by Matthew Smith
After nearly twenty years, the promise of a sequel for Hover! hinted at in the original’s help file was finally brought to fruition… as an advertising campaign for a new version of Internet Explorer. Yay. Although published by Microsoft, this new version was developed by Dan Church, with assistance from Pixel Labs as an online game to show off WebGL support for Internet Explorer. The biggest draw of this new version has to be the multiplayer, allowing for up to eight players on two teams to race for the flags. Despite being pushed as part of an Internet Explorer campaign, it will run in any WebGL-capable browser (the pictures for this article were taken while playing in Google Chrome) so it isn’t hard to get a game up and running. The real problem then immediately rears its head: the maps are unchanged from the original, where they clearly weren’t designed for multiplayer. Don’t expect to get more than a few rounds of enjoyment out of the new Hover! in multiplayer, because the tight maps mean a lot of bumping and a lot of people who played the original knowing exactly where all the flags are going to spawn. What could have been a great updating of the mechanics for a frantic multiplayer game feels more like a cheap fan mod.
Really, it’s amazing how little was actually changed for this version of Hover!. There’s three vehicles to pick from, now. The slow and controllable Chicago, the all-arounder Wizard (the closest to the feel of the original), and fast but slippery Bambi (the name is a cute touch, referencing the developer credits cheat of the original game). Beyond that, the levels, powerups, and mechanics are entirely unchanged. It’s still the same old Hover!.
“But why is that a bad thing?” some might argue. “The original Hover! was great fun”. And it was. But the new Hover isn’t the same, not inside at least. The levels in the original Hover! each had a unique look to them, with a castle, future city, and radioactive sewer system on offer. In the remake, you have… metal walls with a brick pattern, metal walls with purple lines, and metal walls with green glowing bits. The levels lack all of the personality and charm of the original, despite being more consistant with the futuristic setting. The music, too, is a substantial step down, trading the MIDI tracks of the original for a single grating guitar loop that sounds like it was pulled from the stock sound effects on Windows Movie Maker. It doesn’t even loop properly. And don’t plan on chasing high scores in single player anymore. After the first three levels, the game unceremoniously ends, asking you to share the game with your friends. Of course, the game proudly features its Facebook and Twitter links on the title screen and in-game.
Because that’s really all this game is. It’s a cold, lifeless corpse dug up from Microsoft’s graveyard with a new coat of paint tossed on as part of a cheap marketing gimmick, only existing as part of a social media campaign to get people excited for fucking Internet Explorer. No one’s still playing the new Hover! because without the retro-cool style or high score chasing fun of the original, there really isn’t much point any more, especially when the original is still available, and still works perfectly fine for the game’s fans. Forget about the new Hover!, because I can guaruntee you Microsoft already has.