-one fill the shoes of their fallen comrades. Not only does this make for a rather intuitive death mechanic, but the game injects a little extra character via an end-mission memorial for your recently fallen soldiers.

Beyond little touches like that though, the game’s wit and humor will probably be a love-hate thing for most people. Loading screens have corny one-liners that range from pure silliness to meme references. The brief interactions with NPC’s are largely forgettable and often feature fairly random dialogue. There’s a bit of charm to it if you don’t take it too seriously, but you won’t be missing much if you ignore it altogether.

Fortunately, you can skim past the goofiness pretty quickly and get straight to what matters most: the running and gunning. The armory in this game is very robust and most everything feels not only usable, but unique. The heavy hitting guns in your arsenal feel plenty powerful, but the more nuanced weapons usually manage to give you nice perks while not sacrificing too much damage output. Grenade and utility equipment types are also used and do a great job of rounding out your loadout. The tactical depth in all three categories of equipment–rifles, grenades and utilities–is pretty impressive.

Bravery takes many forms.
Brave one, ain’t he?

Player customization is easily one of Hive Jump’s strongest points. Not only is building a loadout straightforward, but you can swap equipment in between floors if your handy-dandy backpack is still in one piece. As you get used to the basic level structure, you can begin trying to foresee what’s coming next and tweak your loadout accordingly. Hive Jump, perhaps in true rogue-like fashion, is a game that gets better the more you put into it. Its a great feeling when a good plan and an optimized loadout come together in a particular run. When taken into account with the numerous game and challenge modes available, such as daily and speed-run challenges, there is a lot of room for trigger-happy players to self-improve and compete on leaderboards.

But if you’re more into the discovery elements of rogue-likes, Hive Jump’s general lack of depth could be a deal breaker. You are going to see a lot of the same type enemies even as you get deeper into a hive, and this repetitiveness generally carries over between runs. Unlocking player equipment does provide some longevity, but not much considering how easy it is to unlock most things. There is a campaign mode (which is also available online,) but it only adds a light tactical layer that is loosely-connected to the actual hive levels themselves. At the end of the day, you should be in this game for the in-level shooting action, because if you can get past the lack of variety the floor-to-floor bullet grind feels surprisingly engaging.

So in short, the strong run-and-gun action is clearly the star of the show here. Procedural level generation does just enough to keep a bit of freshness and allow the bullet storm antics to shine. If gun-slinging prowess and a never-ending supply of targets is all you need to have a good time, make no mistake that this game delivers in spades.

 

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