Scurge: Hive DS Review
As far as modern gaming trends go, finding an original IP that stands its ground against the big name franchises is just plain rare. Portable gaming is littered with the big franchises, the licensed games out to make a quick buck, and the occasional puzzle game just for good measure. That's why Scurge: Hive is something to appreciate. The game might fall short for some, mostly due to some mechanics that make this game for a very particular crowd, but for those yearning for an original title with real inspiration, there's no doubt that Scurge: Hive is an IP that Orbital Media could be proud of.
Listen carefully here: The story follows Jenosa Arma, a female bounty hunter, who is taking care of a distress call from a space station laboratory, when she finds herself attacked by an alien entity known as the Scurge. She soon has crashed on the nearest planet, naturally infected entirely by the Scurge, and this is where the real adventure begins. Obviously, it doesn't need to be said that this bears an uncanny resemblance to the adventures of another space heroine. Ever heard of a lady by the name of Samus? While the similarities of the two setups are many, it should be noted that Scurge differentiates itself from Metroid not only through the isometric viewpoint in which the action takes place, but also in a general sense of atmosphere. While the Metroid franchise often embraces a lonely, stoic atmosphere, Scurge isn't quite so coldhearted. That's not to say they weren't trying, as the music within Scurge:Hive is a real throwback to the synthetic, atmospheric beats that made Metroid so much of what it is. I could honestly say, that Scurge is one of the few handheld titles I'd actually be interested in finding a soundtrack for.
The differences grow just as much in gameplay as they do in atmosphere. Where Metroid is often a slow, exploratory quest, Scurge:Hive is a fast-paced gauntlet filled with swarms of enemies, and the unique element that Jenosa is infected with the Scurge. In order to survive, Jenosa has to find her way to various decontamination bays throughout the game, and remove the Scurge plaguing her. This is where some might start to discover Scruge slightly lacking. The idea of traveling to each node makes gameplay frantic, and the fact that reaching the next decontamination bay is blocked by literally unending hordes of monsters only adds to this. While this was obviously intentional, I occasionally found that I just wanted to slow down and travel through the game at my own pace, this being something I had grown familiar with in, you know, that similar franchise.
The isometric viewpoint is undoubtedly going to be the bane of many players as well. Growing used to working in an awkward faux 3D environment took literally most of my playthough, and I can't help but think how much better the game could have been if it was a 2D title. Working the diagonals is truly discomforting, and even more so when an enemy is just a hair to the left or right of you're firing line. This seems like a simple issue, but with the frantic pace, and the high amount of enemies in each room, everything can add up to be pretty frustrating at points. One room of infinitely spawning enemies had me screaming words at my DS that I would think have basically guaranteed my position among the legions of Hell. Sorry, Mother Theresa, I didn't really mean it.
Noting that I've only played through the DS version of Scurge:Hive is important as well, as some places are highlighting the Gameboy Advance version as the better of the two. I can't quite say why Orbital saw fit to release the game on two platforms, but with little knowledge of the changes between the two, I'll say that I can't imagine the GBA version being that much better. Scurge:Hive might not make use of the touchscreen, dual screens, or the enhanced graphical capabilities of the DS, but I was more than comfortable with the visuals, and I never really missed having any of the DS' standard inclusions. This game looks, and plays like an old school gem, and while I wouldn't mind seeing an updated version for the DS, I can't seem to really fault the version I played. Whether on the GBA, DS, or even if this game was on the PSP, Scurge:Hive had wonderful, albeit old school, visuals. I'm a huge fan of well animated sprites, and Jenosa is one of the best I've seen, with her ponytail flowing madly as she runs about fighting the Scurge.
Scurge:Hive is, without a doubt, a great game. Unfortunately, it's not a great game for everyone. I'd love to say that it was, but it should probably be broken down a little: Scurge:Hive is a great game for someone who appreciates the Metroid atmosphere, and is dieing for that oft-rumored Metroid Dread. Scurge: Hive is a great game for anyone who is still passionately in love with old school charm. It's definitely a great game for those with a knack for wonderful soundtracks, even if only GBA quality. However, this isn't a great game for anyone who can't make peace with a viewpoint that they'll probably struggle with indefinitely, and gameplay that is as frantic Bingo night in southern Florida. Luckily, I'm all about Bingo night madness. Some of those grandmas at Bingo, I swear they don't even look that old. Shhh! I didn't say that. Just ... forget it.
What's Hot: Great soundtrack & general atmosphere. Good oldschool vibe.
What's Not: Isometric viewpoint can sometimes frustrate.