As the Wii U has been left by developers in favor of the shiny new Switch, a few games hold the ground known for excellent indie video games. Another title to add to that list is Hive Jump. Originally a Kickstarter campaign in 2014, it was released January for Steam. Their plans to release on Wii U were challenged by what is now the current generation Nintendo console, but as detailed in an editorial by Graphite Lab Studio Director Matt Raithel, they chose to stick to their guns and Hive Jump was released on Wii U in September. But was it worth the wait, and should it have been released on Wii U? The short answer: definitely.
I’ve enjoyed Hive Jump on my own and with my son. Notice I am not saying single player and multiplayer because this isn’t the case. What I’d like to address first is how accessible the game is, from friends joining in to getting into the action. I created a profile with my name, that allows me to play the campaign and arcade modes. My son did the same which allows for integrity when playing on your own and together. I wouldn’t want him playing on my profile when I’m not around and spending my goo! But more on that later. Hive Jump addresses something about multiplayer games that aren’t always addressed by letting people jump in to what was a single player campaign with their character, using their profile, and spending their currency they’ve earned on their own. Or, maybe both want to play arcade mode together. Progress saves to the profiles. This is a welcome touch that makes it a fun experience for when someone sits down next to you or has to get up and leaves you fighting aliens on your own.
The core of the game is what the developer calls a “con-troid” as in, a mix of Contra and Metroid. This approach works very well as it provides just enough of what makes each fun. Your space Marine has at their disposal a variety of guns keep shooting swarms of Ordovicians fresh, different grenade types, and utility items that alter the way you play in defensive and offensive ways. These are chosen at the beginning and in “checkpoints” throughout the levels. The weapons to choose from range from standard rapid fire to flame throwers to electric rounds that bounce off walls and more. They can even be upgraded, using goo collected from fallen foes used as currency. Unlocking grenade types and other ways to beef up your player makes for a deeper experience. Levels are randomly generated, offering threats specific to the biome.
Within these levels are challenge rooms, that are worth entering for the possible prize obtained for simply getting to the exit door. I mentioned checkpoints, but that’s really a misnomer in the case of Hive Jump. Your success depends on keeping your space Marine alive, and health can be replenished with a scare variety of goo and also with some player items. When your player dies, which will happen, you won’t rely on passing a flag or other mile marker. You (or one of you, in the case of multiplayer) carries a pack. This pack is how additional space Marines are dropped into battle should yours succumb to the vicious creatures in your path. So long as the pack isn’t destroyed, you can continue to drop in. This isn’t an excuse to be careless, however, and is actually quite the opposite. The pack itself has a health bar and each new drop takes longer to call in than the last.
Hive Jump features a campaign mode and an arcade mode. But really, you’re just playing it for the fun of getting through levels, and fighting the gloriously despicable bosses at the end of those levels. The campaign mode adds a layer of depth to it, billed as “X-COM lite”. To me, it’s like they slathered some Advance Wars sauce when making a Hive Jump sandwich to give it an extra zing. Fans will recognize the homage to the attack animations as your bases are attacked. This gives the game some saltatorial legs, in a different way than expected. Maybe another developer would have simply strung different biomes together linearly, allowing new weapons to be unlocked as players attempt to make it to the next save pod. While this would have worked for Hive Jump, Graphite Lab’s decision to craft the game in the way that they did is why it has such lasting personality. Arcade mode is playing the core game of jumping into levels and fighting your way through without the bases to conquer and support. What’s fun about having these modes separate is my son and I can play in arcade with him choosing his profile, and either can play the campaign mode after in our respective profiles and see the unlocked weapons and chosen layout carried over from before.
Hive Jump has a slick 16-bit look and the music is of the same vibe. While the randomly-generated levels each have distinct looks, the music does get a bit repetitive. I don’t mind because I like what I hear, but as good as it is I would like to hear more. Control is spot on and allows for precision when using the right type of weapon and maneuverability when doing things using your jet pack to fly over enemies while shooting from above. The enemies are provide a good assortment of opposition with crawling, flying, leaping, and other types of bug creatures and I’ll say again, the bosses are a good challenge. There is a bug of the more unfortunate type that causes a temporary loss of control, however, that could get addressed in a patch but has only happened a few times. I would also like to mention that a fun touch of humor can be found in places like the load screens and the names of fallen space Marines that just add to the fun.
Overall Hive Jump is a great addition to anyone’s Wii U library. Granted, now might be the time when people wonder again why this isn’t on the Switch, but those that have read this far probably still use their Wii U and to them I say get Hive Jump. If you have a friend or two that can join in for local multiplayer, the suggestion is even more definite. If the game jumps to Switch, I am sure the developer will find even more appreciative fans.