Samus I amus.
A female bounty hunter takes a job on a mysterious planet, with only an energy-shooting suit of armor to fight off legions of monsters. Hooray, the DS got another Metroid game!
No way, this is Scurge: Hive, a three-quarter view isometric platformer. You play as Jenova Arma, a bounty hunter who uses weapons like her double jump, laser-whip and timed bombs to destroy...
...Okay, so it’s basically Metroid. Collect X keys to unlock the next door as you collect a dozen weapons and special items to shoot virus-monsters. Or space monsters, or something. I mean come on, the title screen is a Mother Brain-like slug in a giant jar, sooo we won’t be giving Scurge any points for originality. For a mediocre title, though, Scurge packs in a good deal of action with some thoughtful user comfort features.
[image1]The big plot twist in Scurge is that your character
Samus Jenova has diseases! (ew) An infection counter slowly ticks toward 100 percent, at which point Samus’ health bar starts to leak. You can reset your counter by saving at any of the decontamination rooms around the world, so the game always keeps you watching your infection and planning your next recharge.
Nearly every room in Scurge is a puzzle to navigate, some taking longer than others to solve. Each stage or “excerpt” ends with a large boss battle in multiple phases. Beyond the initial infection gimmick, the game grows into a decent action romp with regular pauses to solve the rooms. Thoughtful little touches keep you from getting lost: the map screen shows every save point and objective, while radar blips chime in when you’re in the same room as a key card or upgrade.
Experience points provide a false sense of character-building, but the focus is correctly placed on making quick choices in the heat of combat. I was pleasantly surprised by the item management: each enemy has an elemental weakness and it’s delightfully easy to switch to the right gun. Impress your friends with your DS and its powerful real-time weapon changing capabilities! This and the infection timer make the game an interesting series of choices. Do I press forward into the next room, or do I double back and reset my infection timer first?
The third-person perspective is really the only stylistic trait to separate Scurge from the Metroid games. The diagonal layout of the world is fresh but it feels awkward on the normal four-way d-pad, especially when landing jumps. A few rooms dunk you in water, where you can’t shoot, and surround you with enemies on every available platform ledge - not the greatest time I’ve had. At least the simple menu and inventory controls never interrupt the action for more than a second or two.
[image2]Scurve: Hive is easily finished with just a few tough spots on the first try, or you can sink your voracious hardcore teeth into the unlockable Hard and Insane modes and a few minor goodies. The DS lets you manage maps and status menus on your touch screen, but don’t expect any new surprises if you’ve played the Game Boy Advance game. You shouldn’t even need your stylus to play this exact duplicate.
The game looks and sounds silly but it works just fine. The futuristic music pumps hard even if it is a little cheesy, and the visuals are clear but unimpressive. The first few blob-with-teeth enemies are lame until you realize that they splatter onto your screen when they die. Sprites are sharp and just large enough to show some style, and the color palette is a little dull but it varies between the levels.
Scientifically speaking, Jenova is an okay chick. I mean, at least she seems to find the plot as dry and contrived as you will. Her sarcasm sets the writing in a very tight direction, it’s predictable but very clear about what you’re supposed to do. Some cool personal notes littered around the world add a hint of character to the world as they tease the next item you’re about the find.
Since Samus has turned to first-person shooting and Mega Man is nowhere in sight, it looks like Jenova Arma might be a DS owner’s only hope for decent third-person shooter action. Scurge doesn’t stand out, but it’s comfortable if you need a bite-sized action game to pass the time.