Thanks to Graphite Lab for the review code
Title: Hive Jump
System: Nintendo Switch (eShop)
Release Date: 1/11/2019
In a far off future, aliens coming out of a hive on another planet have made their attack on Earth! It’s up to you and three other heroes to set out in their strange, mysterious dungeons and destroy the source of all aliens to save the planet and protect it from an infestation!
Going for your standard pixel art look, Hive Jump tries to stick to the 16 bit look in an almost identical way to how A Robot Named Fight gave it a shot. The sprite quality is really good, with some neat enemy designs and a few customization options for your main character, and the cavernous backgrounds look nice. Add a decent chiptune soundtrack and you have a serviceable presentation.
One big gripe I have with the visuals come from how the whole game just feels like it’s too zoomed in, almost like a Game Gear title. It’s tough to explain, but more often than not while you have plenty of horizontal viewing space, anytime you have to hover down more likely than not you’ll get hit by an enemy you won’t be able to see until the absolute last second. It’s very aggravating, and having the perspective zoomed out just a bit more would have greatly helped in this regard.
Hive Jump is a cooperative action game where the main goal is to clear dungeons known as “Hives” which are multi-floored caverns infested with enemies, treasure, and upgrades, all to make it to the boss at the end and clear the hive. There are several different game modes on offer, but they all share this basic goal.
Arcade Mode is the best place to start, for it is your basic, randomized assortment of levels as you work on a difficulty and make your way further down the hive, shooting with a back shoulder button and jumping with the other, while aiming with the right stick. You even have some grenades that you can use to blow up walls and take out tougher enemies, but you have a limited amount of those, so conservation is key.
However, like with any roguelike game, this is definitely not meant to be beaten in a single sitting. Heck, it doesn’t even feel like it wants you to beat a run at all without a lot of grinding, solely because even on the easiest difficulty the boss of the hive practically requires weapons that aren’t your default, so dying will be very frequent.
The good news is that Hive Jump doesn’t just have you lose your HP and start over, since you actually have a special backpack that will summon in backup from the surface, with all your equipment intact. Basically, as long as you managed to slowly move the backpack out of harm’s way, you pretty much have infinite lives, but once the backpack is destroyed, the game will end as soon as that soldier is killed off. This made the game easier to get the hang of than some other roguelikes that will just throw you into the game and add cheap difficulty that requires mastery of the game and grinding to stand a chance.
Don’t think you’ll be free from the grind I mentioned earlier, though, since you’ll be gathering currency known as goo in over the course of your runs. Anytime you clear a floor, the goo you obtained will be saved and kept, so that in-between floors you can spend it to purchase and upgrade new weapons, grenades, and even entrance animations. After getting frustrated at first with a weak weapon and the aforementioned camera issue, this loop of getting goo and trying out new weapons was actually addicting for a while, even if in the end I would keep dying to the same boss over and over again. The best part is that these upgrades are available in the other modes, too, which is a perfect way to talk about what else is on offer.
Despite being the top option being the Campaign mode, I do not recommend that you go with this option first, as even the easiest setting will absolutely murder and confuse you. While this is where the aforementioned story takes place, you will never be able to survive with even a moderately upgraded loadout. The game shifts between a strategy RPG akin to Advance Wars with a map, where infected hives will try to weaken human towns, and you’re to go into each of the hives on the map and destroy them to reclaim them for Earth. The problem is, these hives are much, much longer than the ones available in Arcade mode, and there’s barely any direction to speak of. Compared to Arcade, I didn’t have much fun here, usually due to sudden difficulty spikes and bullet sponges that would pop up only a few floors in.
Likewise, there are several challenge Hives available to take up as well, mainly for speedrunning purposes. You have a speedrun hive, a Hardcore Hive, along with a few others, which have a preset boss and amount of floors and task you with rushing to the end as fast as possible to best your time. Of course, this is better off being done after you upgrade your equipment, but I found these challenge hives to at least make more sense for training yourself compared to the campaign.
Last but not least, there’s the four player co-op. On Steam, this had online multiplayer support, but unfortunately the Switch version doesn’t have this at all, which is kinda absurd after the Wii U version was lacking this feature as well. The good news is that local multiplayer is still enjoyable if you have a buddy or three, and the price seems to have been lowered on this version compared to the Steam/Wii U versions to compensate, which is a nice courtesy. Unfortunately, there’s no split screen for some reason, so the cramped screen issue from earlier is still a cause for concern, and all players must be on the screen at the same time, so you can wander one way and have someone else go another, which is a bit of a bummer for floors that encourage exploration. Still, me and my friend did enjoy going through Arcade mode and getting some more upgrades this way, so it helps make the grind more enjoyable.
In conclusion, Hive Jump is a decent roguelike with a great Arcade Mode, a good upgrade system, and enjoyable co-op, but with a very tough barrier of entry. While the other modes can be enjoyed once you get the hang of things in Arcade mode, this game is still one that requires a lot of grinding just to get the basic upgrades in order to survive. Still, with a friend around, or with lots of patience, you can eventually get a lot of enjoyment out of this game, and with some challenge modes to take on, there’s lots of content to experience here as well. For $10, you’ll definitely get your money’s worth, but I can only really recommend this for those with lots of patience, or for those willing to forgive the game’s clunky camera or lack of split screen multiplayer. Mystery Dungeons have never had this much run and gun fun!
I give Hive Jump a 6 out of 10.