Let me tell you about Hiveswap.
This hand-animated point-and-click puzzle adventure was released a couple weeks ago, and though it’s small (and incredibly late), it packs a punch.
Based on and set in the same universe as the massively popular, ridiculously long, meme-laden, over-the-top and epic saga/webcomic known as “Homestuck,” Hiveswap takes place in the 90s, centering on two siblings (Joey Claire and Jude Harley) when their house is assaulted by ravenous eyeless monsters.
Some background: Homestuck, written by Andrew Hussie, has had a massive following since it launched in 2009. Although it concluded on April 13, 2016, the lack of closure or a solid epilogue has left fans starving for new content. Fanfic and over-the-top conspiracy theories can only go so far, and Hiveswap might be the call everyone’s been waiting for.
It’s a call that’s been on hold for awhile. Hiveswap was originally launched as a Kickstarter back in 2012, bringing in over $2 million from its backers. The game production was initially headed by the gaming developer The Odd Gentlemen…
Which proceeded to do nothing with it. While rumor has it that TOG stole much of the backer money, in the end, the game ended up being produced in-house at What Pumpkin Studios, delaying the release date by several years. The game animation, which was originally going to be computer-generated, was switched to hand-drawn animation.
This switch has made the game all the better. I myself have always been an animation junkie, and the game feels closer to Homestuck when both mediums are in 2D format. Comparing the original character designs to their current ones, I think the animation makes the characters more endearing and relatable.
The player perspective at the beginning switches between Joey (who’s trapped in the house with only her wits to help her) and Jude (who’s trapped in his treehouse with monsters below him). Much of the narrative is delivered through text as the siblings’ walkie-talkie conversations with each other through. This reflects the “Pesterlogs” from Homestuck, and it’s a good way to deliver exposition.
The gameplay itself is essentially the 90s lovechild of MS Paint Adventures and those point-and-click computer games like “Freddie Fish” that you used to play from your childhood.
Much of the gameplay strategy involves using abilities (such as Joey’s tap-dance attack) to influence the environment around you and achieve your goals (such as knocking a box off of a high shelf).
Even if you can’t directly interact with an object, clicking on it will usually cause a description to pop up--and considering that this was written by Andrew Hussie, the Shitpost King, it’s usually stupid and hilarious.
Though there are combat mechanics, they’re mostly focused on strategically avoiding, outrunning or outwitting the enemy you’re fighting using the aforementioned abilities, instead of actually scoring hit points. It makes the game feel a little railroad-y at some points, but it’s also a good way to make it accessible to beginners.
Speaking of beginners: You don’t need to be a Homestuck fan to play this game. The story makes itself pretty followable, even if you didn’t read the webcomic. While there are several pretty funny references, and though a couple of webcomic characters make cameos (or are mentioned), you don’t need to know their full story to understand the one you’re playing through. The game does a pretty good job explaining the narrative through the dialogue, descriptions or simply through the cutscenes.
And trust me, later in the story, there are things that need some explaining.
Beyond that, this game is just nice to look at and fun to play. The backgrounds are hand-painted and loaded with detail. The character are dorky and likeable (well, most of them). And a soundtrack by Homestuck veteran James Roach and Toby “Undertale” Fox doesn’t hurt, either.
It’ll take you, depending on how many things you click on, three to five hours to work your way through Act I, which I wish were longer. Even so, it was a fun jaunt to go on that didn’t end up being a massive time sink.
All in all, nine out of 10 on the echeladder. Here’s hoping that Act II will come out soon.
Marlese Lessing is the news editor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. She tweets @marlese_lessing.