Level-5’s Guild02 series of Nintendo 3DS games is doing a pretty good job of delivering on the promise of more downloadable oddities. The first batch, Guild01, included games from the likes of Suda51 (No More Heroes, Lollipop Chainsaw) and Yasumi Matsuno (Vagrant Story, Final Fantasy XII), and Guild02 features some similar heavy hitters of the Japanese games industry. We reviewed The Starship Damrey—from Night of the Sickle Weasel‘s Kazuya Asano and Takemaru Abiko—in the latest issue of Otaku USA magazine, and now it’s Mega Man mastermind Keiji Inafune’s turn with Bugs vs. Tanks!
The title pretty much says it all in bold, exclamatory font. Inafune’s contribution to Level-5’s experimental project offers up a mix of strategy and action, as a WWII Panzer division finds itself minimized Honey, I Shrunk the Kids style. Now ordinary ants, bees, and other bugs and obstacles pose just as large a threat as the war itself, and the group must find a way to survive in this savage new world.
Said means of survival naturally boils down to blasting the hell out of some bugs, but it isn’t going to be easy. Bugs vs. Tanks! provides a few options to customize the experience to the player’s liking, thankfully, because missions can get unforgiving pretty quickly. Combat generally consists of rolling your tank through the dirt, pivoting your turret, and firing away either automatically or manually. Auto-fire puts the control in the computer’s hand and makes it a little easier to concentrate on maneuvering, but it’s also wildly unsatisfying to have the AI pull the trigger every time an enemy is in range. I think most players will want to switch to manual early on like I did, but it definitely makes things more difficult as you progress toward more involved missions.
The word strategy has been thrown around, but ultimately this is an action game. Sure, there are some tactics involved in choosing the tank most suited to your style—different types and paint jobs are unlocked upon discovering abandoned units in the field—and it helps to know which shell type to use in certain scenarios, but success here is mostly going to depend on how good you are at commandeering the often unwieldy vehicles. You can also get help from other folks via wi-fi, but I never ran into the opportunity to roll around with anyone else.
Bugs vs. Tanks! is not a very pretty game. That’s forgivable given its bite-sized budget nature, but staring at the same drab, muddy backgrounds can get a little old. Humor spices things up, though, and makes up for other more lacking aspects. There’s something completely ridiculous about the gung-ho attitude of the panzer troops as they shout orders in broken English: “Panza forwaaaaard!” Some of the dialogue can be pretty funny at times, too, and it’s nice in general to see a SyFy Channel original movie plot like this not taking itself seriously in the least.
The end result isn’t close to being the most enjoyable of the Guild games released thus far, but there’s some charm to be found for sure. The missions in Bugs vs. Tanks! are well suited for quick bursts of portable gaming, and that’s precisely how it should be played. It would be easy to burn out on pretty much every aspect of this average tank action game, but in small chunks it provides just enough fun and challenge to make it worth checking out.
System: Nintendo 3DS (eShop)
Available: Now ($7.99)