It might be understandable to compare Swarm to Lemmings upon first look. The only trailer we've seen so far gave us a look at all the creative ways that these dopey but adorable critters can die. The comparison to Lemmings ends there, however, because Swarm is an action platforming arcade game from Hothead Games where you need to get at least one of these goofy blue blobs to the end of the level while collecting as many points as possible. It's frantic and hectic at times, but it's definitely entertaining.
This giant blue pod with tentacles has somehow landed on a dangerous planet that seems to be littered with explosives and constantly falling debris. You control a swarm of 50 swarmites that must brave the awaiting hazards and collect as much DNA as you can to take back to your pod for it to grow. The game is broken up into 12 levels where you start off with 50 of these bulbous creatures and need to get to the tentacle waiting for you at the end of the stage. In between, there are numerous DNA globules and special hard-to-reach double helixes to collect. By continuously collecting DNA, your multiplying will continue to increase. A circular timer will let you know when it's about to run out, so if you're looking for that high score, you have to keep moving. Sacrificing a few of your swarmites will also keep that multiplier going, so it all depends on how you want to go about it. There are frequent pods that you'll come across, which will replenish your rapidly decreasing supply of swarmites, and certain areas will yield bonus points if you can manage to keep your team together.
You move as one giant fluid mass, and the little guys will generally stick together as you go around obstacles and group together again when they can. The stragglers will scurry to catch up, so they're not completely stupid. You can use the left and right triggers to have your swarm spread out or cluster together, depending on the situation. Sometimes DNA is all over the screen, so it's easier to spread your guys out and have them gather. But for tight platforming sections, you want them to huddle close to prevent them from going over the edge. These poor swarmites will die--and die often--because you tend to lose a few when you go through dangerous areas filled with explosives, poisonous gas, falling metal, and other deadly obstacles. While it's no big deal, as long as you get to the next pod, the game does keep track of how many swarmites you've killed and how--whether they were impaled, electrocuted, asphyxiated, and the like. In the PlayStation 3 version, there is a counter on the screen to keep a running tally as you play.
It's fun to see how this amorphous group gets around and works together. You can dash by holding and releasing the right trigger, as well as stack your swarmites to snag items that are located at a higher level. All of their skills can be combined, so you can stack up your guys and use them to bash towers. There will come a time when you need them to interact with the environment for more than just running and bashing, so some light puzzle-solving skills are needed to hit switches, for example. The B button will appear when there are objects to interact with, whether it is throwing bombs (and each other) or stuffing yourself into pipes and blowing up later. Sometimes sacrifices need to be made. You can order the swarmites to pick up bombs that are lying around and throw them at your target. And they'll do it…for the most part. If you look closely, you'll see that the really dim ones will pick up a fellow buddy and toss it. There's a cursor that lets you point to where and what you want your blue troops to target, and they won't miss their mark. However, they will also throw it at anything else on the screen that looks similar to your target. For example, if you want them to throw a bomb at a crate to the right, they will throw it at anything else onscreen that looks like the crate you highlighted.
It's also interesting to zoom in with the camera every now and then on your disposable lemminglike creatures to see how they're doing, especially when they're trying to balance on top of each other when you get them to stack. You can see them wave their piddly little arms to try to keep their balance; if you move them too quickly, they'll all topple over. Their spacey expressions are endearing, but there are just so many of them that we weren't too concerned when half of them just didn't end up making the jump. Although we did feel a twinge of guilt when we saw them impaled or even when they turned green from noxious gas and burst into a mess of blue goo--but life goes on.
The game is set to have about six to eight hours of gameplay across 12 levels, and you'll be able to keep a close eye on a friend's high score as you play to encourage friendly competition. There is currently no release date yet set for Swarm, but we were told that it should be coming out shortly on the PlayStation Network and Xbox Live Arcade. We'll be sure to update you with more information as soon as it becomes available. But in the meantime, check out some gameplay clips and the hilarious developer diaries if you haven't seen them yet.