Let Me Tell You About Hiveswap


#1

Shocking everyone, or at least me, the first act of the long-in-development, long-troubled Hiveswap finally dropped on the internet and made itself at home, nestling into some fresh newspaper that it shredded to make a sort of little nest (wait, that was my brother’s cat. Hang on).

Hiveswap came out! Well, not the whole thing, mind you. Just the first act, which takes about three hours to get through. I backed it way back in the past, when it was going to be a three dimensional game developed by the Odd Gentlemen, back before whatever precise source of bullshit went down went down that caused Hussie to build his own development studio using nothing but his masterful hands (or whatever).

I figured there would be some form of game, eventually, and as more and more time passed, I became less and less confident that it would be any good (or at least, the webcomic upon which it was based was for me a very time-and-place thing and I wasn’t sure it would hold up). That the first thing I heard about the release of the first of x amount of episodes was a mere three hours seemed to boost my view that we’d have something that was in essence a delivery of goods promised but not much better than that.

It’s a pleasant thing to be completely fucking mistaken on several levels - first, that the game is very well written, and while it is quite short, there is a lot of stuff in there for those willing to click on lots of things. Hussie’s writing is, as it turns out, still great, and the games protagonist(s) are all written in a believable way, which is to say they are all very much Children on the Cusp of Growing Up in the way you tend to remember these things. That it is set in the 90s (1994 to be precise, I think) means there are plenty of references to stuff that I, at least, grew up with (shouts out to Clarissa Explains it All, among other things).

Fortunately this isn’t Let’s Make Some References and Pretend That Makes it Good: The Game developed by Seth McFarlane (although if it was it would be called Let’s Make Some References and Pretend That Makes it Good and Also Be Kind of Low-Key Racist: The Game). This is background noise for those willing to look into it - it’s a self-contained narrative in its own world and characters with actual personalities! Hussie’s writing has always been strong, as it turns out - I’ve gone back and started the long trek through Homestuck again and as it turns out my enjoyment of it was not solely a time and place thing - Hussie establishes his characters with a sort of efficiency that boggles the mind and makes you quickly come to care about them even as they are doing things like resisting the urge to bleat like a goat and shit on their desks.

It also reminded me of how enjoyable adventure games can be - you solve some puzzles, you read some jokes, you experience a good story. The puzzles are not difficult, though they can be a bit fiddly from time to time. The game is pretty good about leading you to the solution without much fuss, unless of course you desire fuss. As for its ties to Homestuck, there are some pretty obvious ties to that narrative, but like some of the other references, it is not necessary for enjoying the story (some examples, kept vague but blurred anyway in case you’re ultra-sensitive to anything remotely spoilery: the identitiy of your father and babysitter, the presence of Betty Crocker’s products, the likely identity of the person running the hint functionality). You might figure some of what’s going on out a bit faster with the benefit of having read Homestuck but the game explains itself to the novice well enough.

I ran into a few interface quirks (sometimes it read a single click as multiple clicks, which meant I missed a few jokes and narrative bits I had to go back for), but they’ve patched it a couple times since I last booted it up so maybe that’s fixed? The music is very good, the look of it is true to the comic, and it is, overall, a satisfying way to spend three hours. By the end of it I was very interested in seeing how the story evolves and desired further adventures, which means it does the thing you want an episodic game to do, I think. Certainly it tickled me more than any of Telltale’s post-Sam and Max fare has managed to do (with the exception of Fable, but even that was not fantastic and was more just a workmanlike noir narrative given to me, a sucker for noir narratives).

So, that all said, who else has played this? Who else is interested in playing this? What do you, the readers, think about children and trolls and hives and houses and hoofbeasts, eh?


#2

I managed to start the unofficial Homestuck fan org on campus when I was at the height of my affection for HS, but managed to fall out of love well before the ending came out.

I have complicated feelings about trying the game since I feel like such an apostate, but if it’s actually good like folks are saying, I might consider picking it up when I get some cash flow again.

More than that though, I’m curious to see what the gaming press will think about it… and if any of them will wind up looking at that embarrassing article of mine cited on the wikipedia page.


#3

A friend was so desperate to get me in to Homestuck that it ended up coming off as creepy and weird, ultimately pushing me AWAY from Homestuck. Then the fandom in general cranked in to overdrive and I REALLY wanted to get away from Homestuck

But there was always a part of me that was at least still curious

Would that sort of person get anything out of Hiveswap? I read most of Problem Sleuth way, way back in the day, but felt it was exhausting on almost every level.


#4

I think you would probably enjoy Hiveswap - I mean, the writing is the same, so if that turned you off there’s no hope for you, but it comes without the weight of all the backstory and references and in-jokes that Homestuck came with (aka there have been no references that I have seen to Hussie’s old stuff - Homestuck, by contrast, had plenty of that stuff. I would argue that it was unnecessary to understanding/enjoying Homstuck, but I understand the exhaustion thing).

Essentially, stripped of all context, it is still a very good opening to a very pleasant adventure game about a kid and an alien caught up in some fuckin’ shenanigans.


#5

Well, the exhaustion I speak of with Problem Sleuth is mainly that it kept folding in on itself, over and over and over and over again. It became basically impossible to keep track of, and yet it kept introducing more portals, more alternate dimensions, more folding in on itself. I’m pretty sure I finished Problem Sleuth, but it jumped up its own ass so many times I don’t remember anything about it except the relief that it was finally over.

I’ll definitely keep Hiveswap on my Steam wishlist, though.


#6

If you hated that in PS you’d have hated Homestuck. That being said, it’s not clear if that would necessarily apply to the game.


#7

I have just finished Hiveswap. For a few weeks I couldn’t believe this game actually existed, after having waited so long. As someone who has read Homestuck twice I can say that it is definitely worth the time of anyone who was interested in the comic. In some ways, I think it becomes what the comic was trying to be during Act 1 and early Act 2 with a lot of the adventure game puzzle stuff. It is very easy to see the actions the player takes being replaced with the arrows/prompts found in Homestuck proper.

While the story is self-contained, and you definitely don’t need to have any knowledge of Homestuck to play it and enjoy it, there are a lot of references very early on. I think this game is important with respect to the larger Homestuck universe because it seems to address what was going on with the alpha kids in the beta universe (and possibly Alternia in Universe A before the original trolls finish/lose Sburb(?)) before the events of the comic, which was something I always felt needed fleshing out. There is also some stuff about Doc Scratch and cherubs which really surprised me - I think this game will have a lot more to do with the main story than I originally thought. If you are looking for more Homestuck, this is more Homestuck.

I totally agree about the references, as well. I definitely cringed the first few times I saw them, but they quickly became endearing. I think this game is excellent evidence that highly referential media can still be effective and convincing (in contrast to things like Ernest Cline books). What makes the references work is a lack of cynicism, I think. The sequence with the Lone Gunbirds is particularly charming.