By Dave Hill
I have said before that I think the indie game market is over-saturated with platformers, especially side scrolling platformers. So, whenever I pick one up to play, I have my trepidations. It’s not that I don’t love those types of games; in fact, I more often find myself enjoying them. There is so much life to be had inside a platformer. But my concern is that the indie game industry will collapse under the weight of its seemingly one trick. Yes, there are a lot of indie games out there that are not side-scrolling, platformers. My argument is that they make up a lot of the visible products from indie developers.
Still, I am often surprised by what the indie market produces and that is no truer than with Hover: Revolt of Gamers. The game is developed by Midgar Studio and Fusty Game and it makes a compelling argument for growth within the indie game community. First its 3D, and while it is a platformer in a lot of ways, it definitely brings a fresh approach while also reminding me of the days of Jet Grind Radio on the Sega Dreamcast.
While Hover: RoG truly shows off an extreme amount of finesse, it also stumbles mid-vault as it tries to somersault over a 5-foot barrier. The parts of the game that are good, are really good. The parts that are bad, I would argue are embarrassing.
When it comes to the visuals, you will not find a more colorful game. You play as a clone that is part of a rebel group that calls themselves Gamers. Having fun has been outlawed in Hover City so young people jumping around on buildings and playing games is an absolute crime! Hover City feels like a Neo-Tokyo with less grit and more color. Yellows, neon greens and hot pink inject themselves into your eyes as you race through the city at satisfyingly fast speeds. Character designs are interesting and kooky. Hooded lizards, a girl with neon green hair, and weird-looking humanoids fill the roster of the game’s major NPCs. Each one is so distinctive looking, you will remember them long after you step away from the game.
The downside to all this color is that mission objects, and available missions can be hard to see unless you stumble across them. Each quest-giver has a thin bracket around them and some text, but with all the colors, they can be hard to notice or even see when you are looking for them. It can make hunting down quest givers a bit annoying. The saving grace is that running around the city is loads of fun. So even if you have to go hunting for a new quest – you’ll have fun doing it.
The game has a narratively strong intro that tries really hard to help players get acclimated with the controls. I played a PC version of the game and I have to say that it was a pretty wretched experience. I tried once with the keyboard mouse combo – this confused me really hard since instead of WASD layouts, the default layout was ZSQD. Go ahead and take a second to look at that on a QWERTY keyboard. While this was odd there was at least an acceptable reason in that it is based on a French keyboard layout.
The controller has issues as well however. When running through the tutorial the button assignments it was telling you to use were completely wrong. “Use L3 to scan” turned out to be L1 or the Y button (for the record I was using an Xbox 360 controller). This made learning the controls a bit more of an adventure as I just had to push random buttons until I got the required action. The game’s controls are thankfully simple, so it doesn’t take too much.
Once you have figured out the controls, the game is remarkably simple and fun to play. Run, jump and do stunts. Grind along rails, run along walls and throw items into goals during various missions. You can climb certain surfaces to help you access the impressive vertical expanse that Hover City has to offer. No falling damage means you can take a dive from anywhere and land just find and even use your landing to bounce you to hard-to-reach areas in the city.
Your character wears a special suit that helps them perform their awesome parkour stunts. You can customize this suit with various upgrades you win from completing missions from the various Gamers. This will allow you to run faster, jump further, and give your suit more energy along with a bunch of other perks that will make your parkour game even better. I cannot emphasize that this game’s strongest attribute is its core gameplay enough. It is incredibly fluid and intuitive. You can make giant leaps across a colorful city and race against other vibrant characters.
If it wasn’t for this, the game’s other shortcoming would be hard to swallow. Missions in Hover City can feel repetitive. You race this person, throw a ball at this goal, fetch an object and bring it to Point A, rinse and repeat. If it wasn’t for the fact that this was actually fun to do in small or even medium doses, I would probably not have bothered. But the gameplay is so fun that I was easily able to pick up the game, play for an hour and then walk away and feel like I had a lot fun.
The game also offers a lot of other interesting features, like combining items to unlock better items, and linking similar upgrades together in your skill tree to get even bigger bonuses. There is definitely some depth to the character advancement in the game and it is appreciated since it is so rarely seen from smaller studios.
In what promises to be a cool feature someday, Hover: RoG has an online component where others are playing in Hover City as well and there is also a way for your character to make a Mission for others to try their hand at. However, as I played around with it, it completely broke. I could not properly escape out of the Mission Building mode the game had put me in. Anytime I tried to exit back to the menu, it simply brought me right back to the Mission Building interface. Ultimately, I had to force quit the game and relaunch it. It was disappointing but not entirely surprising.
Still, there is something addictive about Hover. Its bugs feel like quirks, and the core mechanic of running, jumping and vaulting over things is so tightly executed that I keep going back for the thrill and the visual eye candy that the game is. And to the developer’s credit, they have a handy bug report button right in the main menu. I think Midgar and Fusty have some work to do before this game is really and truly presentable. But I believe they have a strong interest in supporting their players. It’s a safe investment for anyone looking for a fun game with a cool style and fast gameplay.
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