REVIEW – Escape the Virus: Swarm Survival (DSiWare/eShop)

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Needs a Biology Lesson –

For just a couple of bucks, Swarm Survival is an easy-to-play different take on the classic Snake style of gameplay. From a top down view, the player controls a little piece of DNA (which is portrayed as this weird eyeball thing instead of a double helix) with the goal of collecting more loosely floating pieces of DNA within a fixed environment. Each collected DNA piece makes the strand longer but longer strands are more susceptible to damaging viruses. The longer the chain, however, the higher the score.

The eyeball looks nothing like DNA
The eyeball looks nothing like DNA

Escape the Virus: Swarm Survival differentiates itself from all the other Snake clones a couple of different ways. First, if a virus hits part of your DNA chain, those DNA pieces then become scattered throughout the stage and can be re-collected but only with haste. This is a risk reward system that requires a higher amount of reflex based skill. Unfortunately, slowdown is common especially when large chains become detached. The player will only see Game Over when there is a head-on collision. There are also random power-ups like homing missiles or Pac-Man-like invincibility that spice up gameplay just enough to avoid bland repetition. Finally, the player is given the option to jump but this feature ultimately isn’t necessary, worthwhile, or very controllable.

Unfortunately, the camera is the biggest issue. By default, the camera is much too close, making it easy to run into enemies that were just off screen. However, holding down the shoulder button zooms the camera out so most of the petri dish environment can be seen at once. This is unquestionably the best way to play but holding down the trigger gets old quick. It is shame this oversight made its way into the final product. At the same time, it makes distinguishing friend from foe more difficult due to the gritty visuals.

There is the option to control the DNA with the touch screen but is nowhere near as accurate as using the circlepad on the 3DS hardware. The music also repeats and the sprites are very grainy; this downloadable game only costs $2 so it is easy to look away at these lower presentation values though. Collecting pieces of DNA also triggers a little high pitched voice that says “Dee,” “En,” “Eh,” in sequential order; it is almost like a character from Animal Crossing is narrating your progress with a play-by-play. But since many pieces will be collected in a single match, it starts off cute but winds up annoying.

Repeating environment = same colors and sprites
Repeating environment = same colors and sprites

Baby Mode is the second way to play Swarm Survival but features a different take on gameplay. Instead of growing longer with each collected DNA piece, the DNA actually grows fatter and slower with each new addition. Subsequent DNA pieces can then be dropped off in the safe zone at the bottom of the screen for additional points, like deflating air from a balloon. But just like the normal mode, the camera isn’t placed at a comfortable level by default even though the gameplay is still fast and best suited with shorts bursts of play. Both modes are similar but I enjoyed Baby Mode more for some reason.

Since this game is only a couple of bucks it is farfetched to expect online leaderboards but at least local leaderboards keep track of the highest scores; there is no option to input initials however. Also, the entire concept of the game actually doesn’t make any sense because viruses do not attack DNA; viruses attack cells which essentially makes victims sick. Outside of the mistaken biology lesson, Swarm Survival offers a short-lived respectable entertainment package given the cheap price point. It might not be the gaming cure you are looking for but at least it can offer a bandage for the temporary wound.

 

3/5

 

Not As Good As: Schizoid (XBLA)

Better Than: getting the flu

Also Check Out: Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light (XBLA)

 

By: Zachary Gasiorowski, Editor in Chief myGamer.com

 

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