Where does an electronic grasshopper go to get a buzz? Marcus Berkmann stings like a butterfly, floats like a bee...
In The Hive, Firebird has come up with as fast and true an arcade zaparama as you're likely to find in a week of lunch-times. And it has two distinguishing features, neither to be sneezed at (unless you've still got that winter cold - glub?) - 1. It's different, and 2. Its brilliant.
Of course The Hive couldn't help but be different in certain respects. After all, it's not every game that places you in the role of an electronic grasshopper. And it can only be the very unluckiest of grasshoppers who finds his way into a labyrinth like this one - a huge sprawling network of interlocking tunnels and tubes, intestine-like in their complexity. And throughout the maze, ghoulish nasties hurtle about stinging, capturing and eventually killing you. To reach your eventual destination the bloated Queen of the Hive. (who thinks she's the bee's knees) - you must pass through eight increasingly vicious levels and cope with such dementedly destructive foes as the Bug Sting or Boom Dotties. Not that you're likely to get that far. According to the game's creators, Firebird, no-one is likely to get that far - certainly not this year. Yes, The Hive is hard.
Busy As A Bee
Not least of your problems will be mastering the keyboard. Barring surgery your best bet is practice. and lots of it. If you were born with an extra finger on each hand and have been wondering what to do about it, now's your chance to shine. The timely tapping of up to 13 different keys is needed if you're going to progress far into the game, or even get off the first level. Concert pianists will be at a distinct advantage! As for the game itself - well, it's swift. If you don't like stress, stick to stamp collecting. As in everyone's fave megagame Elite, you fly into the screen (not literally, you fool, and make sure you clear up the glass afterwards) blasting everything in sight and picking up various tools that you'll find vital to your continued progress. Shields to reduce the effects of the meanies, keys to get you past otherwise impenetrable barriers, and various strengths of laser are all worth a detour. Most crucial of all though, are the pylons, which must be picked up to restore your energy. Yes, pylons. I did say you were an electronic grasshopper.
The difficult pert is that picking up and using these tools requires rare skill. To get them in the first place you must position your 'pick up' cursor in exactly the right place at exactly the right position from the object. The correct distance is usually just within the nearest hoop (on either side), while the right place is usually the object's dead centre. Troub1e is, while you're fiddling about getting to the best position, countless nasties will be buzzing in from every direction nipping you where it hurts.
Using your newly lifted tool is no less demanding. Pressing L toggles you between ship control and icon control, enabling you to select a weapon, key or whatever you want to use. If your want to change direction at the same time, don't faff about if you're to avoid those meanies.
And the nasties take on a fascinating variety of different forms. TV stings look like aerial TV sets, though fortunately Paul Daniels' face is nowhere to be seen. The Bug Sting blags you on level 6 - it's big and ugly and no fly spray in the world will get rid of it. And the Guard Stings, which appear on levels 2 to 5, not only rob you of valuable points but also fling you into jail on an isolated outpost of level 2. You'll need a jail key (amongst other useful implements to escape).
One of The Hives most intriguing features is its save/load facility. There's no mucking about with tapes. Instead, each location has a unique 16-digit code that you simply tap in to take you back to where you left off, weapons and strength intact. Thls'Il also make cheating much more interesting, if you can describe it as cheating. If a friend reaches the fourth or fifth level and notes down the code, that same code will work on your version, and you'll be able to jump straight into the thick of things, ignoring all that tedious messing about on the lower levels. Firebird has made us promise on pain of death not to reveal any codes, but you can be sure that Hack Free Zone will be bursting forth with 'em over the next few months.
Meanwhile we'll all have to scrabble about on the lower levels picking off the triangular dotties. And we will. While it's a real walnut to crack, The Hive's as addictive as you can bear it. Okay, so it's not dissimilar to Elite (you noticed! It was programmed by the very same boffins) but it's an entirely different kettle of trout - inner rather than outer space, if you like. Jump to it, grasshoppers!