Scurge: Hive «

Completely original games on portable systems are truly rare. Most of the time a company will either adapt an existing series or character to a less powerful, more portable format, or just forego the effort and snag a familiar license to slap on a poorly made action game. Developer Orbital Media is trying to buck that trend with their newest effort, Scurge: Hive.

Hive Mind

Scurge is an original action/adventure game starring a female intergalactic free agent named Jenosa. She is charged with containing an extremely dangerous biological weapon, a deadly virus called Scurge which sucks the life and brains out of its victims. Well, okay, the story and setting aren’t really “original.” Scurge happily borrows a lot of setting and thematic elements from Metroid, but you know what they say about imitation being the sincerest form of flattery.

Scurge is presented in an overhead isometric view — a nostalgic throwback to many action and adventure games of decades post. Graphically, it’s quite nicely done. Character sprites, particularly Jenosa herself, are well-drawn and very fluidly animated. Enemy designs range from carnivorous green blobs to rampaging energy beings to huge, threatening bosses. They’re not exactly what I’d call “visually appealing,” but they don’t need to be. You don’t feel any guilt for shooting the snot out of hideous, drooling biomonsters, after all. The sound is equally well done — the music isn’t spectacular, but it’s good enough to give the game the right atmosphere it needs.


In order to accomplish her mission, Jenosa makes her way through various structures, battling nasty bio-beasties and jumping across platforms to move from one room to another. Sometimes she’ll need to activate special devices or collect keycards (which somehow are always in tough-to-reach spots) in order to open energy barriers that keep her from proceeding. There are also many puzzles throughout, most of which are of the “find box and push on top of switch to activate moving platform” variety. Occasionally, though, you’ll run into something a little bit trickier, like having to hit certain targets within a time limit, or regulating flow of water into rooms. The stages and puzzles are quite well designed and are just clever and challenging enough, and rarely ever become overly frustrating.

One thing that is frustrating, though, is the game’s “timer,” a gauge that displays the degree to which Jenosa is infected with the Scurge virus. This gauge increases at a steady rate throughout gameplay, though certain things can speed it up. If her infection reaches 100%, she’ll begin to lose health at a rapid pace, ensuring a speedy, painful death. In order to combat this, she will regularly need to visit disinfection chambers (which also double as save points) that will clear her body of infection — but it’ll start right up again the moment she steps out.

 

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