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Review: Hiveswap: Act 1

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Horny trolls and swapping souls

I used to read a lot of webcomics, and one of my favorites was MS Paint Adventures, particularly the Problem Sleuth series. The comic is drawn and animated by Andrew Hussie, and has explored several different themes and genres over the years. The most recent and most popular comic series is Homestuck, which followed the adventures of several kids and literal internet trolls patterned after Howie Mandel's character in Little Monsters.

Back in 2012, midway through Homestuck's run, Hussie launched a Kickstarter for a game based on the settings and characters of the comic. It's been a long time coming, but Hiveswap: Act 1 has finally released. Was it worth the wait?

Hiveswap: Act 1 (PC)
Developer: What Pumpkin Games, Inc.
Publisher: What Pumpkin Games, Inc.
Released: September 14, 2017
MSRP: $7.99

Hiveswap takes the form of a humorous point-and-click adventure game, similar to old LucasArts adventures or early Telltale titles like the Sam and Max series. The gorgeous opening cutscene introduces us to Joey Claire and her brother Jude as they enjoy a peaceful autumn day in their backyard. This peace is shattered when a gaggle of eyeless black monsters attack, and the siblings are separated as Jude scrambles to his treehouse and Joey is chased into her house by a snakelike monster with way too many legs. 

Joey eventually makes her way to the house's attic, and that's when the real story begins. Along the way, she explores her thoroughly '90s house, and there are plenty of nostalgia triggers scattered about since her authority figures aren't real big on making the kids put their toys away. I saw a Teddy Ruxpin, My Pet Monster, Street Sharks, and even a plot-related Puppy Surprise in different rooms. Probably best not to think about how messed up that last one is. Part of the fun is exploring the house and examining things, kinda like Gone Home.

The environments are all incredibly detailed and fun to explore. Fortunately, the cursor changes whenever you mouse over something important, so pixel hunting isn't too much of a chore. There's lots of funny dialogue written for every possible interaction, especially when you do something you aren't supposed to. Many interactions have achievements associated with them, and it could easily take a few playthroughs to discover all of them. Cutscenes vary in quality; most are fluidly animated, but a few are jerky and have less frames of animation. The characters are well animated and expressive though, and it's hard not to like them. I was also pleased to hear that Toby Fox provided some of the music.

During Homestuck's run, the kids and trolls communicated almost exclusively through internet chat rooms, and this was used to provide a lot of exposition through text. The same idea is incorporated into Hiveswap, and it works just as well. Joey finds a tablet pretty early in her adventure and starts communicating with a troll named Xefros Tritoh. The dialogue and texting conversations are well written and funny, giving the player a good sense of who they're talking to and their motivations. 

I have to admit I gave up on Homestuck shortly after the focus of the comic shifted to the internet trolls, largely because I couldn't stand their constant 1337speak. It's explained in the game how each troll has their own typing tic, and fortunately, Xefros' isn't terribly annoying. His overuse of the letter X aside, conversations between Joey and Xefros are effective at establishing their characters and moving the plot forward.

I noticed several things that reminded me of MS Paint Adventures, particularly when Joey enters a "Strife" combat sequence. That said, you won't need to be familiar with Homestuck to enjoy playing through Hiveswap. Everything you need to know is self-contained and explained in the game. There also don't seem to be any failure states, so you're encouraged to try different combinations of items without penalty.

The game looks good and plays well, and I only encountered one minor glitch while I was playing. One of the characters I had named was referred to as [DEERCATNAME] in some of the late-game dialogue. Hiveswap: Act 1 is pretty short, and took me about two hours to play through from start to finish. It sets its hooks well though, and I'm looking forward to the next installment. Here's hoping it doesn't take another five years to finish Hiveswap: Act 2.

[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]


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Hiveswap: Act 1 reviewed by Kevin McClusky

7.5

GOOD

Solid and definitely has an audience. There could be some hard-to-ignore faults, but the experience is fun.
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Kevin McClusky
Kevin McCluskyContributor   gamer profile

I'm a longtime member of Destructoid, and you may have known me in a prior life as Qalamari. ... more + disclosures


 



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