Reviewed by Shaun Hughes (@reviewsbyhughes)
Developed By : Fusty Game
Published By : Plug In Digital
Category : Action, Multiplayer, Platformer, Adventure
Release Date : Sept 20, 2018
Hover, formally known as Hover: Revolt of Gamers when released on Steam last year, is the result of a successful kickstarter campaign back in 2014. Comprised of three young developers, Fusty Game aimed to create a futuristic, open-world parkour game which drew upon elements of games from bygone eras.
Much like Call of Duty could be argued an ode to Medal of Honor or Forza a love letter to Gran Turismo, the similarities between Hover and Jet Set Radio are unmistakable. From the cel-shaded graphics to the way you traverse the open-world, all the way down to the story of revolt from the protagonists, Jet Set Radio clearly holds a dear place in the hearts of this French Indie development outfit. What’s more, the soundtrack includes new songs provided by the composer of the original Jet Set, Hideki Naganuma. All this being said, 18 years have passed since the release of JSR on the SEGA Dreamcast and Hover needs to offer more than a re-hash of a cult classic to warrant a purchase.
Starting the adventure in the Haven District, what is immediately striking is those aforementioned cel-shaded visuals. The game is brimming with vibrant colour and activity, and just begs to be explored. As far as the eye can see, there are tasks to complete, NPCs to interact with and buildings to scale. I was astounded by the sheer variety of options available, and I couldn’t decide where to get started. Thankfully, the developers have a storyline to share with you and this is where the game begins. The premise is simple: prove your worth to join the rebellion and take down the forces which have deemed entertainment to be illegal. A fairly unusual backstory, and one I personally didn’t become too invested in during my playthrough, however it did lay the foundations for the main and side missions to follow.
The missions on offer in Hover range from the statutory pick up and drop off of old, tagging signage with graffiti, racing and a unique sports activity, GameBall. The latter two are were the game really shines, with each being carefully designed to take full advantage of the way the character moves around. During your time with Hover, you will predominantly use ‘Y’ to “grind” on rails, skid, and produce airborne tricks to create combinations for both points and speed boosts. Additionally, you will use ‘A’ to jump. These core skills are pivotal to any success you will have in-game, and mastering them takes time. I found by the third time I started the game, it had become second nature to me and I was reaping the rewards very quickly.
With everything I have discussed so far, I’m sure it all sounds just a little too familiar. There are, however, two defining features of Hover which bring it into the modern day and prove that it is not just a game attempting to capitalise on the popular formula of JSR without any substance. First up is the skills tree available on the character customisation screen. Presented in a similar format to many other games which offer this, there are slots available and you have to select the skills or perks that you want your character to possess. These perks are obtained through a variety of means, be it winning a Gameball match, completing a mission, or finding one of the many containers scattered around the map. The careful selection of perks is most important to ensure your progression in the story, especially when the missions become more challenging. What I particularly like is that you cannot overpower your character – too many of the same perk has a negative impact on your character which is excellent.
The second, and what I believe to be the most important inclusion from Fusty Games, is the online multiplayer. The whole game can be played in ‘Online’ mode, whereby the open-world is filled with other players from the gaming community. This allows for co-operative playthrough of the missions, the opportunity to share hints and tips with others, and just to catch up with friends. I experienced all of this without much lag and it truly brought the game to life. It was here that I really felt that Hover had earned the right to be seen in its own light, out from the very large shadow of JSR. They have taken a wining formula and made just the right amount of adaptations and additions – which is no mean feat.
For all it does right, there are a few improvements which would have made Hover even better. For starters, the on-screen text is very small. It seems quite the oversight for me and one I think has to be rectified – it can hinder progress in-game if you don’t know where to look as key information and messages can be missed. The second is the map, available on the Pause Screen. For all that Hover has on offer in each of its many locations, the map does not showcase this at all. It feels as though it was a last minute addition and I think it is very much a missed opportunity to not provide users with an interactive, labelled map. Although this may seem a small flaw, when you experience the scale of the open-world that has been created, you will understand exactly what I mean.
In summary, Hover is a shining example of how to take a well-loved and much sought-after gaming experience and enhance it. I applaud the developers for taking on such a task, as I can imagine it was quite daunting and rife with expectation. I whole-heartedly recommend this game, be it at full price or on sale, as it is a masterclass in how to create a fun, inviting and detailed gaming world that you can explore with friends. Not without its problems, Hover offers more than enough to forgive any minor flaws and I only hope you can look past its JSR origins and appreciate what has been achieved here.
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