Some people love bugs. Others hate them and squash them every chance they get.
NinjaBee's recent Xbox Live Arcade offering Band of Bugs will leave gamers in a similar situation: while some are bound to love the game, others will be disappointed in the game's somewhat simplified game play.
The game stars a little bug by the name of Maal, who is thrown into the middle of a war, forced by circumstances to defend his land from an evil insect horde. Through each of the game's levels, Maal will have to help his bug allies stay alive until they can accomplish their ultimate goal: defeating the menacing bug forces and freeing his land.
Band of Bugs is pretty much your standard turn-based strategy game with a few add-ons. For starters, the game features online play and a level editor, allowing you to create your own levels and scenarios and play through them. It’s a pretty neat little addition, especially since it’s the same level editor Ninja Bee used to create the game. The game also features online and multiplayer capabilities.
The game by no means looks bad. The game features nicely cel-shaded graphics, and character animations are done well. The game's soundtrack fits well with the game, but is decidedly average. Neither the graphics nor sound will set this game apart from other XBLA offerings.
Band of Bugs operates like any other turn-based strategy game; select your character, move them into position, and then choose what action they’ll take. Easy, right? Well, there is a bit more strategy involved in all of that, as terrain plays a huge role in determining where to place your character. By placing them on higher ground, you can keep them out of harm’s way and allow for sneak attacks from behind, but it also might isolate one of your bugs, allowing them to be trapped. Other special tiles affect movement or can cause damage, so keeping an eye out where you put your troops is important, too.
Unfortunately, for hardcore strategy fans, this is where the fun stops. Band of Bugs was created as a game to appeal to a larger audience than just the core, and as a result, features a slower-paced style of game play. And by slower, I mean not being able to move each character on the fly like you could in Starcraft or Command and Conquer. The turns themselves are actually quicker, and the combat more contained, but the game actually got a bit boring at times. Perhaps I’ve been too spoiled by the aforementioned franchises, but I was expecting a little more than just “move this guy here, attack, then wait”. On top of that, the lack of a leveling-up system might frustrate hardcore strategy fans. If you don’t care about the speed of game play or leveling up characters, and I’m sure most casual gamers don’t, then that’s not an issue.