VR is maybe the most impressive technological achievement of this past decade. To be able to put on a headset and become immersed in a whole other world with graphics that are wildly impressive at times is something that a lot of us could not dream was possible, and now it has become one of the main platforms to game on.
VR games have been hit or miss for the most part though, with a lot of games failing to find the balance between entertainment and VR interaction. Some games just nail the idea of putting you in a game though and with Swarm VR, you get a very gamey experience that is both completely insane and also beautiful chaos that fully utilizes the VR platform to create an experience that just would not translate the same anywhere else. As VR titles seem to continually copy each other with few new ideas being pushed forth, Swarm VR is certainly a breath of fresh air.
We get started with a short tutorial here that shows you how everything works. In Swarm, you are essentially Spider-Man with guns. That’s the phrase the developers use to describe the experience here and while that is pretty lofty of an expectation to create, it is not that far off. You’re equipped with two guns equipped with grappling hooks on them and if you are thinking that this sounds pretty damn cool, you are not wrong.
The basic gameplay comes down to swinging around like Spider-Man practicing his moves while lighting up robots with dual guns in slow motion and the result is a dizzying spectacle that truly feels like you are being thrust into a game from the old days of gaming. That’s to say, Swarm feels like a VR version of something like Space Invaders. Rather than focus on the incredible worlds you can create in VR and the amazing physics systems that can be utilized, Swarm focuses on one thing, having fun.
What it feels like to play
Playing Swarm is a mix of amazing ideas mixed with varying levels of execution. The levels go down like this, you’re thrust into an arena that is filled with tons of platforms for you to latch onto, and from portals in the sky, robots spawn to attack you. Simple enough right? This is all driven by the grappling hook gameplay and the idea here is that you can latch onto these platforms to launch yourself all over the arena to take out the enemies coming at you.
Though it is a bit jarring at first, you will soon be swinging and shooting like a pro and the feeling is simply exhilarating. The graphical style is also pretty unique in that it is somewhere between cell shading and straight-up comic book visuals and while that might not be that great looking on a flat screen, in VR, this effect truly makes you feel like a superhero. The enemies are nicely varied as well and with each level, you can expect to see a new variant or two to change up the gameplay as well as a massive, hulking boss to contend with. This is where I really started to respect the game’s vision here. It would have been easy enough to just throw the same old robots at us over and over, but here, we get new weapons and new enemies to use them against to keep the experience fresh.
What will Keep you Playing?
With a nice variety of levels and a great number of thrills even in the replaying of previous ones, Swarm definitely is a small-budget title with big-budget ambitions. The developers at Greensky Games are also dedicated to increasing the content and they have a strong rapport with the community, often reaching out to YouTube reviewers for feedback and that connection with the community is a great thing that usually yields great results.
There are leaderboards here as well which lend themselves to the arcade nature of the game and it really adds to the old school feel they have going here and is a nice addition in a game where you wouldn’t normally assume would have one.
In terms of playspace needed to play Swarm, you really won’t need all that much. Most of your movement in this game will be vertically with your arms and maybe leaning from side to side as you are flying through the air. You might be turning around a lot as well, so at least be sure that you have a 360-degree area cleared of objects because the action ramps up pretty fast and intensely.
I recorded my 30-minute workout on a Fitbit and played on an Oculus Quest 2 headset.
Calories burned: 164
Calories burned per minute: 5
Average Heart Rate: 104
Max Heart Rate: 130
Active Minutes: 23
Swarm probably won’t be too intense for most in a physical capacity, but from a visual and purely experience perspective, this is one of the more intense games you can play in VR. Whether it is the wild visuals in VR or the fast-paced gameplay that has you literally soaring through the air pulling off moves that would belong comfortably in the Matrix, the game is as intense as it gets. Playing on the harder difficulties will also get the heart rate going as the enemies are that much deadlier and you have to be extremely quick with your grapples and swings to make sure your dodges are on point.
Most of the action taking place in Swarm has to do with your arms. Swinging, pulling to gain momentum, and aiming and firing your weapons all are done via your arms and it is heavily recommended that you stretch to start out. While you won’t be building any real muscle tone with this game, there is a good chance you will be tiring out those arms and shoulders awfully quickly with enough game time here, so if you are looking for a good way to get active in VR quick, this is a great way to do it.
There is no actual need for your legs in this game and because of it, you can easily play while seated. This might be an advantage for some, but immersion-wise, it definitely takes you out of it a bit for sure. I played standing up and I actually decided to use my legs a bit to dodge out of the way when enemy gunfire and missiles were coming my way. Now, this isn’t exactly realistic at all since you can’t really jump to the side while flying through the air, but this is a comic book game about flying through the air with two guns with grappling hooks attached to them, so it doesn’t take away from the experience all that much.
One of the biggest things you need to take note of here is your balance. This game has you flying through the air like a superhero and turning around 360 degrees all the time and craning your neck to see enemies coming at you from above, below and all sides will constantly have you disoriented here and more than a few times I was thrown off balance from the absolute insanity taking place in my headset. Swarm won’t be working out your core all that much, but balance-wise, this is a true test of how well you are acclimated to VR and I would not recommend this game to new players to VR as it really tests the limit on both your toleration for heights as well as your balance. Make sure you won’t have anything in the immediate area that would hurt falling into. This seems like an obvious statement, but with Swarm, it is particularly true.
Time Perception- 8/10
If there is one thing Swarm really nails, it is the feeling that you are this superhero swinging and shooting through the air while trying to take down the alien menace that is attacking your world. With the fun little comic styled cutscenes and the energetic music and visuals, it is very easy to find yourself getting lost for a bit in Swarm and the energetic gameplay just does not let up one bit throughout your time with the game. As far as how long you will be able to play through, that is a bit tough to say because different people will have different feelings about how much they can tolerate here. As far as my play sessions went with Swarm, I usually hopped in for 15-20 minutes or so outside of my initial fitness test with the game and that felt like the sweet spot for me.
Swarm has an interesting gameplay loop to it and although the initial content isn’t all that lengthy, the gameplay itself has kind of an ageless feel to it that harkens back to the days of old-school arcade games. If you are familiar with how those games worked, they were pretty much endlessly repayable simply because of the fact that you could rack up high scores every round and the addiction to beating your previous best scores became one of the prime factors for creating the first generation of gamers. Swarm has that sort of appeal with the leaderboards and the variety of ways you can choose to approach each level. Will you constantly swing from platform to platform, slowing time in mid-air to take out your enemies or will you go slower, hanging from a particular platform as you carefully pick off each enemy from there? It’s a great mix and allows for multiple playthroughs.
Fitness Scalability- 7/10
As stated before, you can play Swarm while seated. That being said, you will get way less out of it from a fitness perspective. If you play standing though, the biggest thing to alter the kind of workout you will be getting is the difficulty. While the easiest difficulty will be a rather light affair in the fitness department, the hardest difficulty will have you working up quite a sweat as you’ll be frantically swinging as fast as possible to dodge the more damaging fire from the alien army. You won’t be getting any amazing workout here in general, but for those looking to work up a sweat, the hard difficulty will definitely give you what you want.
Dizziness/ Lack of Nausea- 7/10
This category is where Swarm gets into a bit of trouble because although the developers have done everything in their power to make sure you have plenty of options to lower nausea and dizziness while playing, there is still nothing to get you ready to literally soar through the air as you do in this game. As a veteran of VR, I found myself a bit taken back at the start, unsure if I would be able to handle the intense action taking place in front of me and being completely thrown off balance by the initial level. After a while though, I was able to get acclimated to the various systems at play and got my bearings and from there, I had an awesome time with the over-the-top VR spectacle before me.
Social Multiplayer- 7/10
While not an actual multiplayer game, Swarm does a solid job in trying to come up with ways to stay connected to the VR community and that is done with the leaderboards. It is here where you can see your scores calculated at the end of each level and this is impacted by everything from speed completed to the number of hits taken and gives you a reason to keep returning to try to get the top score in the world.
VR Fit Score- 7.2/10
Game Score- 7/10
Swarm is an incredibly original VR shooter with some impressive swinging mechanics that creates an exciting experience that gives you a true thrill that only a VR platform could deliver. The enemies are unique and there are more introduced the more you play and between that and the addition of new weapons and gameplay mechanics like slow motion, there is plenty here to entertain you and friends new to VR for quite some time. The developers are adding more content as well and seem very dedicated to keeping the game updated which means well for the future of the game.
Some people just will not be able to handle the wild gameplay and might find themselves sickened at the high-flying action taking place. A very specific type of player will enjoy this game as there is very little story here and repetitive gameplay will possibly grate on some people very quickly. To add to this, the $24.99 price tag might be too much to pay for what seems like a limited experience.
Swarm is available for $24.99 on the Oculus Quest Store and playable on the Oculus Quest 1 and 2.