As the criminal Rawl Masteson, you have only two choices: death or indentured service. The service? Taking a spaceship into the Praulac Nebula and collecting the energy substance known as Endron Zymithium Trisystaline, or EZT. It used to be that collecting EZT was a cakewalk, fly in and grab what you can. But recently things have gotten a bit more complicated. Aliens known as the Clagnor, who live in the nebula, have decided that the EZT is theirs and they're all too willing to kill to protect it. That's where you come in. As a condemned criminal, the loss of your life means nothing, and the risk is better than execution. Isn't it?
In Swarm, your mission is clear - do what you're told. You'll find yourself piloting your way through roughly 100 missions, blasting aliens and collecting EZT, weapons, and powerups. It's a fast-paced experience that is easy to learn, incredibly addictive, and a lot of fun. Control is very simple, and uses the mouse or joystick. Move the cursor anywhere on the screen, and your ship moves in that direction. The further you move it from your ship, the faster your ship goes. You can brake, hover, and turn on a dime. All very simple and intuitive. Fly over EZT, weapons, or powerups to collect them, and blast everything in sight. Finish your mission as fast as possible, then get out. Asteroids and other debris stand in your way, and aliens will try to stop you at every turn. It's the type of game that you will jump right into with almost no learning curve whatsoever. Navigation is a breeze, there's an overlay map of the whole area at a glance, and indicators around your ship itself point towards the nearest EZT and nearest enemy.
The graphics in Swarm are excellent. The ships look great, and the aliens have an organic appearance that is strange and fascinating at the same time. All of the units are anti-aliased on the fly so that nothing looks jagged or unnatural. EZT glows, and weapon fire features some fantastic effects. Swarm is playable in three resolution modes, 640x480, 800x600, or 1024x768. Sound effects are also extremely well done; voiceovers give you background information without being in the way, and the music fits in perfectly.
Missions come in three types: collect all the EZT, kill everything, and bonus missions where you collect everything you can within a time limit. Swarm features about 100 quick missions that slowly increase in difficulty and never take more than a couple of minutes to complete. It's an easy game to start up and play a few levels without having to get deeply involved.
No multiplayer support is included, which is too bad since a Swarm deathmatch would be very interesting. Multiplayer aside, I have only one major complaint with Swarm, the fact that it has no save game mechanism whatsoever. When beginning a game, you are allowed to jump right into any level that you have attained. In other words, if you worked you way up to level 25, then the next time you start the game, you can jump right into that level or any previous level. Unfortunately, any weapons, shields, or extra lives that you earned along the way will not be there waiting for you. Once you exit the game, those are lost permanently. Beginning a new game starts you out with basic equipment once again. A simple save game feature would have been greatly appreciated here, one that would allow you to continue a game with everything you earned intact. Swarm doesn't claim to be especially deep or meaningful, and doesn't need to be. It's fast-paced fun that combines excellent graphics, sound, and addictive gameplay in one package.
Bottom Line: Excellent graphics and sound. Almost no learning curve whatsoever. Fast-paced fun that is easy to jump right into and begin playing. No save game mechanism whatsoever, and no multiplayer support.
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Wik & the Fable of Souls, Strike Point: The Hex Missions, Turok 2: Seeds of Evil, SWIV 3D, Syndicate Plus, Turok: Evolution, Super Stardust, SWAT 3: Close Quarters Battle
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