The fact that a game’s title is spelled out in capital letters and contains an exclamation mark definitely shows unbridled enthusiasm from the developers perspective, but doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll feel that way whilst playing it. Fortunately, BUGS vs TANKS! is a delight and demonstrates perfectly the 3DS’ ability to provide a simple, yet engaging gaming experience.
Wanton disregard for font and punctuation aside, what we have here is smart little combination of survival horror and arcade action that will appeal to children and adults alike.
One of the joys of BUGS vs TANKS! is that there is very little in the way of story, and in fact, very little need for it. As an introduction, you are shown some archive footage of tanks in WWII and a newspaper cutting about a German panzer squad that went missing on the battlefield.
You are then shown that these tanks didn’t go missing, in fact they are exactly where the General left them, they just happen to be a fraction of their original size. Unsure how they got to be so small, the German soldiers naturally assume that this is some fancy new weapon deployed by the English and allied forces. How they came to be isn’t really of any importance though as they soon find themselves facing a new enemy (that would be the bugs), as they battle their way across a grassy jungle reminiscent of Honey I Shrunk the Kids.
BUGS vs TANKS! features incredibly simple controls which see you driving a single tank from a top-down perspective. You move with the analogue stick, pivot your turret and fire whenever you come under attack from the ants, spiders and other beasties that do their best to turn you into their next meal.
The default controls cause your tank to fire automatically whenever your turret is aimed at an enemy, but this can be turned off at any point to increase the difficulty. I’d personally recommend this as it forces you to make more evasive maneuvers, whilst prioritising your shots. It also makes it downright terrifying when you’re set upon and surrounded by a large group of bugs.
The bugs are pretty nasty and despite some god-awful AI, they provide a real challenge, particularly when a large number swarm your tank. They also come in a wide variety, encouraging the use of differing tactics and the occasional change of ammo type. If things get really hot on the battlefield, you are also able to call in a devastating artillery strike from your comrades back at base camp. This can only be used once per mission but I found myself hovering over the big SOS button every time that I encountered a group of more than two critters.
Scratching below the surface of BUGS vs TANKS! reveals a surprising level of depth, with the ability to fully customise your chosen tank, choosing the rate of fire, shell type, chassis and turret appearance. Completing various missions also gives you the ability to unlock additional (often wacky) paint-jobs to inspire fear in your six-legged foes.
Tank enthusiasts will also be pleased by the facts that the game feeds you about each model of tank. From what I can tell, all of which is historically sound, giving the feeling that a decent amount of military diligence and research has been done here.
Unfortunately the game is let down by its mission variety. For the most part, these bring very little new ideas to the table and see you slogging through a stream of collection, base defense and kill x amount of bug type objectives. It is for this reason that the game is best played in short bursts.
Having said that, missions are (mostly) extremely short and all have a different enough look and feel to keep you interested. There are 29 in total and 10 additional bonus stages which feels like incredibly good value. There’s also a local multiplayer function which allows you and three mates to go co-op. You can also call in additional artillery support by using the built in StreetPass functionality. A nice touch.
BUGS vs TANKS! features some fairly decent visuals, made even better by turning on the 3D effects. The bugs themselves are realistic enough to make you want to avoid getting anywhere near them (I’m a little phobic, so that could just be me!) and the tanks are very well rendered.
Sound is also of a good standard here with the military fanfare playing its part in your genocidal conquest of insects large and small. There are also a number of great German voice-overs for various actions like a confirmed kill or artillery strike. Along with other aspects of this game, these brought a smile on more than one occasion.
To Sum Up
Bugs vs Tanks! is a great way to spend an hour or so over the course of a few days. It can be as casual or as challenging as you wish to make it, and you’ll have a lot of fun figuring out the play-style that suits you.
If you’ve ever wanted to lay siege to an ant hill in a microscopic pink tank, then BUGS vs TANKS! is your game. It’s by no means perfect, but it’s a hundred times more enjoyable than that tank museum that I visited last summer.
Version Reviewed: Nintendo 3DS