Hover (Switch eShop) Review
If you’ve ever had a conversation about games with me, I’d be surprised if it didn’t come up that Jet Set Radio Future is my all time favourite game — and still is. The music, movement, style, all had a lasting effect on me. So when I heard of Hover being a love letter to all of that, I was excited to see my favourite game world reimagined, even with the original composer bringing a few tracks over. But what I got felt part reimagining, and part homage, mixed in a way that didn’t always work well.
I try to avoid comparing games to other games as much as possible recently, but sometimes a game draws so heavily with the intent on being a homage that it’d be hard to write a review without identifying the elements of Jet Set Radio Future that Hover has drawn from.
The art style is definitely the bigger influence, with the cel-shaded character and environment design being the most recognisable element. The actual environment design is a bit more cyberpunky, with tons more neon and toxic sludge. It’s actually interesting to look at it like a gradient, with the bottom of the city being an overcrowded mess, and the top being much more open and technologically advanced.
In fact, Hover focuses on this verticality a fair bit for its setting. Unfortunately, the character movement hasn’t been totally optimised for the environment design. You move your character around using what I suppose are hover-skates, which also grant the ability to wall ride, grind, and get some decent height with your jumps. The short of it is, a lot of it is based on horizontal momentum, which can only partly be converted to vertical momentum.
Climbing up the city is a bit of a slog, with a lot of mismatched platforming getting in the way of any momentum you’ve built up. Once you’ve made your way up, or at least made some progress, there’s the very real possibility of falling back down again. There is a rewind function that’s meant to mitigate that frustration, but it ends up either undermining the challenge, or being in vain, as a lot of the challenges and missions have a time limit that depend on you not using that function at all.
The missions actually bring me to my main complaint about the game: the user interface is so needlessly busy and complicated that finding your next objective is frustrating and purely unfun. While you have an arrow that points in 3D space where your next mission or objective is, the verticality of the city means it’s really hard to actually gauge where to go. In fact, when you have multiple objectives open to you, it can flick between them all depending on which one is closest, which makes the whole thing much more frustrating.
And then there’s the HUD itself, full of text too tiny to read in handheld, and full of information that is either very much not relevant to what you need to be doing, or spelling out your next objective but cut off from a text box that is puzzlingly too small for the text that holds it. There’s also a perk/upgrade system that is very hard to figure out, even after the short tutorial on how it works.
All of these user experience elements are at least things that could be improved over time. The core gameplay is still very solid and can be built upon, though I think there needs to be something to help connect the vertical level design and the horizontal focused traversal system. But controlling the character and moving is still something that scratches that JSR itch.
The music is one of the stand out things for me, with the Jet Set Radio influence bringing a funky feel that I strongly associate with the series. In fact, the original composer for Jet Set Radio and Jet Set Radio Future has contributed two songs to the soundtrack which are absolutely fantastic.
I have to be honest and say I was disappointed with Hover. It feels like the game is fighting against you in most places when it gives off the feel of being about freedom of expression and movement. I really hope it can be built upon because the passion for the project can definitely be felt through a lot of the game, but the cohesion of all the parts just doesn’t work as well as it could.
- Amazing world design
- Music fits the JSR homage feel very well
- Solid movement and controls
-Gameplay does not mesh with level design
- User interface is confusing and doesn’t work well in handheld
- Easy to get lost in the game world