Band of Bugs Review

The battle

If you've ever played one of those RPGs which features turn-based combat played out on a grid, then you already have a pretty good idea what Band of Bugs is like. There's nothing here that pushes the envelope for the genre, and in fact the game is relatively simple compared to those RPGs. All that's not too surprising considering that Band of Bugs is a downloadable XBLA game, but is a simplified strategy game as much fun as a full-featured one?

First a bit of a digression for the benefit of those of you who've never played one of these types of games before. Battles are fought on a map divided into a grid of squares. When it is your turn you move each of your units, bugs in this case, one at a time. Each bug has a limited number of squares it can move and actions such as attacks that it can perform each turn, and once it's done its thing it's the next bug's turn. Once all of your bugs have moved it's the other side's turn to move its bugs one by one while yours stand and watch, so it's important that you take care to leave all of your bugs in relatively safe positions. Facing and positions are important as attacks from the side or rear cause more damage, as do attacks from a square at a higher elevation. Of course when it's your turn these are exactly the kind of things that you'll want to exploit. Each bug has a set number of hit points, and once they're gone so's the bug. Lose all of your bugs and you lose the game.

Band of Bugs adds a couple of wrinkles to this basic formula, the first being that one of the bugs in the game is you literally. Well, your Xbox 360 avatar anyway. You're tougher than any of the bugs you'll face, but your demise will put an end to the battle. Also there are sometimes other objectives or obstacles to contend with, such as collecting objects on the board during a battle or avoiding shifting sands or disappearing squares. These things were probably added for variety's sake, but the net effect is that it takes what was a simple strategy game and adds a not-so-welcome puzzle aspect to it. The problem is that there's usually a single solution to the puzzle-like stages and it's simply not fun to have to replay a battle several times as you are faced with some inevitable trial-and-error games that end in error.

These types of games usually wrap a story (or a full-blown RPG) around the battles, and Band of Bugs fulfills this requirement with a simple story told through static cutscenes between levels. Band of Bugs is no RPG, though, and those seeking a deep story or any RPG game conventions such as character leveling and specs should look elsewhere for what they seek.

There's a multiplayer mode in addition to the single player campaign that pits up to eight players against each other in battle. To keep online battles from being long protracted affairs turns are timed and that time is short, and also the bugs' health is adjust down to make for faster kills. The simplicity of the gameplay doesn't serve the game well in multiplayer mode, and more than likely most people will give it a couple of tries and then have their fill.

Band of Bugs is not a bad game in and of itself, but its appeal is limited by its simplicity. Fans of turn-based strategy will find it too simple and will want to spend their game time with more fulfilling and challenging play. For others, well the appeal is not so universal that it will draw gamers into the genre, many of whom will probably find the play to be on the slow and occasionally frustrating side of things. If you think that this kind of game will appeal to you, start off by downloading the demo and take it for a test drive first. Strategy gamers should simply stick to the big time.

In The End, This Game Hath Been Rated: 66%. A little too simple for its own good.


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