Chucking bugs into outer space might sound like a neat idea at first. Given the pedigree of the developer Cyan I had really high hopes for Bug Chucker. They are the creators of some of the deepest adventure games ever: Myst and Riven. I saw a deep take on the gameplay seen in Angry Birds in my mind. My expectations got severely dented the second the menu music started playing. Annoyingly weird music that made me head for the volume controls within seconds. Thankfully the music is the worst piece of the game, and there are quite a few redeeming aspects.
Bug Chucker combines the gameplay found in Angry Birds with asteroid gravity. You set the trajectory of the bug cannon, and simply fire touching it. The bug flies through space on a mission to get rid of evil saws. Get rid of all the saws floating in space to clear the level. Gather leaves to gain points. Gravity is a huge factor, and slingshooting around planets and black holes takes a lot of trial and error. To me the gameplay felt somewhat stale, and unpredictable. I have played a lot of games using gravity, but this is the first that throws me off somehow.
You get 42 levels, and right from the start the challenge is quite hard. It takes a lot of attempts to clear levels with bugs left to get the coveted three star ratings. As you progress new bugs are unlocked, and you get to fling grasshoppers and beetles. This affects gameplay much in the same way that the different birds do in Angry Birds. There was initially no level skip option, and I had to spend hours getting past level 7 that I had a hard time understanding. After an update you got to skip two levels. I managed quite a few in a row until the difficulty spiked again. Difficulty varies quite a lot between levels, and there is no soft level progression. Still this definitely gives you a whole lot of gamelife out of the game.
There is no online functionality, no achievements and only local high scores. I would have really liked to see Game Center integration that could allow for save games across devices. Bug Chucker is a universal binary, and looks better on iPad while it plays better on the smaller screen. Retina display gives it a nice depth to space on the iPhone 4.
The presentation is not that impressive. I judge Bug Chucker independently from the great games of the past, but still compared to a lot of other physics games it feels kind of empty. The story is cute, but not developed enough to give the bugs hero status or make them likeable. Backgrounds stand out as graphical highlights with a deep representation of space. Objects, bugs and enemies look misplaced and artificial against the backdrop. Usually graphics isn’t a major concern to me, but since you sit around quite a lot while a bug orbits a planet you have time to take it all in.
The music is annoying, but I can appreciate that Cyan has tried to create a kind of national anthem for the bugs aboard the Galactic Bugship S.S. Treehugger. Once in the game there are just sound effects, and the odd fanfare as you complete a level.
Bug Chucker feels quite unpolished due to the lack of online features, limited character development and lacklustre music. It does however pose a great challenge to physics game fans, and unlike games like Angry Birds luck is not a big factor in Bug Chucker. I recommend it as a neat way to spend your time.
Bug Chucker $0.99 Universal
Seller: Cyan Worlds, Inc.