After the Wii’s release, we went through a period of denial. We were promised that it was motion controls – not the next generation of graphical splendor – that would carry video games into the future. But while Wii Sports was fun, we wanted to see what motion controls could do outside a set of family-friendly minigame compilations. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess didn’t make very good use of the controls, but it was really a port of a GameCube title. So, we just needed to wait a bit longer, and the vision Nintendo promised us would eventually arrive.
Sometime before, we just gave up and realized that motion controls just kind of suck in general, Escape from Bug Island hit the shelves. The only thing I really knew about it was that it was terrible. Even during a software drought that would only be relieved by Virtual Console games and Metroid Prime 3, I knew not to touch Escape from Bug Island. And I never did.
Since 2007, I’ve been building Escape from Bug Island up in my head as my own personal densetsu no kusoge (crap game of legend). From the moment I started doing this column, I knew I wanted to take on Escape from Bug Island. But somehow, despite having seen it staring at me from all kinds of discount bins and bargain racks over the years, I couldn’t find a copy of it. Until now.
I wish I could make a joke about it being glitchy
First off, I want to say that Escape from Bug Island frequently crashed my Wii U whenever I tried to launch it. While the case for the game is yellowed, as if it sat in a dingy rental place for a decade, the disc is immaculate, almost as if it has never been played. But it’s like my Wii U was offended I was feeding it this game. Three out of the five times I tried launching the game, it crashed the whole system. The Wii U wouldn’t even shut off if I held the power button. I had to unplug it to reset it. Incredible.
Escape from Bug Island is a somewhat inaccurate description of the premise of the game. There’s a boat docked right in the starting area. You could leave so damned easily. But the dude you play as is just so damned desperate for sex that he’s willing to overcome an island filled with his worst nightmares to reunite with a girl that he sort of, kind of likes.
I think Escape from Bug Island carries a title similar to a B horror movie because Eidos knew it was terrible. It was originally released in 2006 in Japan under the title Necro-Nesia and, according to Nintendo Power (Vol. 214), was so bad that it prompted the publisher to ask for some changes before releasing it in the West. These are largely token and superficial tweaks that did nothing to save the overall product.
But what the title did get right is that it does take place on an island filled with bugs. Giant insects, to be precise, but it’s also filled with massive frogs, giant gorillas, and sexy, curvacious lizard women. The plot goes into detail, saying that a strange force on the island is causing its wildlife to evolve at an accelerated rate. Frankly, I think the frogs and lizard babes should be on your team since you all have the same goal of bug destruction.
Agh! My back!
Escape from Bug Island is the Wii-est game I’ve ever played. It’s murky and shallow, and I think all the waggling did lasting damage to my wrists and back. Each level takes place in small pockets of wilderness enveloped in fog. I think it’s also supposed to be night, but whenever you turn on the flashlight, all it does is push the fog back another few feet. It is the saddest flashlight. I didn’t even really use it because I read a journal entry that suggested bugs are attracted to the light. I’m not certain that’s true, but the flashlight is so worthless that I don’t feel I made my journey any more difficult by keeping it in my pocket.
Fighting is oftentimes not even necessary. A lot of the bugs are mostly just ground cover, and running through them seemed like the most expedient way of bypassing the lot. Even some of the bigger baddies can’t keep up with your lust-driven gait, so I only got into fights when it was necessary, or I needed to break up the monotony.
You have melee and ranged attacks. To hit bugs with a stick, you hold the B button and swing the Wii Remote. Then, you try to ignore the pain building in your wrists. To throw rocks and bags of sand, you go into first-person view and then swing the Wii Remote. Then there’s your typical balancing by tilting the controller and panicked flailing whenever something attaches itself to you. This is especially hard when a lizard woman wraps her scaly legs around you and presses her cold body against yours. Nnng. Life or lizard cuddles. I feel like Ray, of all people, should understand my dilemma.
Stupid sexy lizards
Despite all that I’ve said about the gameplay in Escape from Bug Island, it’s actually really awesome. I’m not just talking about the strangely well-equipped reptile ladies, either. The narrative is absolutely genius because no one in it gives a shit about what’s going on.
The whole thing starts off with Ray, Michelle, and Mike taking a trip to the eponymous island. Despite not knowing of any actual danger, Mike brought his beloved shotgun and cocks it repeatedly during dialogue. However, his heart is big enough for two, so he starts trying to get into Michelle’s pants, even while knowing that his best friend, Ray, is trying to work up the confidence to admit his feelings for her.
Mike and Michelle venture off to find a place to swap genetics, and they don’t come back. So, Ray sets off to find them. Along the way, everybody dies. Everybody. And yet, every time he manages to bump into Michelle, all he wants to do is talk about how much he wants to invite her to the bone zone.
Meanwhile, you collect notes from some guy whose group arrived before yours. He cares even less about what’s going on than Ray. He talks about his girlfriend wandering off and how his friends keep dying but is quick to point out that he doesn’t like them anyway. He even makes a joke about how crickets laid their eggs in this one guy. Then eventually, he finds his girlfriend, but she’s run off with the infuriatingly fuckable lizard ladies. I don’t blame her.
Then the guy throws sand in his girlfriend’s face and escapes. He later writes – and I’m not making this up – that they “didn’t part on the best of terms” and he’d rather “take [his] chances with the sand monster.” Yeah, guy. She was banging lizard ladies, so you hit her in the face with a bag of sand. I will agree that those aren’t particularly good terms.
Someone’s mom’s idea of a horror game
So, we’re kind of going into spoiler territory now. However, the back of the box reveals this, and I doubt you’re really thirsting to play Escape from Bug Island, so I’m going to tell you anyway.
After everyone dies and you climb Bug Mountain, it turns out that the peak of the mountain is home to a wormhole that takes you back in time. A character flat-out says that this is not how wormholes work without even breaking the fourth wall, which makes it sound like the person who is writing the dialogue overtly hates the person who came up with the scenario. Again, I’m not joking, it’s the funniest shit.
Nonetheless, you go back in time to the start of the game. Ray is a bit slow, so even after it has become excruciatingly obvious that he wasn’t dreaming, he still thinks he imagined the whole first part of the game. Nonetheless, he goes to some effort to ensure that there are fewer casualties on his journey.
However, you’re still going to have to just repeat all the areas you already went through. It is so brazen about recycling the whole game just because the first journey was so short. It’s so overtly inept that it almost looks like the staff just accepted how bad their game was. It almost looks intentional.
Spit that sticks with you
This would explain how such talented staff produced such weapons-grade garbage. Escape from Bug Island was directed by Nobuyasu Motoki, who seems to be better known for their 3D modelling, but also was a planner for AI: The Somnium Files – nirvanA Initiative. There’s the possibility that this is mistaken identity, but the Direction Design also went on to work from that game. Even beyond that, a lot of the staff has had prolific careers, with a number of them going on to work on things like the Danganronpa series.
However, I think the more likely explanation is that someone wanted a game that could be released during the Wii’s launch window, so the team just kind of spit something out. Escape from Bug Island certainly tastes like spit. On the other hand, it’s spit that sticks with you. Even before I played it, Escape from Bug Island had already rented space in my brain, and I think that’s just going to get worse now. When I close my eyes, I’ll remember those alluring lizard physiques.