In 2009, a webcomic started called Homestuck. It quickly was recognized by people worldwide for its clever writing, interesting characters and concepts, and unique art style using an outdated computer art software and became an internet phenomenon. Fans clamored for more content from the creator, Andrew Hussie, and he responded by pitching his idea for a Homestuck based game, Hiveswap, a prequel to the webcomic that started it all. Originally announced on September 4th, 2012, the game went through some development trouble and ended up switching developers and going from a new 3D style to the traditional 2D style that everyone recognized Homestuck for.
Now being released on September 14th 2017, five years after its announcement date, does Hiveswap live up to its hype as a Homestuck game now that the webcomic has finished? Does it continue the traditions and same style that Homestuck was acclaimed for and beloved by its fanbase? The short answer to that is yes. Hiveswap Episode 1 is an amazing start to what looks to be a fantastic episodic adventure game based in the same universe; it is a series that teases new revelations and plot twists for even the most hardcore of Homestuck fans.
Hiveswap continues Homestuck‘s style of excellent and clever writing to a tee. I found myself often smirking and outright laughing at even the most simple dialogue, and trust me, there is plenty here to smile about. Even the most mundane of tasks becomes fascinating due to Hiveswap‘s dialogue, and I found myself taking the time to read and narrate every single object, not wanting to miss a single paragraph, no matter what it was. The characters are well written and while they never talk but through text, it’s a testament to the writers how well these characters personalities come through. I had a good idea of Joey, Jude, and Xefros’ personalities even in Episode 1, although you are left to guess some of what Dammek is like through context clues. However, I am suspecting that Dammek will most primarily be highlighted in the companion game, Hauntswitch. There were quite a few spelling and grammatical mistakes during my playthrough, but I suspect these will be fixed as of release so I won’t hurt on them too badly. Nevertheless, I found myself enraptured by ever single sentence in this game, and it extended the time I played the game for that much longer, which is a testament to how well it’s written.
The art style of Homestuck remains consistent, and I am really glad they elected to switch back to a 2D art style, because I feel like it really captures the charm and style of Homestuck, and it would be weird to play a game based in the same universe without it. With the MS Paint style, it is animated extremely well, and still looks really smooth and fits the animations nicely. Even though it’s really simple, I think it lends itself to the game very well, and I don’t think I will ever get tired of seeing the simple, clean style that Homestuck is known for.
The mechanics themselves are pretty much point and click adventure affair. You find a puzzle or an obstacle you need to progress past and use your surroundings to find items that you can use or use in combination to solve said puzzle. There isn’t much to state about the controls of click and point adventures other than that this particular game works as intended. I found myself sometimes getting stumped, but only because I didn’t fully explore my options enough or missed something I could have clicked on. They don’t feel like they are made for idiots but aren’t too obtuse or confusing, so it’s a nice median that the game reaches. Combat, or Strife, as most Homestuck fans would know, is handled in the same way as a puzzle. You only die if you can’t figure out the puzzle to defeat the enemy quickly enough. With that thought in mind, I never ended up dying in my playthrough so I suspect that the encounters aren’t too difficult that players will find themselves stuck on them.
The soundtrack here is phenomenal, and I was surprised that almost every single room had a different track associated with it, which, quite plainly, is quite a surprise. The music very much hits that same Homestuck feel of classic genres mixed with the digital styles of flash. It’s hard to feel like any of them don’t fit, considering the identity that Homestuck has built for itself over the last few years. It fits well, and it enhances the game.
Overall, the games length clock in at about 5 hours of gameplay for the first episode, which is a perfectly acceptable length for the first episode of an adventure series. The game’s price point makes it that much more affordable and worth the price, as for $8, you are getting quite the excellent game for such a low amount. The only thing that made me disappointed was that I couldn’t play more once I reached the end, and I hope What Pumpkin can get the other episodes out in a timely manner, as I know people will be clamoring for more.
To sum it up in one giant package, Hiveswap Episode 1 is just what you want out of a first episode of the series. It’s written well, animates beautifully, the characters have personality in spades, and the game has some great music to accompany what is already a first chapter that makes you want to keep playing even after the game is over. It only left me hungry for more, and I am eagerly awaiting the next chapter from What Pumpkin; there is nothing that I am anticipating more.
A Steam review copy of Hiveswap Episode 1 was provided by What Pumpkin for the purpose of this review