Bugs vs. Tanks! Review: Not A Perfect Shot

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Bugs vs. Tanks!, Keiji Inafune’s contribution to Level-5′s collaboration collection, “Guild02,” is now available through the 3DS eShop. The Mega Man creator’s game has you playing as Nazi soldiers during World War II. Somehow, your tank battalion has been shrunk down to be smaller than insects, and you find yourself fighting giant ants just to survive. While the game did have its ups and downs, I actually grew to like it, and found myself compelled by the gameplay.

Platforms: 3DS
Publisher: Level-5
Developer: Level-5, Comcept
Genre: Strategic Shooter That Loves the Smell of Raid in the Morning
Release Date: June 20, 2013
ESRB Rating: Teen

bugsvstanks-boxBugs vs. Tanks! has a lot of strange quirks to it. First of all, you’re playing as Nazi soldiers, complete with over-the-top German accents and some heated conversations about how much you hate the Allies. The soldiers are convinced that the Allies are behind their current plight, while simultaneously cursing out and fighting against giant insects of all kinds. The long-term goal: get back to the right size and continue killing the Allies. The short-term goal: survive the bug onslaught while taking care of necessities, like food and water and shelter.

There are loads of missions in the game, and each one has its own mission goal. You control a single tank – movement with the directional buttons or the analog nub, and the direction the turret moves with the A and Y buttons. You can set your missiles to either fire automatically when a target is in range (with a short cooldown time in between) or you can set it to manual, using the R and L buttons to shoot them. I preferred the auto option, allowing me more freedom of movement and less time worrying about paying attention to the cooldown meter.

Some of the goals are simple: find food, find water, find missing soldiers who have wondered off and gotten cornered. Other goals are simple, but more difficult: defend the base from ants, or termites, or moths. In the defensive missions, you only have a set amount of damage the base can take before the mission is considered a failure. These can be difficult when the bugs are coming in hard and fast from multiple directions. But, in the end, I found each of the missions to be fun and challenging, and to force me to set up tactics – something I didn’t think I’d really be doing much of in this tiny game.

bugsvstanks-1Some missions have abandoned tanks in them, which, when found, can give you various tank and/or turret upgrades. There are also other upgrades you can unlock when finishing missions. Some of the upgrades are just cosmetic ones, giving you options for changing the paint job on your tank. Want to look like a real Japanese tank from World War II? Or how about just covering the entire tank in flowers, or polka dots? Don’t worry – Bugs vs. Tanks! has you covered, no matter what you want your tank to look like.

As I said, the game was surprisingly strategic. What I thought was going to end up being just a silly shooting game was about figuring out which tank, and which missile, to bring to the mission. While there are only two different types of missile, the choice in crucial – one pierces through enemies, while the other does splash damage. This decision can be the difference between finishing a mission and failing miserably.

While I did have fun with the missions – it reminded me a lot of the Earth Defense Force series – the main problem I have with the game is playing as Nazis. Sure, it’s just a silly idea, and they do have fun with it, but it’s unsettling to be having silly fun and then hear poorly done German accents discussing killing Allied soldiers. It’s been decades – can’t we give it a rest? The overlying theme of the game is in bad taste. I found the best way to play the game was with the sound off, and by glazing over all of the dialogue.

If you’re like me, and you loved the other Guild games, you’ll probably want to pick this up, if only to continue your collection. While it’s not up to the quality of the other games, it certainly is something fun and easy to pick up and put down. It’s a perfect game for on-the-go, yet it’s got enough challenges in both mission types and difficulty levels to keep even the most hardcore gamer satisfied. There’s plenty here to like – if you can get past the distastefulness of the subject matter. But don’t pay $7.99 for it – wait for a sale, which will likely happen when Guild03 rolls around.

Review Disclosure: A review copy of Bugs vs. Tanks! was provided by Level-5 for the purposes of this review.

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Nicole Kline is Warp Zoned's Senior Editor. She first began preparing for the job by climbing a milk crate to play Centipede in an arcade. You can find her on PSN under the name toitle or you can email her at nicole AT warpzoned DOT com.

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