Video Game Review: Hiveswap


Credit: Elizabeth Zhong

Join WSPN’s Kris Poole-Evans as he reviews the best video games to play today.

I always have a visceral reaction when I hear the word “Hiveswap.” Back in middle school, when I was really deep into Homestuck, I was praying for the day when we got some sort of game related to the comic. Luckily, that wish came true when What Pumpkin Games released Hiveswap Act 1 for Microsoft Windows, Mac OS and Linux on Sept. 14, 2017. What Pumpkin Games released Act 2 much later in 2020.

A big surprise for Homestuck fans was not only the game itself, but a certain play-through of it. In 2017, popular Youtube producer Jacksepticeye played through the entirety of Hiveswap Act 1 despite never having read the comics. The comment section of his first Hiveswap video is a fun one, and I’d definitely recommend going and reading through it.

Hiveswap is a role-playing adventure game that focuses around a human girl named Joey and the troll species. The game starts with a monster attack that forces her and her younger brother to take cover inside. Upon reaching her room and deeming yourself safe enough from the monster, you are formally introduced to Joey. Our protagonist is Joey Claire, a fourteen year old girl who loves puzzles, is a semi-orphan, dancer of many schools and an aspiring veterinarian; trust me, these things become important later. After shuffling around Joey’s room and retrieving a certain key, you’re free to explore the rest of her gigantic house. Things get weirder and weirder as more monsters start to break into the house, fighting them off every time you encounter them because who wouldn’t try to fight a strange, slimy worm thing.

Eventually, Joey takes cover from the monsters in her attic where she finds, activates and falls into a mysterious portal. She travels through and ends up landing in the land of Alternia, home of the troll species. While Joey is being transported to Alternia, she passes another troll on her way named Dammek. We don’t know much about Dammek other than the fact that he’s from Alternia, wears cool sunglasses and is a pretty rude guy. In the world of Alternia houses are called hives, hence the title Hiveswap. In typical Homestuck fashion, instead of continuing with one perspective, we switch to a different character. The protagonists switches over to Xefros, a “lowblood troll,” who is apparently Dammek’s best friend. The blood hierarchy plays a big part in the troll society and is a very big part of the main plot.

Hiveswap is not a sequel to Homestuck. However, there are characters from the comic that appear in photos and the game mentions. Joey and Jude’s babysitter is Roxy Lalonde and their father is Jake English, two characters that play a major part in Homestuck’s endgame story. Although Joey’s deceased mother, A. Claire, is a big secret as she’s not a Homestuck character. I don’t have high hopes for Act 3 given how long Act 2 took, but if we do get another Act, I hope they’ll include more Homestuck characters. And maybe give us more info on her family: I’m really hoping we see more of her younger brother, Jude, soon.

Hiveswap certainly delivered in the music department. I’ve said it many times before and I’ll say it again: music can make or break a game. There’s nothing worse than playing an awesome game while having to listen to a lackluster soundtrack. Luckily, both Act 1 and Act 2 have phenomenal soundtracks. It’s just what you would expect too: weird.

You definitely have to like reading if you’re thinking of playing this game. Hiveswap is at least 80% visual novel, especially chapter 2 with all the investigating and over thirty new characters to meet. Luckily, the dialogue has a lot of charm and is entertaining to read through, although some voice acting would probably help keep players engaged.

I’m giving Hiveswap an 8.5/10, and I’d say a good point and a half of that rating is purely because the series means a lot to me. I tend to dislike a lot of reading in video games, but for Hiveswap it feels natural. The game is weird, and even very unsettling at times, but that is what makes it unique and entertaining to play.