Review by so3fan

Reviewed: 05/16/08

Scurge: Hive...a game that should not be overlooked

Scurge: Hive first made its first appearance on the GBA and was shown at E3 a couple of years back. Gamers were pleasantly surprised with this game. After its GBA release, it was released for the Nintendo DS. I saw this game while shopping with my aunt. None of the other games really grabbed my interest, and others there were for systems I didn't have, so I went ahead and bought it. I was very impressed and surprised at how well everything works out in this game.

Story - So, it works out like this. You play as a bounty hunter named Jenosa Arma. She's been a bounty hunter for many years, and has now been chosen by the military to perform her next job. She has to make her way to a designated planet. On this planet, researchers were performing lab tests and collecting data on a new, recently discovered alien entity, known only as the Scurge. However, things in the lab didn't run so smoothly...the Scurge escaped, and mass mayhem followed.

You basically have to go to the lab and eliminate the Scurge. Of course, the military also wants you to pick up any technology that was left behind that could prove useful. So, armed with her new prototype suit, gauntlet enhancement, and her trusty partner, a communications and status analysis robot named Magellen, Jenosa sets off on this dangerous new adventure.

So, that's basically the story. Yeah, it's pretty basic. However, it works out extremely well. Another great thing is that the story only seems to run deeper the further you progress throughout the game. It really helps having the story build up to the dramatic climax of the game, and not having it fall off or make no sense whatsoever in various parts.

All in all, the basics, depth, unraveling, and buildup of it all makes an awesome storyline. You may find yourself playing for quite a while, eager to see what will happen next.

Story Score - 10/10

Graphics - The graphics are very nice for a hand-held adventure game. Instead of using those little sprites, such as seen in early Gameboy games, the game developers decided to go ahead and make 3D sprites, and they did very well with this as far as a DS and GBA game goes. The environments that you travel in don't look flat like some other games do. Instead, they have detail put into everything, including, but not limited to, the sand in outdoor regions, metal plating on the lab floors, and appearance of the monsters.

Another big plus for this game is the sense of motion. Instead of having what looks like blocky motion, like in classic Mario and Castlevania games, Jenosa's movements and the movements of the Scurge were all carefully made. The framerate is pretty nice, too, so everything moves slowly along. Monsters hobble slowly towards you, flap their wings to fly, and take an effort to bounce at you...and all of this is carefully drawn.

Another things that really adds to the sense of motion is Jenosa's incredibly long ponytail (for those of you who have played Dark Cloud 2, it's longer than Monica's!). When she moves, her hair does not drag or fly up in a straight line behind her. It actually flows. It curls as Jenosa flips. It even waves as Jenosa shimmies along ledges and pipes. Just looking at the way her hair flows makes you feel like things in the game are actually moving, and not just being drawn in frames.

There are a few things with graphics that may sound just a little disappointing to some gamers, though. First, there is the fact that more than half of all the enemy designs were recycled and reused in various parts of the game, just in different colors. This may make some gamers sigh in disappointment. I didn't have too much of an issue with it, since I am used to seeing this kind of thing. However, I do wish there were a wider variety of enemies to fight. While it really does not detract from gameplay, you will wish from time to time that more monsters could have been thrown in.

Another thing is something that occurs is something that I call the "sprite snap". This means that a character or creature will make one move, and then instantly "snap" into a motion that looks like it should have come after another motion. Here is an example. When you fire your gauntlet, Jenosa will rear back to charge up, and in the next frame, she is lurching forward and has let the shot go. Another example is that when you jump up and grab a ledge, you will notice that Jenosa's hair, even though she is not moving, is in the form of waves, and it just stays there until you start moving, at which point it actually begins to wave. It makes you wonder what brand of hair gel she's using to make her hair stay in that shape. Again, nothing that really detracts from gameplay, but just a bit more thought should have been put into this.

All in all, the graphics are incredible. A few minor things here and there, but nothing major to complain about.

Graphics Score - 9.5/10

Sound - The sound is also incredible. When you play this game for the first time, you will be impressed at how much thought was put into this, and how well it works, even on the DS. Classic beeps and blips have been removed, and substituted for sounds that sound like they should. For example, slushing sounds will be heard if something comes out of mucky terrain. If you jump into the water, a splashing sound will come out.

It's not just the terrain that has awesome sounds, but also Jenosa and the monsters. For example, large monsters have dangerous-sounding growls and roars as they stalk towards you. The insect-like monsters actually buzz as they flap their wings, and another sort of buzzing sound as they move in for the kill. Jenosa, too, has her own noise effects. For example, you can hear her make a noise of pain when she gets hit with an enemy attack. She also makes a noise when she jumps. All in all, the sound for this game, when it comes to the characters, is incredible.

The soundtrack is also really nice. Each place has its own song. The style of these songs vary depending on the place you are. But no matter what location you happen to be in, no song will ever be too light or too dark for the setting. Even bosses all have their own song. It's pretty amazing to see how much thought was put into the soundtrack.

However, as far as the soundtrack goes, some of the songs can be very repetitive. Some gamers may not be too fond of this, though I had no real problem with it. Another thing is that if a lot is happening in a room (for example, you are trying to restart an electric pillar by shocking it, a monster is growling at you, a insect is buzzing by, and you just got hit with an enemy attack), the song that is playing has a tendency to restart. For some, this can become annoying.

This game not only looks great, but it sounds great, too. The sounds work very well with the game's looks, and forms a variety of sounds and songs that work perfectly with the game.

Sound Score - 9.5/10

Gameplay - This is one of the areas where the game truly shines. The gameplay is simply amazing, and incredibly hooking.

In some ways, this game is comparable to Metroid. Lots of aliens. Kill them all. Use the nifty equipment you pick up to help you defeat your opponents. Pick up the health you need. Use your acrobatic skills to your advantage. This may seem like a lot, but that's pretty much where the similarity between the two games ends in terms of gameplay. And there's a lot I haven't touched up on.

This game, unlike Metroid, plays a lot like an action RPG game. You make your way through the various locations, defeating any enemies as you go. However, upon defeating enemies, green orbs will emerge. You not only get extra health for picking these up, but you gain experience. That's right. You level up in this game.

Upon leveling up, your health bar will increase. Yep. You even have an HP bar, and not an energy count or reserve bars. The more you level up, the more your maximum HP will increase. Another thing about the HP bar that really sets this game apart from Metroid (and, in my opinion, makes it more challenging and exciting) is that it's the only one you have. If Jenosa's HP is brought down to 0, she doesn't have any other spare HP bars...she will die if this happens. So you really have to rely on skill and acrobatics in this game.

Just like Metroid, you can pick up nifty weapon upgrades that can really help out in a pinch. However, unlike in Metroid, these weapons not only help you, but if used against the wrong kind of enemy, they can turn dangerous. For example, you can zap a mechanical monster for big damage, but if you used the same weapon on an energy-based monster, the monster would become stronger and faster. You really have to think about how you fight monsters if you want to live.

The puzzles in this game are challenging. The largest one will literally take you the whole game to complete. For the most part, though, you can do it while staying in the same level. You may not, however, be able to do it all without the help of your trusty equipment. For example, you may find you have to sling yourself across large gaps, or slow down time so that you have enough time left to get to the next timer. Environmental factors, too, such as ledge size, determine how you have to go about completing the puzzles. Puzzles in this game pretty much require you to think, and not act mindlessly.

However, you may not want to spend too long on a puzzle. There is something in this game called the infection gauge. As time passes, this gauge will slowly build up. Of course, you can raise it quicker if you step in an infected floor space, which resembles something like red goo. When it reaches 100%, Jenosa will become fully infected, and her HP will steadily begin to drop. The only way to drop your infection gauge back to 1% is to visit sick bays, which, when used, also act as save spots. This adds a real sense of urgency throughout the game. It also adds urgency for when you're facing the bosses.

Yeah, the bosses are fun, too. They are also all pretty fun to fight. You may face things ranging from giant machines to giant sand worms. The tricky thing is this...each boss fight occurs in certain phases, shown by the enemies health bar. In one phase, you can go about attacking it a certain way. However, the next phase will, more than likely, not only change the way you can best fight it, but the way it fights you. The bosses' moves may change entirely, or something will happen to the arena that makes the fight trickier. Some bosses are definitely harder than others, and you may find yourself close to dying at the end of some of them.

There is one feature that the DS version has that the GBA version does not. No matter where you go, on the touch screen, there will always be a map display. This makes it much easier to track where you are, and you will be less likely to get lost.

All of this combines to form a game that really works. Sure, some things in it are comparable to Metroid, such as not being able to move on without certain kinds of gear. But really, it's not so many similarities that you could say that the game is just a complete rip of the Metroid series. It is a complete game all on its own, with a very nice style of gameplay.

Gameplay Score - 10/10

All in all, this game is extremely impressive, and should not be overlooked. It should especially not overlooked if you are a Metroid fan. Give this game a may be very pleasantly surprised. For $10, this game is practically a steal.

Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Product Release: Scurge: Hive (US, 11/01/06)

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