Somewhere out there, on a distant planet, in a city under tyrannical rule, fun and entertainment are outlawed – and the place is still way cooler than anything we have on Earth. In Hover: Revolt of the Gamers, you play as a parkour-enthusiast fighting back against an oppressive dictator. The neon decorated streets are your playground, where you can run, slide, grind, and soar to your heart's content. If you happen to take down a few securbots and E-Cops along the way, well that's even better. Hover is something of an online Jet Set Radio, though you can switch to offline at your leisure.
Hover: Revolt of the Gamers is available on Steam for $19.99.
When you start Hover, you awaken as a clone. You'll find others that look a lot like you throughout the world because, well, you're a clone. Of who, that's unclear, but it doesn't matter. It's likely a way to explain why you'll be seeing other NPCs, and other players, who have the same look as you, excluding some color choices.
Right out of your cloning tube you're recruited into a resistance of fun-loving citizens who are pushing back against the new anti-fun and no-entertainment laws. If this sounds ridiculous, it is, but it doesn't feel out of place. Hover is easily described as "radical" and "outrageous," so a story that sounds ripped right from a bad 90s cartoon fits right in.
After learning the ropes, you're sent out into the world and are allowed to explore at your leisure, barring some blocked off areas you'll need to prove yourself capable of entering. Along the way, you'll meet members of the resistance who will fill you in on the details they can, while testing your limits and capabilities. The rest can be discovered by using a scanner on points of interest, filling out your codex with information about your surroundings and the people who live there.
Though the story seems almost satirical in nature with its ridiculousness, the gameplay is just as outrageous but sincerely, and enjoyably, so. The main thrust of the game is exploration and speed. From minute one of entering the city, there is nothing stopping you from finding your way to the very highest point in the city. That level of freedom is rare to find even in many sandbox games. Some areas are warded off, only unlocking as you progress in the story, but the first area alone is so large that you'll find plenty to do within that first location.
The city is not only large in an outward sense, but also vertically. Verticality is a strong characteristic of the city, demanding that you grind, slide, and leap your way up higher rather than finding a ladder or elevator to take you up. What's really impressive is how the city, ECP17, changes as you ascend. When you begin, you are surrounded by squalor and giant pipes of sewage. Everything is held together by duct tape and spray paint. The gloomy dankness of the lower level makes for a stark contrast with the neon coloring that decorates even this depressing location. The gamers, as they call themselves, are able to make it their own, and find ways to have fun despite the conditions they live in.
As you move up, literally, in the city, the scenery gradually changes. Buildings become brighter, trash becomes less frequent, and there are more security cameras. At the top, you can instantly see that the rich live there, and under the watchful eye of big brother. It's impressive how well the scenery transitions from one state to the next. The change is fluid, almost subtle. At no point is there a clear line between one area and the next. It all flows from one to the next.
Let's not get too ahead of ourselves just yet, though. Before you even step out of the cloning tank, you have to make your team. After naming your team, you add its first member: you. The customization of your character is minor, allowing you to change the colors around of your outfit, but no matter what you're still just a faceless clone. Considering you'll primarily being seeing the back of your head throughout the game, what your face looks like isn't a big deal.
Your character moves from place to place by running. The longer you run the more speed you pick up. However, running alone will only unlock half of your potential. To really go fast, you'll want to grind on rails, slide along walls, and do flips and tricks in the air to build up your energy. Energy depletes over time, and when hitting obstacles and raw sewage, but so long as you keep moving and doing tricks, you'll never slow down. Speed is a big part of the game.
Peppered throughout the city are NPCs who will give you missions of varying types. The most notable ones are given by the characters that don't look like the hooded clones that you resemble. A diverse looking cast of characters populate the city, and give different missions for you to complete. One wants you to race her, while another wants you to beat them in a game of Gameball (I know). Completing missions, as well as finding collectibles, earns you exp which in turn gives you rank and levels. Rank is like reputation, and parts of the story will only progress when you become famous enough.
Your level does not increase your stats directly. Instead, earning a level unlocks some slots that you can put chips into. Earn chips by completing missions and opening chests. Chips have a random assortment of bonuses, like speed, acceleration, jump, etc. Chips are what will make you a better gamer and a stronger member of the resistance. The stats on these chips are randomized, so there's some luck involved in your growth. Thankfully, chips can be swapped out for newer, better, versions, so don't feel bad if you have to fill in a few with some common quality ones.
Another important aspect of the game is the online feature. At any point during your game can you switch from online, to friends only, to offline. Switching to online allows you to either create (automatically) or join a server with other people. There's no obligation to interact with these people, much like in an MMO. They simply make up part of the world, and you can chat with them. If you do want to do something more with this online component than just talk, playing online allows you to compete with others in missions. In addition, you can create custom missions for others to complete.
Quickly returning to the NPCs and the missions you complete for them, there's another benefit other than chips and exp. By completing all of an NPC's missions, you unlock that character. From the start screen you'll notice that there are many characters that are grayed out. Once you unlock the character, you can then add them to your team. Each character has different strengths and weaknesses, and can be upgraded separately from your starting character.
At the end of the day, the main thrust of the game is exploration through speed. It's rather easy to get lost in ECP17, with no mini-map to speak of, having to rely on the occasional UI marker letting you know something in the distance could be of interest to you. However, getting lost never feels frustrating. In fact, you'll likely get lost just because you're out running and grinding around everywhere.
The controls could use some tightening up, admittedly. You'll find your character rather loose and hard to control at first, but adjusting to it is easy. Controls are simple, as well. You have a button for jumping, one for grinding and doing tricks, and one for rewinding. Whenever you make a bad jump, or lose momentum on a wall run, you can hold down a button to pull yourself back until you are at a more stable location. Rewinding is easy to control, allowing you to start and stop whenever you like. This doesn't make missions easier, as some will punish you to some degree for using it, such as resetting the location of an item you dropped. Rewinding is primarily for use in exploration, so you don't get frustrated when you thought you could make a jump, and 500 feet later you realize you couldn't.
Some enemies exist in the game, primarily in the form of cameras and security drones. Getting caught by a camera unleashes one of those drones after you, and you'll have to use your speed and cunning to escape. There's no combat to defend yourself with, only your agility, which is refreshing.
The game has a cool art design, adding to the game's tone. Graphically the game is somewhat subpar, but not so much that it becomes an issue. If anything, the graphical quality of the game being lower than most works in its favor. You'll be moving around a lot, and very fast, so it's important the game has good performance so it doesn't slow down. And yet, sadly, it does. Occasionally the game would hit a rough patch, slowing down and dropping frame. This only happened in certain areas, so it could likely be an easy patched issue.
Musically the game has no stumbling moments. No comparison to Jet Set Radio would be complete without talking about the music. The tracks that play are all incredibly enjoyable and cool. Some much more than others, making one wish for a jukebox feature that would allow you to choose which songs play and where. Regardless, there wasn't a track that wasn't enjoyable, or didn't fit with the setting. The music is just as much a part of the world as anything else, rather than just being something to set the tone or keep things from being too quiet.
Overall the game was a thoroughly enjoyable experience. It's refreshing to have a game where exploration itself is reward enough. Many games encourage exploration, but they often do so by offering up dungeons, loot, and other goodies to entice you. It's rarely just for the sake of enjoying the journey. Hover: Revolt of the Gamers felt fun just to move around, not worrying about missions or anything. Finding collectibles as you go, maybe help out an NPC as your leisure. When you are ready to unlock the next zone, the story is right there waiting for you.
The online feature is a lot of fun, too. There's something to be said for a game that allows players to drop in and out, with no obligation for either party to interact with one another. It might sound odd to praise an aspect of online that allows one to play solo, but there is something to it. It's much like the MMO experience. Like an MMO, it's fun to just explore and find little hidden spots. Other players would hop on chat and talk about some secret location they found, and tell others how to get there. It's emergent gameplay, which is something very hard to accomplish, especially for a three man studio, like Fusty Game.
Hover: Revolt of the Gamers is a strongly recommended title for fans of games like Jet Set Radio, Tony Hawk, and Mirror's Edge. Though the story and graphics won't sell the game, the experiences you create for yourself, with or without friends or strangers, are going to be what you remember most.
|+ Immensely enjoyable exploration and movement.||– Some performance slow downs in some areas.|
|+ The soundtrack is top notch.||– Skill system is more complicated than it needs.|
|+ Online is as interactive as you want it to be.||– Easy to get lost if you're looking for something.|