Review by Nigel Wood
Platforming games are a bit thin on the ground right now for iPhone, with only one worthy game ‘Toy bot diaries’. Pangea aim to take that crown with a conversion of their Mac game ‘Bugdom 2′.
The original Bugdom was bundled with the original iMacs and iBooks, and took it’s inspiration from Pixar’s a bugs life in look and style, and games like Nintendo’s Mario 64 and Rare’s Banjo Kazooie for gameplay. It saw you play as Rollie Mcfly (a pillbug) fighting to bring peace back to Bugdom, from the evil rule of King Thorax the leader of the fire ants.
Its sequel Bugdom 2 stars Skip Mcfly a Grasshopper (Rollie and Skip obviously have different fathers!), and it’s your job to guide Skip through 10 varied levels to retrieve your knapsack which was stolen from you by Bully Bee.
Most of the levels are open worlds based on miniature locations such as the Front Yard, a garbage can, playroom and the park. In these levels you will need to make it to the end of levels by completing missions set by Sam the snail or Sally the Chipmunk to earn keys to progress to the next area. Most of these are fetch and return missions or require you to save mice from mouse traps. Unfortunately Bugdom 2 is plagued with some truly frustrating controls which result in these levels becoming tiresome, you’ll be seeing the Gameover screen way too much.
An adventure platform game of this nature requires a responsive control system, much of the game requires you to leap from platform to platform (or leaf to leaf), pick up objects, interact with NPC’s and engage in combat with ants and ticks. But Bugdom 2 relies solely on tilt control for moving Skip. This input method is fine for racing games or Marble Madness style action, but not for gameplay of this type, not fully anyway.
Titling the iPhone in any direction will cause him to do the same, but it feels way too loose with Flick more often than not overshooting his target or facing the wrong way (even with the control sensitivity turned right down in the options menu). There is a button on screen you can tap to stop Skip in his tracks, but this seems to be a weak solution to the problem. Ironically the tilt control would have been better suited to Bugdom 1, where you rolled Rollie McFly around the levels. Instead, Pangea should have created an onscreen joypad option for movement, similar to Gameloft’s ‘Real Football 2009′, which would make interaction and combat much more responsive. The current tap to jump, flick up to kick and down to pick up an object do fair better than the tilt movement, but would still work better mapped to virtual buttons.
For a few of the later levels the tilt controls do fit. These are the two tube surfing ‘Sewer’ and ‘Gutter’. Both of these levels see you surfing down a pipe, avoiding objects in gameplay reminiscent of the 3D bonus ring collection in Sonic the Hedgehog.
If it wasn’t for the developer telling me of a cheat to access all the levels, I may not have had the patience to see it past the second level. Which is a shame because some of the later levels, especially the two surfing one’s and also a great ‘Desert Strike’ style toy plane mission, are very enjoyable indeed. On a mobile game like this there should be an auto save option, instead you must complete a level to save your position, which coupled with the controls can result in an infuriating user experience.
It’s not all bad though, the graphics look good with full 3D environments, some nice texture art, fun character models and great animation… especially in the cut scenes. I’m not a huge fan of the lead character, but overall the elements come together well to create a believable ‘A bugs life’ style miniature world. Some slowdown is present here and there when more objects are onscreen, but there are a lot of details to process. There seems to be a bit of a bug (pardon the pun) with the music affecting the graphical performance. This should have been ironed out before release… and is a bit odd to admit to it by recommending that the music be set to off in the options menu for better performance. This is a shame too because, as well as the graphics, the sound is also well produced with some solid voice work for Sally and Sam, good bug sound effects and a nice musical score accompanying the action.
Presentation & Graphics: 8
The graphics look the part, even if they are ripped straight from the mac version. The characters and animation is fun, but the frame-rate can take a hit when too much detail is present.
Good musical score and fitting sound effects make for an experience that is good on the ear.
Unfortunately the experience on the brain is a messy one, with poor controls that make what should be fun object retrieval, hopping and combat a chore. The surfing levels where the controls work well are fun though.
Game life: 5
10 levels of varying size, will take you a while, but this is due in part to the bad controls and poor save system… if the controls were done right then the game would feel shorter. Once you have completed a mission there isn’t much to go back for.
Game rating: 6
Bugdom 2 has some good elements of graphics, sound and some fun gameplay but marred by a control system that just doesn’t fit this style of game. ‘Toy bot diaries’ showed how ‘touch and tilt’ can work in a platformer. Bugdom 2 is an old game shoehorned to fit in the iPhone, and it’s not a comfortable fit! Bugdom 2 is available now for very well priced $2.99 (£1.79) here.