After thoroughly enjoying Level 5′s Guild01 releases on the Nintendo 3DS eShop (Liberation Maiden, Crimson Shroud, and yes, even Aero Porter), I was naturally excited for the digital release of the Guild02 games. Bugs vs. Tanks! is the second release from this collection behind Starship Damrey and perhaps the one I anticipated the most on account of Keiji Inafune’s involvement (best known for his work on Mega Man and Dead Rising). While it doesn’t meet the lofty expectations that Inafune’s previous works set for it, Bugs vs. Tanks! at least manages to remain inoffensive and mindlessly entertaining.
As if the title wasn’t a dead giveaway, the premise of the game manages to border on the absurd. Apparently during World War II, there is a battalion of tanks belonging to the German military that just all of a sudden go missing. Officially, they are believed to have been killed in action, but the truth of it ends up being more or less the core concept of Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. That’s right, you’re a group of Nazis that are so small that your typical ant can spell doom for them in an instant. They believe it to be the work of the Allies, but before they can get to the bottom of it, they must survive with whatever supplies they have left.
The story is written in a very comical manner, complete with inept commanding officers who bark orders despite their cowardice and teammates whose boasting ends up leading the player on more and more dangerous missions. It’s not Battlefield: Bad Company levels of military humor by any means, but expect to crack a few smiles during the experience.
As the player, you are in control of a tank which you view from a top-down perspective taking on various missions from protecting your camp to rescuing comrades. The buttons are customizable, but by default, you will be using the thumbstick to move the tank around and the Y and A buttons to move the turret left and right respectively. The R trigger will fire the cannon, though you can configure the game to fire for you once in range of an enemy. There is also machine gun fire that will spew from the front of the tank when you get close to a bug that will help slow their advance. If you find yourself surrounded, there’s an icon you can tap on the touchscreen that will call in an armada of tanks to rain down artillery fire that destroys any bugs within a small radius around your tank, something that comes in quite handy during the more chaotic missions.
At the end of each mission, your performance is graded and you’re awarded a score for each one that’s successfully completed. Missions can be repeated at any time for a better score, and a good number of them that are unlocked can be played out of order. Some aren’t even required for advancement, so if you have some that you’re having trouble with, you may be able to skip right over them. There’s an adjustable difficulty setting as well if you find yourself burning through the game too quickly. Tanks can be found during missions as well that contain parts for customizing your own tank. You can change out the body, the turret, and the paint job, with everything but the latter tweaking the overall stats for the machine. Some of the tank parts you find may not even belong to the Axis armies, as each one is labeled with the nationality with which it originated. Experimenting with different parts is easily one of the main draws of the game, as it alleviates the monotony that can come with playing missions with such similar goals and setting.
Perhaps the biggest drawback of the experience is simply the lack of variety. There is an alarming lack of diversity in the maps that the missions take place on until much later in the game. One could argue that given how small the characters are, it would be difficult for them to travel through terrain with much variance over the course of the game, but the fact remains that you will spend much of it traversing plain dirt dotted with rocks and blades of grass. The mission objectives also don’t change up very frequently, which is why it’s a bit of a relief that there are at least new bugs introduced at regular intervals. A few “boss” encounters tend to mix things up too.
Some of the missions are also needlessly vague, and the overhead map provided on the lower screen does little to aid with this. There was one mission in particular where I was tasked with retrieving water. I naturally assumed that I was looking for a large body of water and went in circles looking for it. It wasn’t until I accidentally stumbled into what looked like a giant mushroom that I realized I was just looking for water droplets. Once I knew what I was looking for, I still had to contend with retracing my steps to areas I’d already searched to see if I overlooked some; a challenge when the map makes no distinction on where I’ve been or what landmarks are there.
There is a co-op mode that can be played locally (which I unfortunately didn’t get an opportunity to test), as well as StreetPass functionality. If you tag someone who also owns the game, that person can be called in to offer artillery support during a sticky situation. It isn’t much, but certainly a welcome feature considering not many other eShop titles seem to do much with StreetPass.
The lack of varying landscapes hurts the presentation a bit, as everything looks as brown as a Gears of War game. There is a mild 3D effect at play here, though it’s barely noticeable and you’ll likely keep it off the majority of the time. The models for the tanks and the bugs are pretty decent, though, and it’s rather satisfying to watch critters get blown to pieces for every shell you launch their way. The music isn’t too bad either, if a bit forgettable, though it won’t drive you nuts being on loop for most of the game. There are a few voiceovers in places, which are so enthusiastic, you can’t help but laugh every time one gets played.
If that sounds incredibly simplistic to you, well then you’ve hit the nail on the head. While I was disappointed with Tank! Tank! Tank! for not having much variety in this regard, you’re also not paying full retail price for Bugs vs. Tanks! It’s $7.99 on the eShop, which isn’t a terrible price to pay for a few hours of entertainment. The other games released by Level-5 on the service make a much stronger case for the money, though that isn’t to say that Bugs vs. Tanks! is a bad game. It’s certainly not. I just expected a little bit more polish than what I got, but if you’re in the market for a mindless tank game, this should be right up your alley.
Short Attention Span Summary
If you’ve ever considered roasting ants with a magnifying glass to be in poor form on account of the ants being unable to fight back, Bugs vs. Tanks! has you covered. You can blow away ants, bees, and moths guilt free as they assault your base and eat your comrades while you wage war with insects using miniature tanks. Everything from the presentation to the gameplay is a bit on the simplistic side and while this does mean it’s easy for anyone to pick up and play, there’s also a lack of variety in the mission structure and environments. It may be below par for designer Keiji Inafune, but Bugs vs. Tanks! still succeeds in providing a few hours of mindless entertainment involving tanks, something that’s hard to be too upset about.