A Bug's Life

a game by Travellers Tales (Uk) Ltd.

Platforms: PSXNintendo 64Nintendo 64

Genre: Action

Overview

Hit movies always lead to hit games. Wouldn't it be great if that were the rule? Usually the opposite is true. Having an existing intellectual property that sells is usually a license to throw a pile of dung inside the wrapper. A Bug's Life is actually only a few marks shy of a very good game.

Gameplay

A Bug's Life is a comic action game with different goals in each of 15 levels. Most of the goals deal with getting Flik to do events that match the storyline of the movie. When you finish a level, you earn the right to go to the next level. Each new level starts with a new short animation from the movie. If you collect all of the bonus items in a level you get a bonus movie. Bonus items include 50 pieces of grain, four letters that spell F-L-I-K and permanently finishing off each enemy bug. To guide you through levels there are little floating telescopes that will show you areas you want to make it to.

Major sections of the game include Ant Island, Leaving Ant Island, Little Bug, Big City, Return to Ant Island, and Grasshopper War. In general, you'll want to simply exhaust each level of every item you can find. You will want to search every nook and cranny to get the bonus items.

Flik's weapons in each of the levels are earned by collecting berries. When you find a new color it changes the strength and/or ability of your weapon. These are projectile missiles which never run out. Red is the weakest and doesn't do much damage (not even hurting the tougher foes. Blue does more damage. Green is heat-seeking and will hone in on whatever the nearest critter is. Finally, the explosive gold berries will wipe out critters so they don't come back (normally creatures will come back after about 20 seconds). Wiping out all of the enemy bugs on each level is part of the requirements to earn the level's bonus animation.

Throughout each level are a variety of types of seeds. Some seeds are partially buried in the ground. These seeds can be transformed by Flik into a specific kind of plant that can help him solve problems within the level. Other seeds can be transformed into whatever plants Flik has gained the ability to do by acquiring different colored tokens. These seeds can also be carried around the level and reused to solve a variety of different problems. Sometimes you will have to use two or even three seeds together to solve tougher problems.

Brown tokens help Flik jump higher. With the first one Flik can make a mushroom to jump on. Two tokens allow the creation of propeller plans which fling Flik higher into the air. Three tokens allow Flik to grow a Dandelion, the spores of which allow Flik to float long distances (there is one level that is built around this technique). Finally, with four brown tokens a cannon plant can be grown to shoot Flik high into the air for those impossible to reach areas.

Green tokens helps Flik climb higher. Each new berry allows Flik to create a larger green leafy plant to climb up.

Blue tokens allow the creation of gift plants that give off different abilities including temporary invincibility, restored health, bubble shields, and super jump.

Yellow tokens create different fixed weapons which continuously fire projectiles at steady rates. Sometimes this is the only way to take care of tough grasshoppers.

Some levels also included Flik's harvesting invention (hidden somewhere in the level) which can be used to collect grain and kill off enemy bugs as if you had the gold berries. It's kind of like walking around inside a little tank which not only attracts things but hurts them when they make contact.

All the basic moves are here, you run around and jump. You also have a throw button for tossing berries. By holding down R1 or L1 you can walk slowly, which is especially helpful in tricky areas like ledges and tall plants. When you are around the big seeds you can switch through mini menus to choose which plant you want to grow. It is a reasonably good 3D engine, not always a given despite the plethora of 3D games.

The biggest annoyance with playing this game is that if you die, you have to re-load your information just to start on the same level. Also, it keeps track of how many lives you last saved at, which is nice if you had a lot, but nasty if you only had one or two. It would be more user friendly if it always started you with a minimum of three lives every time. Otherwise one slip up and you have to go through the loading sequence again, and that's only if you skip the animation telling you it's game over.

The other minor problem I had with the game was the menu system that allowed you to choose to load a game or save a game based on which button you pushed. Granted each selection asks you to verify your choice. But after being forced to re-load the game too often you get too used to breezing by the verification. I would much prefer a menu that required me to move the cursor to the desired selection. (Yes, I accidentally loaded over one of my key games ... doh!).

Graphics

All of the levels and bugs are highly detailed and look good on screen. It is possible to get the 3D world stuck in annoying angles but for the most part, the game looks great. I also really enjoyed the animations.

Bottom Line

If you like comical animation games, then this game is worth playing. Earning all of the different animations is fun. You can watch them all in order, once you've earned them and saved your progress. This is one game based on a license that actually turns out to be a decent game. Definitely rentable and worth buying if you want to exhaust every level.

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