Developer: Comcept Inc.
Publisher: Level 5
Platform: 3DS (eShop)
Release Date: June 20, 2013
ESRB: T for Teen
A download code was supplied by the publisher for this review
When you pick up one of Level-5's Guild-01 or Guild-02 games, you know you are at least going to get a quirky and unique experience. From Liberation Maiden to The Starship Damsey, each title is bound to offer you something interesting and exciting, even if in some cases the execution isn't as as great as the idea.
So, where does this newly localized title Bugs Vs Tanks! land? Is it a great idea with a poor execution, or does the quirky idea of taking on insect forces with military firepower stand on its own six legs?
Bugs Vs. Tanks! has an interesting, if minimal, story: It's World War II, and a platoon of tanks mysteriously vanishes. The German troops are thought to be KIA... but they are still very much alive, shrunk down to miniscule sizes and fighting for their lives against ants, mosquitoes, and other typical tiny nuisances. There's little else to the story than that, but it serves to understand why you're fighting giant (at least from the characters' view) insects and general survival in the suddenly harsh environment is good enough motivation.
As such, this title must rely on gameplay to shine, and in that aspect it doesn't fail, but it doesn't stand out either. You move around both the tank and its line of fire, and the cannon either shoots automatically or with your manual input, which you can toggle in the options menu. There's also a once per mission SOS button, which you use to summon some back-up fire... and well, that's it. The simplistic controls lend itself well to the game, making it easy to pick up, shoot some termites, and be done.
The game is set up into missions. There are sub-missions, which usually aren't terribly storyline important but need to be completed regardless, and key missions that typically have a boss battle and a change of scenery. Missions tend to be over very quickly, with few lasting more than four or five minutes, making it even easier to play in short bursts.
Speaking of, playing in short bursts is certainly the best way to enjoy Bugs Vs. Tanks!, because unfortunately the missions can get old very quickly. You have timed missions, destroy X amount of bugs missions, search and rescue missions... but there are very few unique missions to look forward to. Thankfully the maps and their environmental hazards change often enough to keep it from becoming a complete grind, but sitting down and playing the entire game straight through will make the title feel like a slog.
However, for those that are entertained by the main game, there is plenty to do even past the main game. After the main levels of missions, there are not only EX missions but also extra Co-Op Missions that you can tackle with like-minded bug busters (or even alone). Also, with varied difficulty settings and the various ways to customize your tank, you'll find plenty of depth in this title.
To be honest, the various tanks you can unlock are the best part of the game. They are historically accurate for the World War II setting, which is really a neat touch. You can use any of the tanks that you find scattered about the missions, and even customize their cannons and fire rate, amongst other things. While a typical playthrough on Normal probably won't need you to go that deep into customizing, having the option there is welcome for those that enjoy tweaking their tanks. Also, if you have any Guild-01 save data, you can unlock a gold plated version of the starter tank... and even if that doesn't make sense, it's still pretty neat looking.
While there is nothing inherently wrong with Bugs Vs. Tanks!, it's still hard to recommend. It's quirky enough and decent fun to play, but there is little that makes it stand out of the crowd as a 'must-play' game. Shooting up various insects with tanks may sound great, but all in all it's... almost a little dull.
+ Quirky, light story doesn't try to make sense
+ Historically accurate, customizable tanks add depth and charm
- Missions are cookie-cutter and can quickly get old
- Gameplay is very simplistic, but can border on boring or tedious
Overall Score: 5.5/10
Bugs Vs. Tanks! might have a stand-out concept, but the gameplay and mission structure is anything but.