Have you ever wondered what its like when animals go to war? When fish are forced to band together in order to beat armored sea creatures like killer whales and and a giant sea turtle? Eye of the Swarm is proof there’s still innovation in gaming and its one of the most unique games there may ever be. Its a single screen arcade-style game that consists of only bosses. You play as a school of fish, instead of a swarm of bees, that essentially bludgeons themselves against a boss’s glowing weak spots.
There’s a tutorial if you want it, but the controls are easy. There is support for both keyboard and a 360 controller. You guide the swarm with the left thumb stick and attack by swirling the right. Of course there’s always having them swim left and right to attack, but I found the swirl works much better. Using the right stick keeps your fish in a tighter formation, but you still need to move them with the left.
You have no direct control over your fish, you can guide them, but they’ll do what they want in a giant jumble. You can however pull the right trigger to give them focus while slowing them down. This focus keeps them in a tight bundle, so I’ve found its effective to pull the trigger, without holding it and then they’ll slow and dart in the direction I’m guiding them. It seems to prevent them all from being murdered for being a jumble and keeps them safe from being slower than tar rolling down a tortus’s back.
That’s it, but there’s one more thing to know, the fish respawn to replenish the ones you’ve lost. There’s just one catch, your swarm needs to touch them. Its easy enough to stay alive even when you can lose dozens of fish at a time. If your flock is green, that means they’re safe. If they turn red, then some are dying and for any that fade away, that’s just them returning to the ocean; only without being alive.
You start the game by choosing which boss you’d like to fight, an armored killer whale or the giant sea turtle. Then you select one of four missions for each, with the first is always the easiest, its just the boss with no frills. Each boss has its own health meter, otherwise the battles might seem endless. There’s a sound and a visible green dot for every impact of damage you’re doing. It might seem like a little nuance, but its helpful and could have easily been forgotten.
Of the two, the sea turtle is the easiest, it has four appendages, one glows at a time for you to focus your attacks on while the other three are made of lava. After a bit the turtle turns around, before it tucks into its shell and spins, spewing lava everywhere. Eventually, each limb takes so much damage that they stay in the shell.
In more difficult missions, the damaged limbs stay in the shell and three lava rocks jettison out from the shell. These rocks cause giant sprouts of lava that will murder your fish flock. You’ll need to keep your fish tight, but then the turtle will seek out your fish, so don’t keep them too slow.
The killer whale is a constant danger. It darts three times before it just hangs out. One dart will turn most of your flock into whale food. As a school, you’ll need to pick up chunks of ice rock and hit the whale with it in order to break off pieces of its armor. Then attack the glowing exposed parts. It probably didn’t need to be glowing with Christmas lights of green and red, but I guess it would look bad for fish to beat a typical killer whale to death.
Later missions have electric balls that will bounce around the water. I’m not sure how that works, but an obstacle is an obstacle. Something i took note of when wrestling the killer whale is the music sounds as if it would be at home in one of the Zelda games during the Nintendo 64 era.
Each of these boss fights is a process. You’ll get your money’s worth here, which is perfect, because it’s a free game that’s honestly worth three dollars. While they don’t feel excessively long, each death of my swarm felt painful, because I knew that I’d have to do it all over again. Six of these eight missions are the same, with an extra hazard added in. Even if you breeze through the game, you’ll have fought the same two fights three times each.
The final mission of each boss has you fighting their babies for revenge. Unless its a matter of you killing their offspring to ensure that they won’t grow into giant monsters. Since there’s no story, there’s no telling what’s going on here, but if there was a tale to tell, I’m sure it would have Poseidon going crazy one day and armoring animals. Well you’ll tackle two tinier whales and face off against three turtle triplets. The whales are easy enough, but the turtles are a pain, because then there are three of them throwing meaty chunks of lava that sprout up, coupled with the fact that they’ll hound you every time they’re protected in their shells.
Outside of the actual game, the menus have you guiding your swarm to the menu items. Its a nice touch, even if I was confused at first. There’s even controller support in the menu, which seems like its forgotten by a lot of developers. Completing each mission gives you a trophy and there’s a room to see them in. Its a nice frill for what is a one dimensional game.
The only real issue that I found was selecting the two bosses. Sometimes when I had the turtle out, clicked on him, it would still display the shark missions. Its nothing game breaking and easy to remedy by going out and trying again.
There’s nothing wrong with the game, but its so unique that I can see people being shy to try it. The art is good, the music is fitting, calming, but nothing too dazzling. Each fight is engaging. Its just that I wish there was more of a game beyond the boss fights. I’d like to lead my fish to different places and guide them against different foes. What’s here is good, something that can be built upon and extended. Even without extending it, there could be a mode where you fight bosses back to back.
Finally, I would have named it Stay in School, since fish swim in school and the University of Utah appears before the game starts.