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Nintendo DS Review: Battle of Giants: Mutant Insects

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At this point in our society it is a readily accepted fact that the apocalypse is coming.  It seems as though, almost beyond a shadow of a doubt, our world will – in the not too distant future – cease to exist in the form we currently understand it.  We have all seen this future history played out on television, in films and books, and various other forms of media.  The only real questions that exist on the subject are exactly when and in what form the holocaust will take place.  Will the world be flooded out?  Will there be a nuclear disaster?  Fire?  Ice?  Earthquake?  Alien invasion?  A combination of the above?

Because this coming event is so well accepted already, the concept of one of Ubisoft's latest titles, Battle of Giants: Mutant Insects, is an easy one to accept.  The third in the Battle of Giants franchise, the game takes place in a post-apocalyptic future, one in which an asteroid seemingly has landed on Earth, bringing with it the aforementioned giant mutant insects. 

Over the course of the next 300 years, the mutant insects have devastated the planet and now rule the world.  That's where you come in, you get to take on the role of one of four different varieties (though only three are available at the outset) – scorpion, mantis, spider, or a flying ant – and trudge through various landscapes, battling similar giant insects.  Though this reviewer most appreciates the post-apocalyptic future in which apes can talk and humans are mute, the one which Mutant Insects postulates seems just as likely. 

In the main, Adventure, mode, you travel as your chosen insect through the different landscapes, crushing that which is crushable in your path – which sadly is not all that much – slowly travelling through the various maps, and eliminating the rest of insect-kind (and the occasional living bus, flyswatter, plant, can of bug spray, etc.).  Fog occasionally blocks the way, but tapping on your mutant insect can eliminate it, though only does so at the cost of some life.  There are also switches which have to be hit to unlock areas, but the map, located on the upper screen, is very happy to inform you in advance as to exactly where all the switches are and where your final destination is.  Thus, what you end up with are not very large maps where the end point is clear and the various paths one can travel on are few. 

Where the game does offer customization is in the upgrades available for your insect.  By crushing things on your path and defeating enemies, you can purchase larger, stronger, body parts; special abilities; and custom colors that you can use to create the baddest looking giant mutant insect ever.  The customization is definitely the highlight of the game, but unfortunately there is little use to any of it, except in that it makes your character look pretty cool – the combat system is all too weak to make one want to spend time upgrading their insect.

In terms of combat, when an enemy is approached (or approaches you), the screens switch over to the battle mode.  Then, by tapping different parts of your insect's body and dragging them towards your opponent you strike.  There are also dodges and blocks available, but by simply selecting a quick attack, dodges and blocks never need to be utilized.  Though not a bad basic idea for combat, the scheme does have a few flaws, most notably the fact that the game can be awfully picky about whether or not you actually selected the right body part (or any body part) with which to strike.  On more than one occasion you will swear that you tapped the correct place on your insect only to either initiate the wrong attack or no attack at all. 

Opponents will repeatedly block and dodge, but by attacking over and over again without interruption enough hits will get through so as to allow you to go into a "bonus attack" mode which is where the real damage gets done.  This special bonus attack – which is rendered none-too-special by the fact that it's entered into multiple times in a single battle – deals massive quantities of damage to your opponent and is certainly the easiest way to quickly win a battle.  Utilizing this method of attack, one will rarely encounter an opponent which cannot be vanquished with great ease, and that, more than the boring maps and general slow pace of play, is what hurts the game the most. 

The graphics in the game are neither mind-blowing nor dull.  Actually, they may be far better than you might think upon finishing the game as, despite the various lands you travel through, all too often enemies look the same, different levels of the same land blur, and the same bonus attack scene is featured over, and over, and over again in every battle.  Even if the graphics were great, they cannot withstand the repeated use.

Much like other post-apocalyptic visions of our world, the one depicted in Battle of Giants: Mutant Insects is  a sad, and depressing one.  The game does have some good points – it is absolutely a lot of fun to tweak your insect's look, and while one can overlook the small maps, it is a combat system that is not quite ready for primetime.  Plus, it is unclear why, with such a dissatisfying combat system one would want to battle against others in either a duel or a tournament mode (both of which are available).

The apocalypse is, without question, coming, but it would be a wonder if giant mutant insects are what bring it on, particularly if the giant mutant insects are easily destroyed as the ones in this title. 

Battle of Giants: Mutant Insects is rated E10+ (Everyone 10 and older) by the ESRB for Mild Fantasy Violence.

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About Josh Lasser

Josh has deftly segued from a life of being pre-med to film school to television production to writing about the media in general. And by 'deftly' he means with agonizing second thoughts and the formation of an ulcer.