Fight with the Resistance and the Breakers against a totalitarian regime bent on outlawing fun and video games with a literally colorful bunch of ragtag freerunners. And in between, do some tricks, grind some rails, race some friends, and play some “Gameball” [EN: what a wonderful name] in the collaborative lovechild between Fusty Game and Midgar Studio: Hover: Revolt of Gamers. A product of passion and care from the south of France, fans of Mirror’s Edge and Jet Set Radio will find Hover a familiar comfort.
Big City, Big Plans
The tutorial is simple enough. After customizing your first player and building your team, you wake up as a lone clone in a practically abandoned facility. World-building starts subtly enough by accessing and analyzing the surrounding signs and employee instructions. Fortunately for you, the friendly, blue, rabbit-like Watabax provides you with the other important details on how to make your way around.
Hover City, as the main area of the game is so aptly named, builds further on the plot details by providing districts in which you can explore and complete small tasks. You do your part as a budding newbie member of the Resistance, collecting lost GameGirl handhelds and spraying graffiti over propaganda posters. As the city sprawls out and up, phonebooth-like Locaboxes are scattered throughout, acting as spawn points and accessible through “LazyTech” teleporter pads [EN: lampshading]. It’s clear that a lot of time was spent crafting the subtleties of the text, including the names of companies, equipment, or public utilities, or the humorous notes a manager leaves to disregard any information a non-employee (you) might come across. Hover City is vast and expansive, and that’s not including the Resistance’s secret underground base. But the tone and mood of the writing help make it all feel friendly and familiar.
The city itself never sleeps. Even as day and night cycle in and out, ever-present neon lights and fluorescent trimmings stand out and contrast the dark facades of the original buildings. What’s impressive is how such a huge map is available to traverse with considerably less momentum-halting loading screens. One of the caveats I’ve experienced, however, is the real lack of distinction between areas of the city. While the level design focuses more on vertical sections on top of each other, I found myself repeatedly checking the upper-right corner to see where exactly I was. I suppose I’m more used to some notification for an area, be it through audio or visual cue, like most conventional MMORPGs. The lack of distinction was especially apparent when trying to complete tasks in one part of town; I’d find myself venturing too far out and starting tasks in another part of the city.
From the get-go, Hover’s cast is fun and refreshing. Talking and interacting with them, through completing challenges and missions, especially, help keep Hover’s stylishly friendly feel. The dialogue keeps it casual with good chemistry and banter. Winning races and delivering packages often triggers a brief exchange, usually involving some friendly advice or tongue-in-cheek teasing between your teammates. Punk Greendy’s gruff exterior chips away as you beat her in races; Watabax and tech specialist Othelo chirp back-and-forth at each other about the former’s fear of heights. In a fight against a controlling authority, I’d honestly feel relieved to work with such a tight-knit group.
As for the missions themselves, the open-world environment allows for variety in how to spend your time fighting the oppression. From the destruction of property and vandalism, to a friendly game or two, other players can even join in, depending on the mission itself. A preview list of available missions sits in a box to the top right of the HUD, but pausing and bringing up the menu only displays the rest of the missions. For an open-world like Hover City, the ability to pinpoint and set markers for certain missions and tasks would be useful. At most, the only helpful indication of where to go is a colorful rotating arrow that points towards the next plot-based mission.
Stylin’ From Point A to Point B
You traverse the city by running, wall-jumping, grinding, flipping, and even resetting to your last location. With all of the nooks, crannies, ledges, and jump pads, Hover City is one big playground for anyone and everyone who’s ever fantasized about doing parkour. Trick combos and grinding build up energy for super jumps and charging conductors around town. I did find myself working with a learning curve; while Watabax provides you with the basic controls for combos, I had to learn and experiment for what combos I could pull off myself. Thankfully, the end results were cool enough to make the struggle worth it.
All of these actions can be combined to do tricks and gain experience, eventually leveling-up your character and ranking-up your team. Leveling-up provides progress for a simple skill tree and the ability to utilize stat boosts using badges earned through completing missions and finding capsules around the city. Equipping these badges provides buffs for speed, jumps, grinding, energy, hacking, and strength. Unlocking other playable Resistance characters offers different stat loadouts and create more diverse playstyles. Ranking-up is essential to moving the plot forward: once your team reaches Rank 100, you prove your worthiness to join the Resistance. I certainly felt motivated to complete as many missions as I could around Hover City to get to that point and get to the underground Resistance base.
Fresh Beats and Electric Lights
If the background music sounds familiar, it’s because Hover doesn’t just draw inspiration from Jet Set Radio, it straight up hired its composer. The original Kickstarter campaign offered an original soundtrack scored and composed by Hideki Naganuma through an additional stretch goal. In an incredible push by dedicated and excited fans to pass the stretch goal, the man behind the classic soundtrack ultimately joined the development team. The music is sure to get you pumping, matching the fast-paced frenzy of speed-running your way around the multi-tiered city. Races and Gameball matches kick up the BPM -- and the bass -- to provide a pounding soundtrack to get you amped, while Hover City’s overarching scoring underscores the slick groove Hover itself has as a standalone title.
Still, the neon scenery of a metropolis under creative siege, reminiscent of the cyberpunk aesthetics of Blade Runner, offers an immersive world in which to lose yourself, particularly due to the lack of frequent loading screens. The character design is dynamic and provides a literally colorful cast of NPCs across different species, alien and human. Trailing lights from your feet as you dash and bounce off walls and around corners make crisscross patterns that look like airplane vapor trails between skyscrapers [EN: Infowars.com]. For a title based on movement, sometimes a moment of stillness to appreciate the magnificence of it all can bring some quiet balance to a wonderfully chaotic time.
Hover: Revolt of Gamers is a solid, open-world MMORPG that livens up the genre by honing in on what made its inspirations so great, and fusing these qualities together, culminating in an exciting world full of vibrant personality. While there is room for some refinement, Fusty Game and Midgar Studio have created an impressive action parkour game which promises to overload the senses.