Review by discoinferno84

Reviewed: 11/06/06

Tainted Love...

It’s tough being an intergalactic bounty hunter. Decent assignments are far and in between, with little in the way of tangible rewards. You have to combat legions of space pirates, blast through swarms of hostile alien beasts, and put yourself in danger more times than you should probably shake a stick at. But for Jenosa Arma, heroine of Scurge: Hive, her not-so glamorous profession has taken her far beyond the usual hardships and into the face of death itself. After responding to a distress call at a nearby research lab, Jenosa is attacked by the Scurge, an alien virus that infects or kills almost anything it touches. Luckily for her, Jenosa’s suit slows down her infection to a slow but inevitable demise. Fueled with nothing more than the hope of a cure and maybe some bonus cash for completing her mission, the young bounty hunter begins her last assignment.

Okay, so she’s not exactly Samus Aran. Even if Jenosa may not seem like the badass bounty hunter of yesteryear, she’s still a professional on a rescue operation. Upon entering the research facility, you’ll find that the entire place has gone foul with the Scurge. Thick layers of red slime cover the floors and walls, the electricity is meager at best, and the even the plumbing has gone to Hell. Many of the doors won’t even open, either. In order to delve deeper into the lab, Jenosa will have to make use of whatever systems are still operational. This will usually involve reading text messages left over from the dead crew, updating her map with specific target locations, activating floor panels, hitting timed switches, and collecting key cards to open up new paths throughout the facility. Considering that much of the lab is laden with high ledges, floating platforms, and other hard-to-reach areas, Jenosa will have to mind her footing if she hopes to get anywhere.

However, you can’t stop to ponder over the game’s various puzzles for long. With each passing second, Jenosa’s Scurge infection burrows deeper into her veins. This slow countdown to death is presented via a percentage meter at the top of the screen. Once the Scurge has taken over a hundred percent of Jenosa’s body armor, it will start sucking away whatever health points she has left. In order to make sure that our heroine doesn’t keel over and turn into red mush, you’ll have to seek out the various decontamination stations installed in various parts of the facility. Though there are plenty of these medical treatment machines scattered across the map, they are positioned just far enough to make you sweat as you watch Jenosa’s infection rating climb into the high eighties. Once you’ve desperately scrambled into the station, your game will be saved, health replenished, and the infection rating will be knocked back down to almost nothing.

That doesn’t mean you can just walk from the next station to the next, though. Aside from the platforming, puzzles, and various obstacles you’ll have to overcome, the entire lab has been overrun with Scurge-infected aliens. But unlike Jenosa, these little bastards won’t die from their disease. Instead, the bounty hunter will find herself swarmed with multicolored blobs of goo, mechanized sentinels with fully-loaded laser cannons, sentient puffs of smoke, mutant monstrosities, and a slew of other nasty foes. However, Jenosa can’t simply fire at will; these aggressive enemies are immune to certain weapons. A few hits from the electrical gun can fry a robot, but it’ll energize the gaseous enemies and make them faster and stronger. Should you freeze the entire room with one of Jenosa’s flash freeze blasts, only the organic foes will be stopped in their tracks. Once you’ve annihilated everything that moves, you’ll be able to nab all their slimy remains and use them to restore your health. In fact, gathering up enough energy will eventually level up your health, allowing you to retain more life as the game progresses.

But aside from this much-needed bonus, the game doesn’t go out of its way to help you. Though the rotating arsenal menu makes switching guns a breeze, the game’s isometric/ 45-degree camera angles can make the frenzied combat a bit awkward. Moving and shooting diagonally doesn’t work well with the DS’s directional pad; you’ll frequently miss shots, struggle to get an enemy in your line of fire, and botch many a crucial jump. You’ve got mobs of enemies that are actively hunting you down, whittling away your health with overly-aggressive attacks and shooting multiple laser cannons at the same time; why does the camera have to make things harder than they already are? There are few things more aggravating than missing a platform and being forced to retry it over and over as your infection rating climbs into the lethal levels.

But if there’s anything worse than the irritating camera angle, the mediocre graphics are the icing on the cake. Scurge: Hive is an adaptation of a GBA title with the same name. But aside from the handy map on the Touch Screen, little has changed for the DS version. Jenosa looks like a blue stick figure with tiny green dots for eyes and an impossibly long plume of red hair. The fact that her standing animation makes her look like a tiny aerobics instructor doesn’t help much, either. At least her enemies come in a wide variety of shapes and colors; you’ll get munched on purple tarantulas, attacked by missile-spewing robots, and even get picked up by a few yellow Metroid wannabes. The levels are even more detailed, offering glimpses of rocky crevices, glowing computer panels, murky sewer water and misty air. The only saving grace about this disappointing presentation is the musical score, which will frequently change from mellow beats to more dramatic techno tunes to help emphasize the intensity of the combat.

With such a mixed bag of quality in its possession, Scurge: Hive comes off as a decent game with a wide amount of room for improvement. It has a decent story and a likeable character, with just enough plot to keep things interesting. The sheer multitude of platforming, puzzle solving and overwhelming enemy presence make the game far tougher than many of its contemporaries. The added strategy of the timed infections and weapon abilities are tricky to handle as well. However, the isometric camera angle and the lackluster presentation drag the game down from its potential greatness. In the end, Scurge: Hive comes off less as an impressive game and more like the bastard lovechild of Metroid Fusion and Landstalker. That doesn’t mean it can’t be loved, though.

Rating:   3.5 - Good

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