January 22, 2019
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Publisher: Pangea Software    Genre: Action
Min OS X: Not Supported    CPU: G3    RAM: 32 MB    Hard Disk: 10 MB    4x CD-ROM    Graphics: 640x480 @ 16-bit

September 24, 1999 | Michael Eilers

For The Last Time, It’s Not ‘A Bug’s Life!’
In Bugdom you assume the, err... ‘persona’ of Rollie McFly, a pillbug on a quest to free the Bugdom from the tyrant Ant King, who has imprisoned all the ladybugs (female versions of Rollie? This isn’t clear) and assume the throne. Along the way you’ll encounter many forms of bug and animal life, some hostile, others indifferent but dangerous nonetheless. Although comparisons are inevitable, Brian Greenstone insists that his game’s superficial similarity to the rainbow-hued world of Pixar’s “A Bug’s Life” is nothing but “a happy accident,” and I have to agree.

Gameplay is simple, at first. Crack open walnuts for points, power-ups and health bonuses. Kick enemies into submission, or roll into a ball and take ‘em out tenpins style. You must find color-coded keys to open doors of the matching color, and you can discover hidden rooms and power-ups if you are both observant and lucky.

As the game progresses, the puzzles get much more complex, and you have to exert finer and gentler control of Rollie’s movements. Bumping ants is one thing; swinging on vines over lava or jumping from one moving honeycomb to another atop a honey river is another. By the time you get to the Toxic Gas Roaches and Fireflies, you’ll be a bug acrobat or die trying.

Both the plot and the game are strictly linear; there isn’t much in the way of random encounters or multiple paths to an objective. But there is enough flexibility of gameplay that players can develop an individual style - my fiancee prefers ‘run from everything fast and use ball mode a lot’ to my ‘kick everything into oblivion and find all the specials’ strategy.

Enemy AI is quite predictable, but it really should be; this isn’t a deathmatch game. Many of the enemies are very aware of your presence, a nice change from other games; the Fish in particular seem to watch you intently and wait expectantly for you to stumble into the water.

Sights and Sounds
As a few minutes playing the demo will tell you, this is a very polished and attractive game. On a Rage 128 card/Blue G3 combo it is absolutely gorgeous, and just keeps getting better the farther you get into the game.

The animation, while ‘cartoony’ in keeping with the game’s excellent 3D model work, is very fluid, and the textures are excellent. Brian’s 3D engine supports many cool features, such as scrolling transparent textures, morphing and ‘fluid’ objects, walls of fire and lens flares. The Slugs and Caterpillars hug the landscape so realistically it boggles the mind.

Other animations are just as good, from the jumps of the bug-eating fish in level three to the fire-breathing Fire Ants of the later levels. The overall ‘look’ of the characters is consistent and consistently funny.

The sounds aren’t quite as satisfying; while the background music is very solid overall and of high quality (I really love the soundtrack to level 3) it does tend to drone on when you’re deep into the later levels. Individual sound effects, such as jumps, bumps and picking up powerups are good, but get quite repetitive after a while. Perhaps they could use some randomization or changes in volume and pitch.

Camera movement is quite intelligent but fares poorly in small rooms, particularly in the Queen Bee and Beehive levels. There are controls for changing the camera angle and zoom, but no ‘default’ key for snapping the camera back to its usual place.

My Life as a Ball
As Brian revealed in an e-mail discussion a while back, the game actually started out as a pinball game with the player as the pinball. He had so much fun driving the ball around a 3-D landscape that he decided to expand the idea into a full-fledged game.

Ball mode really is the biggest kick of this game. With the appropriate hardware to show off the game engine at high frame rates, you can really zip around the levels at amazing speed. Even better, the ‘ball’ physics are excellent, allowing you to leap into the air off the lip of a valley and rebound from objects pell-mell and willy-nilly. For some reason it is so satisfying to cruise through a pack of spear-toting Ants and scatter them around like tenpins - whether it is the sound, the physics or what else I’m not sure, but I love it.

My one big complaint about ball mode: when you “die” and are reincarnated, you get a full health meter, but not a full ball meter. This doesn’t make much sense to me, and can be really dangerous on levels where you have a long distance between ball mode rechargers (shaped like giant mushrooms.)


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