The development of this game was quite turbulent, which seems to have carried over to its recently released sequel. The game looks great, but doesn’t offer much in its opening chapter.
Genres: Point & Click
Developer: What Pumpkin Games, Inc.
Publisher: What Pumpkin Games, Inc.
Release date: 14 September, 2017
I didn’t know much about Hiveswap Act 1 (HA) when it showed up in my January 2018 monthly Humble Bundle, but it had very good reviews, so I didn’t hesitate to activate it for myself. Honestly though, it’s not my first choice of game, as I’m not a huge fan of point and click titles, let alone ones broken up across multiple installments. Having no familiarity with Homestuck also doesn’t help matters. However, since I already had it, I decided now was as good a time as any other to play it.
As with many point and click games, there’s not much gameplay to speak of here. You will make the characters roam about in the environment, searching for puzzles to solve, items that’ll aid your cause, and other people that you’ll need to talk and interact with. Although the houses you explore are fairly large and have plenty of rooms to go through, the locations you actually go to are quite limited. After all, the game takes place across two planets, yet you only walk around a couple of houses. It feels far too restrictive to build up what these places are really like.
There’s not much to explain with the controls, as this is a point and click game. You’ll simply drag the mouse cursor around, and click on items in the environment to see if it’s useful to your adventure or not. With this simplicity in mind, there were, as expected, no issues with the controls.
It doesn’t take long before 2 of the 3 playable characters in HA encounter a bizarre monster invading their home. You’ll play as Joey Claire and Jude Harley, siblings trying to fend off this threat, and presumably figure out what’s causing this. Throughout exploring the attic, Joey winds up switching places with a character you don’t meet in this game. However, you meet the 3rd playable character, Xefros Tritoh, who becomes Joey’s guide and ally. By the time the game ends, your goal of going home now includes an interest in making this new world a better place for its inhabitants, though you’re completely in the dark as to what was taking place back home in the meanwhile.
The developers did a good job with the graphics, as each of the areas you explore have several background objects and plenty of detail. It makes these locations look like a real household, and gives plenty of false leads for you to dig through clutter for useful items. I think a reasonable case could be made about how this is supposed to make up for a lack of actual puzzles and content though, because you don’t actually do very much in the game. Admittedly, the cutscenes are all well animated, with smooth movements from the characters. With the Steam page indicating that the visuals are hand-drawn, I see why everything looks so good.
I’ll admit that as I was playing HA, I didn’t pay much attention to the music. Going back and listening to the soundtrack, I do find some of the songs enjoyable. However, though Toby Fox, who composed Undertale’s soundtrack, was involved with making the music, I didn’t find it nearly as good as those songs. I’d say the use of atypical sounds to build up a significant portion of the songs to be a big part of that, as I find it more distracting and annoying than pleasant to listen to. Thankfully, the game’s sound effects weren’t as much of a nuisance.
- With all of the additional items in the background, the inclusion of flavor text helps build up the environment, characters, and how the protagonists view the world around them.
- The story has enough stakes to be interesting, between the invasion of strange monsters, and a planet-wide rebellion being planned.
- Although the story is self-contained, I can’t help but think that knowing something about Homestuck would clarify much of what isn’t explained. For instance, are the people of the first world aware of monsters or planet-conquering tyrants? With this teleportation device, somebody would have had contact with the other world (theoretically), so would that have been kept a secret or not? The kids don’t know about it, but they’re also quite young to be told about such matters.
- I wasn’t overly fond of all the characters in the game. I liked the sibling pair well enough, but I found Xefros annoyingly dim, even if he is nice. Plus, I didn’t know what to make of this idea that they live under tyranny, yet also have gaming systems, TV, sports to play, plenty of food, etc. That’s an odd blend of living in luxury, but also being deprived of freedoms and rights.
- Act 2 was recently released. However, with this series being broken up across 4 games, and the 2nd one taking 3 years to put out, I’m not very enthused about continuing on with it. I wouldn’t have paid $8 for a point and click game that’s less than 3 hours long, and is only 1/4th of the story.
- HA follows the conventions of most point and click games, including what objects of interest tend to be, such as batteries, flashlights, etc. Talking to people at the right time also advances the game.
- Unless you can be killed during the fights, there’s no way to fail or make a mistake. Trial and error is all you need to succeed.
- The game should warn you before you exit out, but there’s no auto-save system, so be sure to save manually.
Whether or not HA would be of greater interest to those with familiarity of Homestuck, the game theoretically ticks all the boxes for what you’d hope for from a point and click. There are well-drawn backgrounds and objects to interact with, quality graphics, a story with high stakes, and at least some characters you’ll like.
However, with the intention of making this a 4-part series, I find the game to be far shorter than I would hope or expect. Also, with the way stories like this tend to play out, where a rag-tag group of people rise up against a powerful monarchy, I can’t help but suspect that the story will play out fairly quickly in spite of these stakes. If the upcoming parts of Hiveswap were significantly longer that’d help, but first impressions are incredibly important, and this short introduction comes across more as a long demo of a whole project than an entire game. I’d expect to see something like this on a site that lets you play free games, not being sold as a completed game on its own.
This is especially pertinent since it ends at a place in the story where nothing has been accomplished, except 2 characters who were chatting online meet in person. Plus, if I consider what’s taking place, it’s downright bizarre how much Joey cares about Xefros, as all he’s really done is given her some information about his home world. I wouldn’t meet somebody in person on the basis of the conversation they had, let alone want to risk my life for them. For those who started in Homestuck, I could see the interest in checking out this game. However, as I look at it in reverse order, I wouldn’t want to read the webcomic based on HA, as the writing is weak. This isn’t a game I recommend, though for the upcoming parts, it can only improve from here.