The idea of shrinking objects and placing them into ridiculous situations is not new. But in the case of Comcept and Keiji Inafune's BUGS vs. TANKS!, it's somehow fitting to pit a tiny World War II German tank battalion against an endless swarm of insects because of ... well ... reasons.
BUGS vs. TANKS! is one part survival horror, one part arcade style action, and one part historically accurate (wait, what?). Yep, it's a pretty wacky game, which is why it works as an entry in Level-5's Guild02 collection.
BUGS vs. Tanks! (3DS)
Released: June 20, 2013
Given how easily the World War II time period could have overstayed its welcome, I'm glad Inafune opted for a quick setup and very little story. Simply put, you're a soldier in a shrunken German panzer squad, and the local insects are looking at you for their next meal. Your battlefield isn't a famous war-torn European city but a completely foreign jungle of grass and dirt, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids style.
You'll defend yourself with a battalion of tanks with fairly straightforward controls -- your only real abilities are moving, pivoting, firing, and a "once per level" artillery power. By default, your tank will utilize an automatic fire mode to constantly shoot enemies in range; you're going to want to go ahead and turn that off and jack up the difficulty (you can always switch back), because this game is best experienced when its insects are genuinely terrifying.
Though the fundamentals and the animations are pretty basic, the game's realistic-looking bugs can get pretty nerve-wracking, especially in swarms. They're extremely relentless and most won't stop until your dead, even if you're backed into a corner begging for breathing room, unable to get a clear shot. The game's brutal difficulty, although frustrating at times due to some occasionally cheap AI, is one of my favorite aspects.
Once you're off the battlefield and hitting the game's menus, you'll learn that BUGS vs. Tanks! has a surprising amount of depth. For each tank, you can customize the rate of fire, chassis, and more. The actual tanks themselves are modeled after real vehicles in history, which helps give the game a bit more character.
Along with changing in difficulty setting or automatic/manual fire, you can make it feel like a completely different game, which is pretty remarkable. But what you can actually do with these tanks is extremely limited. Missions are pretty standard -- base defense, item collection, kill quests, and things like that. To be blunt, there's really not anything that you haven't seen a million times before, lending itself to something best played in short spurts.
Thankfully, no one mission overstays its welcome too often, as these levels are extremely short, and each of the 29 (with 10 bonus) stages feel different enough from one another to justify themselves. There's also a local multiplayer function that allows you to play with three other friends, as well as a fun little StreetPass mechanic that lets you call in extra artillery fire.
In terms of visuals, while I never really had any issues telling enemies and areas apart, BUGS vs. TANKS! is extremely unimpressive without the 3D effect on. It looks similar to a low-budget PS1 game, with jagged edges, plain backgrounds, and generally stale models. While I don't have a problem with a low graphical output, given the high quality in the other Guild games, it looks odd when juxtaposed with the total body of work and will disappoint anyone expecting a little more.
Like a few of the other Guild offerings, BUGS vs. TANKS! isn't remarkable, but it's a great way to pass the time over the course of a few days. Whether you want to casually roll through and blow up some insects on the easy setting, or wrack your brain to test your mettle with manual shooting and an insanely difficult campaign, BUGS vs. TANKS! offers a little something for everyone.