Swarm Arena is a new arcade title whose intentions seem to get a bit lost in translation. Though the concept and gameplay is quite original, one can’t help but feel let down by lacking presentation, which makes the experience extremely frustrating.
The thought behind Swarm Arena is decent and the game itself plays rather fluently. More impressive, however, is the fact that it is the perfect sort of idea for an arcade title and can be played at any time with ease. More importantly, still, the gameplay is extremely accessible, so you don’t have to be an ’80s arcade whizz to know what you’re doing.
It’s very simple really. On the field are a red organism and a green organism. Following each of these organisms is a bunch of drones. These drones become active when inside your zone of influence, which grows larger as you collect more. Using one of a few different power-ups, drones are launched around the arena, taking out enemy drones and potentially doing harm to the opposition. When one organism is overrun by drones, they’ll get destroyed. A match ends when a player – or computer – reaches the pre-determined target of wins set. It’s a simple system, but one that works well.
However, one thing makes it very confusing. For some reason, tiny blue particles float around the arena throughout the duration of a battle. I’m all for eye-candy, but something that needs to be fixed is the low contrast between these blue particles and the drones. Things can get very hectic at times, especially in the ‘Score Challenge’ mode, and the last thing you want is to run into an enemy drone which you didn’t even see.
Also confusing is the layout of the game itself. When you load it up for the first time, you play through the tutorial, which teaches you the basics of moving, collecting more drones and attacking. Then a new menu option opens up, titled ‘The Path’. The name and descriptions of the first few challenges would have you think that there is some sort of flow/story going on, but as you complete more of the game you realise it’s actually a checklist for the achievements you can make in-game.
The ‘Score Challenge’ mode, which has players running around the arena defeating waves of weaker enemies, is great fun for a while – the online scoreboards it offers adds to the true arcade feel of the title. That alone should keep you going for a while but the lack of support from other game modes is disappointing. It’s a good game to play with another person but the lack of an online mode hurts here; the sandbox mode offers little variety and should only be used to practise your skills; and there’s only so many times you can battle computer-operated opponents, even if you do vary the difficulty every now and then. Finally, what could have been a great method of introducing new elements of play turned out to be a mere checklist of challenges completed.
Many arcade titles we’ve seen this year are the type you’ll want to go back and play again every once in a while, but unfortunately, this is one release which might not live up to such an expectation. In an increasingly competitive indie industry, developers now need to wake up and realise that a solid concept won’t get you anywhere without a bit of variety, and Swarm Arena is proof of this.