Let Me Tell You About Hiveswap
Lately, I’ve become a bit of a point-and-click snob. I’m quite particular about the genre and find it near and dear to me, despite being only a recent addition to my repertoire. As mentioned in a previous for The Inner World, I’ve played quite a few of the classics. Since I wrote that review, I’ve played even more to round out my experience. Look out for a write up on the progression of the genre soon, focused around The Longest Journey.
Until then, let’s talk a little bit about Hiveswap: Act 1.
This game has a long convoluted history that we’d rather not get into here. Instead, let’s focus on the game itself and maybe a bit about the metaverse surrounding it. Hiveswap is based on/related to Andrew Hussie’s infamous MS Paint Adventures comic, aka Homestuck. Some of you might be vaguely, intimately, or despondently aware of MSPA. Perhaps you only know it as the 8,000+ page comic with flash games and videos and crazy fandom. Perhaps everything I’m saying is new to you and we live in a universe built on lies.
Either way, to use one of my favorite MSPA phrases, Hiveswap is the epitome of a “Mobius Double Reacharound”. It’s basically the same universe, but not. And if that sounds confusing, it’s because it is. Unlike many point-and-clicks where the humor, if it is a humorous game, is often approachable and straightforward, Hiveswap makes no attempts to hide unique flavor. There is a good chance that most of it will go right over your head.
Although I should be clearer: reading MSPA is not a prerequisite to playing/enjoying Hiveswap. In fact, if you enjoy Hiveswap but have not yet approached MSPA, this is your chance to get into it while the getting is good. Still, for the rabid fan, there is much to appreciate about it. Little nods, innuendos, explanations/questions, curios, curiosities, familiarities, and shitty jokes. Like naming your lusus ZOOSMELL POOPLORD, because why not.
In this way, perhaps you will feel alienated from it. You might think there is some joke you are missing, but the key thing to remember is that you aren’t. That is the humor at work. The joke is that you think it’s a joke. Get it? Mobius double reacharound.
I’ve gone on a bit long for a review’s intro, so let’s just leap right in.
For a new company who’d never created a game before, and went from a 3D concept to a 2D environment, this is hella impressive. It has a clearly defined style and it uses that style well. Everything is fluid, in it’s place, and extremely detailed. Although the character models are a little plain, they are in keeping with the classic style of the comic they are based on. The backgrounds are beautifully intricate and the entire thing is a splash of colors, bright and interesting. If nothing else, the game is an absolute pleasure to look at.
There is nothing groundbreaking here. If you are familiar with MSPA, your inventory works very much like a regular no-rules sylladex, for all the good and bad that entails (re: clutter). However, if you aren’t familiar with MSPA, re: clutter. There is also the fact that Hussie was insistent that the game never tell you you are wrong, or can’t use one thing with another thing, which means there will often be long stretches of time where what you should be doing is not immediately obvious (or even far off obvious.)
Add to that that it’s incredibly difficult to see what is available for clicking/taking/using etc. You have things like Tap/Jazz/Flashlight or Use/Look, but in a less traditional sense. Although it was fun to explore the environments, it was frustrating to spend nearly 45 minutes in a room unable to find the super tiny box I needed to click (tinier than the mouse) that I had missed until my 6th time going over a room.
As mentioned above, it was hard to see what was interactable or not. So once you had finally filled your inventory up with everything, the possibilities were basically limitless. Using anything on anything would provide an interesting and unique response, so there was no real need to sit there and try to work it out. In addition, if you were struggling, the game was rather generous with its commentary and quirky peanut gallery offering advice.
So not difficult or crazy logic, but not particularly intuitive either. Just average.
This is a really solid one for me. I’ll be honest. It is very hard for me to be objective here. MSPA’s humor is extremely hit or miss, and it’s very exclusive. If you don’t like it, it’s unlikely you will change your mind later. The game is perfectly Hussie and MSPA. The same tone of jokes, playing to a fandom that is obsessed with staring at things like the color of Joey’s unicorn poster, etc etc.
Personally, I think that’s what’s charming about it. As a huge MSPA fan, I absolutely loved seeing all these nods to the comic. I loved getting to speculate about hidden meanings, or why Joey is only four letters and her last name is weird. Or why Jude keeps pigeons. Or why Xefros’ lusus is what it is, etc etc.
Final Score: 7/10
As I’ve been saying this whole time, if you like MSPA, you will love this, without question. It’s a solid point-and-click with lots of homage to the source material. If you aren’t an MSPA fan, it’s still a solid game, but the humor (and thus much of the nuance) will be totally lost on you, maybe even boring and alienating. If you’re the latter and were looking for easy access into the Homestuck multiverse, this is probably the best chance you’ll get. Happy hunting friends!