Hive Jump is a cross between a twin-stick shooter and a roguelite. While it doesn’t really excel in either of these genres, Hive Jump is a surprisingly great party game. Originally funded by a Kickstarter, Hive Jump was previously released on Steam and strangely enough WiiU. It has now been ported to Switch and Xbox One. You are pitted against sinister parasitic aliens that are ruining the earth’s dreams of space-colonialism. As part of the J.U.M.P core, it’s your job to remove this menace. This is the background to a game that’s fun enough but stumbles in the single-player experience.
Hive Jump has a pleasing retro style, invoking memories of Metroid but with an arcade twist. The music is also a nice throwback. It’s a nice package that helps paper over the gaps in the gameplay. The plot leans heavily into sci-fi references and homages. This isn’t a bad thing; it adds a lot to the experience. However, you’re probably not going to be picking it up for the riveting story.
Hive Jump isn’t quite a roguelike or rouguelite but it has the trappings of one. You’re equipped with a high tech backpack. After each death, this backpack will allow you to respawn but as a different character. While death is permanent, your player character is just replaced with a different soldier from your team. Unless you’ve developed a particularly strong attachment to that particular soldier name, the permadeath doesn’t really have much impact. The backpack has its own health bar, so if that dies then you really are back to square one. It’s a nice compromise on the permadeath brutality that makes it a little more accessible.
Hive Jump Drifts Between Genres
The level design in Hive Jump is different to your average roguelike or Metroidvania. Areas are arranged as arenas. Each large room is procedurally generated and laid out with links to other rooms. These interlocking arenas progress deeper and deeper, selling the idea of those static arenas being a densely packed hive.
When playing in single player this design can make levels a little too expansive and repetitive. However, in multiplayer it makes a lot more sense. The arena layout for each level gives scope for four players to blast through room after room quickly, dispatching the aliens in a mad hurry. In single player, it slows the pace. Traversing these rooms makes the controls feel burdensome rather than fun.
The roguelite elements are serviceable and give the game a nice twist on its twin-stick shooter mechanics. However, Hive Jump has a muddled approach to everything else. The level select screen is presented in the form of a shallow turn-based game. It attempts to make going from hive to hive into something more strategic but largely fails. Instead, it feels more like you’re just having to do some extra steps to select a level. Rather than adding strategy, the turn-based elements just add unnecessary layers of complication. More content isn’t a bad thing, but these elements just feel half-baked.
The gameplay inside of each hive is a little repetitive. Its kill, kill, die, repeat. Unlocking new power-ups and items is what comes of your frequent deaths. This makes continued runs easier rather than harder. The alien goo that you’ve collected will stay with you after your permanent death, allowing you to progress in power to gradually wear down Hive Jump until you finish it. This is enjoyable and it hits the same power-increasing notes that have made roguelites so popular.
There are plenty of options available for different items combinations. You’ll probably end up finding one that works for you and sticking to it. The enemy variety doesn’t really punish choosing one style of play over all others, so you’re free to figure out what suits you best and stick with it. This all makes for a pleasant but dull experience when playing alone. There is nothing specifically wrong with Hive Jump, but nothing to really make it stand out or set it aside from other roguelites.
In multiplayer it’s a different story. It’s a genuinely fun roguelite experience built around keeping the genres key features intact in a multiplayer game. The overly long arena rooms become perfectly sized with four people blasting away. The reparative gameplay is kept interesting by the company. Even the not-quite permadeath mechanic becomes more interesting, with all four of you keeping the respawn backpacks alive. Hive Jump should be played as a multiplayer game. This seems to go against its roguelite nature, but the game really comes together when blasting away the aliens with a group of friends. It might not look like a party game, but the real joy of Hive Jump won’t become apparent until you are playing with friends.
- Great Multiplayer Experience
- Varied power-ups and items
- Great Music and Art
- Shallow Turn Based Mode
- Tedious Single Player
Hive Jump is a serviceable roguelite, with some fun sci-fi elements and a lovely style of presentation. For single players, it’s dull and doesn’t have much to make it stand out from the crowd. In reality, it’s a party game. It’s a multiplayer take on the popular genre which excels at this. The single-player experience is lacking, and the turn-based mode a bit of a letdown. Hive Jump is a lot of fun as a multiplayer game, and that’s probably how it should be played.