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Escape the Virus: Swarm Survival - DSiWare Review

Game Info
Escape the Virus: Swarm Survival

DSiWare | Teyon / Peakvox / FUN UNIT | 1 Player | Out Now | 200 Nintendo Points
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27th June 2012; By KnucklesSonic8

After waiting for what felt like an eternity, an opportunity to sneak out of detention finally presents itself. The person in charge up at the front has taken a nap, and everyone else in the room seems to have their eyes glued to their desks. Desperate to get out, you consider the possible effects of a distraction technique you've been saving for just such an occasion. What do you think a parent would say at a time like this? Probably something about not putting yourself in the situation in the first place. Sounds like good advice after the fact. Borrowing from that, I'd like to use a similar line of reasoning to describe Teyon's latest DSiWare game. Escape the Virus: Swarm Survival may not be about escaping a confined area since you're pretty much caged in as far as movement goes, but you're still looking for some relief from the situation you've been put in. And that's just it. Once you piece together all that this title is, you'll realize that you probably shouldn't have been so eager to involve yourself in what is an unsubstantial affair. Here to tell you that you should know better before you spend the cash, Escape the Virus: Swarm Survival is a game best left at the low end of the totem pole.

    For those that didn't make the connection or just don't know, Swarm Survival is actually a late handheld conversion of an original game that released for WiiWare a few years ago -- Viral Survival as it's known in North America. If you're like me and never gave the WiiWare version a look, then you won't have any expectations going in, aside from what may form in your head after seeing screenshots of the game. Basically how it works is you control this red, one-eyed DNA unit in a boxed-in environment and must collect other smaller creatures to form a posse that sticks together. All you'll be doing is using the D-Pad to move around the environment and pressing A to jump when the need arises. While this is happening, you have enemies appearing at random that must be evaded as they attempt to sever your growth process. Fear not, though. Power-ups in the form of rockets and invincibility serums also appear randomly within the environment to give you a temporary upper hand over these foes.

Swarm Survival has two modes to choose from, each offering a slightly different take on the arcade-oriented style of gameplay presented. The first of these is Normal Mode, which can be compared to a mix between Pac-Man and Snake. Collecting the aforementioned DNA creatures will add to your tail to be considered in your evasive maneuvers and so forth. The Pac-Man part comes in when you grab the invincibility-granting pick-ups. These turn the bright orange stage to a dark arena where your creature will take on the form of a fireball for the purpose of consuming enemies. As this latter element is shared with the second gameplay mode as well, it would be appropriate to discuss that now.

    Entitled Baby Mode, the main change you need to worry about in this mode is that you're now trying to prove you're the biggest and baddest on the block, and to do that, you'll use those same creatures like baby formula to progressively cause a growth spurt. But instead of this being a permanent effect that you can benefit from as the schools of enemies continue to bombard, there comes a point where you need to release these captured units into a bank located at the bottom of the level. Choose not to and you'll be so full of power that you'll be too slow to evade enemies for as long as you need to for a worthy high-score. Also worth keeping in mind is that the jump ability gets replaced by a shoot function, allowing you to physically tell enemies to back off. Employing a hint of a risk/reward system, Baby Mode gives players more to work with and towards in the long run than the standard play option.

    As a means of adding tensity, both modes intentionally pursue and stick to a zoomed-in camera. The effect this has on gameplay adds challenge in a very clear way, but along with that also comes a significant amount of irritation over how you're expected to play and make progress in the game. You're never really sure how the building up of these units will allow you to progress any further beyond your immediate reach without being duly cautious over having your tail destroyed or all your collected particles lost. You do have the ability to see the field with a better eye on things by holding down the L or R Button, but what ends up happening is that you'll resort to having either of these held down for most if not the entire duration of time you spend in a session.

Aside from the somewhat gimmicky use of a camera to force feed the idea of tense surroundings, trouble brews when it comes to how the game amasses more units in a bid to nullify your attempts to stay in control. In the case of Normal Mode, keeping a tail going with enemies appearing in all directions proves to be a task that you certainly cannot keep up for very long, even with the ability to jump over enemies. Always worrying about enemies getting too close to your stream of units while also making sure to keep an eye on new creatures to add to your collection, there's not much of a dynamic that can be formed in these sorts of circumstances. This doesn't stop the game from trying of course, but in its struggles, Swarm Survival fails to hit the right note of bringing together basic principles with addicting gameplay. With such interferences preventing you from ever being able to achieve long-term success without constant disruption, the attempted frenetic pace loses value along with whatever relevance it had in scarcity from the start. This is lessened in Baby Mode where the action feels not as loose and actually comes together a bit better, but even here the flaws of the underlying mechanisms are still noticeable.

    Escape the Virus: Swarm Survival tries to be silly from multiple observable points, most notably through the childish sounds that are heard as new creatures are picked up. Other points to the game's presentation include layouts and menu elements that aren't tailored well, as well as music that tries to be wacky even though the actual gameplay never is. Nothing's especially vibrant as far as the colour palette chosen for this game, but considering the types of feelings they were hoping to convey, I admit their choices are fairly appropriate. Even with all of this being considered, instead of the overall silliness being a good thing, the game's design feels very immature and lacking in quality and forcefulness. Detrimentally, the weak-natured mechanics make it easy to call the game out for its very low level of substance. It unfortunately does not even succeed at what it claims to do best and shows itself to be surprisingly dull. Also bearing no rewards to dedicated players or satisfying gameplay to even lead you along, it's like grasping at straws trying to find reasons to play this game at all.

    In what could quickly be seen and forgotten in a matter of minutes, Escape the Virus: Swarm Survival isn't worth wasting time or money over. Despite attempts to make you think there's more going on, the game's design is lacking in multiple respects and it does not do a good job of giving anyone anything to feel proud of or motivated by. In short, I have no doubt that interested persons can do far better than this mostly forgettable title.

15/30 - Below Average

Gameplay 5/10 - A somewhat interesting mix, lacks substance, gimmicky attempts to create atmosphere, flaws stemming from the created environment
Presentation 6/10 - Tries to be silly and wacky, not always clean, some appropriate decisions made, doesn't help the dull feel of the game
Enjoyment 2/5 - Wears off fast but there's not much fun to be had to begin with, attempted pace loses relevance, immature and forgettable
Extra Content 2/5 - Only two modes to speak of, high scores try to give you something to work towards, not worth playing even for $2

Equivalent to a score of 50% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating) - Our Rating System

Review by KnucklesSonic8

Escape the Virus: Swarm Survival
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