CAVE are back, but this time they are taking a break from the shooter genre and offering up a new experience altogether… Something I like to call Zelda meets Bullet Hell.
Now, with that Zelda comment, don’t go all expecting an RPG. No, by Zelda I’m talking about the 16bit graphical styling. Along the lines of the Zelda: Four Swords franchise. And of course it wouldn’t be a CAVE game without a bevvy of bullets flying at you from all angles. I haven’t come a cross a game like Bug Panic before. It’s an original title mixing exploration with shooting, and all wrapped up in a cutesy-japanese wrapping.
On the face of it the game looks to be aimed at kids, but don’t let that fool you. This is one addictive game that both casual and hardcore gamers will enjoy. Bugs all over the land seem to have gone haywire, and it is your job – as some sort of bug whisperer character – to beat them into submission and return the world back to a peaceful co-existence between humans and bugs… nice!
The action could be described as a twin stick shooter, but the control setup is nothing like previous twin stick shooters you will be used to playing on the AppStore. The left hand stick does as it should and moves your character about the level, but the right stick doesn’t directly control your line of fire. Instead you use it as a track pad of sorts, controlling the aiming reticule around the screen. You can simply tap where you would like the reticule to go, but the pad works best in my opinion, beautifully combining simplicity with accuracy.
Releasing the pad when targeted will fire off a shot, and holding the reticule over a bug for long enough and charging up your power meter will activate a lock-on, meaning you can move onwards safe in the knowledge that when fired you will score a hit. For smaller quick shots you can flick the right stick in the direction of the bug too, but targeting, particularly on the larger bugs, is best. By targeting groups of bugs and getting a lock, you will not only take out the targeted bug, but also all of his friends near to him, causing a huge chain reaction, and leaving you with a bevvy of gems to collect.
The bugs come in all shapes and sizes. There are tiny ones that look a lot like fairies, bugs that come in groups from bug mounds, and then larger bugs, which fire patterns of bullets at you. These are the tricky ones, and require more skill to take out. For example, hermit crab like bugs will disappear into their shell when targeted, so you must time when to attack. Similarly, sand worms disappear under the sand and come at you Tremors-style. A few powered up hits will take them out though, and for a guaranteed kill, you can unleash a bigger explosion – a result of picking up explosive sap from fallen enemies.
Each level is broken up into smaller areas in which you must clear of bugs. Once the quota of bugs is reached, a portal will appear which, when activated, will open up the level further. Eventually, a final portal will appear to finish the level and move onto the next level within that world. Each world comes with a different theme, such as forests, deserts and ice, and with it an environmental challenge – for example sliding around on the ice. To complete a world you must complete the levels within and face off against a boss. The boss levels are by far the hardest part of the game, and will give the hardcore bullet hell fans a decent challenge. Bosses, are generally giant bugs with attack patterns you must learn, and of course, tons of bullets to avoid. For the casuals or beginners there is a little helping hand in the form of extra lives, if you get killed too many times that is… up to a maximum of nine.
Bug panic was a big surprise for me. Despite CAVE impressing me with their last two games on the AppStore, Bug Panic just didn’t look like the kind of game I’d go for. But, after playing it, and thanks to some truly great controls, challenging boss battles and endearing graphics and music, CAVE have done it again… I’m hooked.