Developer: e4 software
Price: $1.99
Version Reviewed: 1.0
Device Reviewed On: iPad 2

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★½☆
Controls Rating: ★★★★☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★★★☆
Replay Value Rating: ★★★★☆

Overall Rating: ★★★★☆

In a lot of ways, Swarm! feels like a mascot-driven platformer straight out of the 1990s. That was by no means a flawless genre as this game makes abundantly clear. However, delivering an iPad experience that would have felt right at home on a console a decade ago is still an impressive achievement.

The world of Swarm! is populated by living ball creatures not unlike the equally radical Madball toys. When robotic cops invade their planet, players must travel from Ball-timore to the Ball-tic Sea to stop them. Since the characters are balls, players tilt their iPad to move them throughout levels Super Monkey Ball style. However, the path to the exit is fraught with enemies, platforming challenges, and even environmental puzzles. For example, players may need to lure enemies into traps or use themselves to spin windmills in order to unlock doors.

The twenty levels are surprisingly expansive and cover a variety of themes from cityscapes to jungle villages. However, that size comes at a cost as the 3D visuals are basic and lack detail. The game does try to make up for it though with sheer character. The story is moved along via short, hand-drawn cutscenes and players will even encounter a few bosses. Still, one may get the sense that the game isn’t quite capable of reaching the heights of the games it’s aping. This is also apparent when the visuals stutter and the controls get less smooth whenever the action on screen gets too frantic.

One of the most charming aspects of Swarm! though is its cast of characters. Multiple playable characters may seem like a simple addition but something about the ones on display here feel special. Maybe it’s because the default ball HotRod likes to say “gnarly” whenever he jumps. Maybe it’s because snowmen, sumo wrestlers, and old British explorer balls can be used or maybe it’s because they can all be unlocked with free in-game money. Whatever the case is, these little guys add way more to the game than one may expect.

Swarm! sometimes feels like it’s straining against its own limitations but it is hard to fault a game too much for just trying too hard. It’s a meaty, quality adventure with balls to spare.


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