Japanese studio Level-5 is developing a reputation for delivering intriguing, obscure videogame products to the Nintendo 3DS. Favouring the Nintendo eShop over retail releases, presumably due to the freer pricing policies and regularity of the studio’s output, the handheld system appears to be the perfect platform for the bite-sized gameplay experiences that Level-5 are specialising in. Their latest title, Bugs Vs. Tanks fits into this niche perfectly.
The plot of Bugs Vs. Tanks is entirely preposterous, but then this goes hand-in-hand with the gameplay. During the second world war a squadron of German tanks disappeared from the battlefield. A small amount of press coverage of the incident lead to the German government denying any peculiarity, instead issuing an official statement declaring that they had been eliminated in battle. This, however, prevented any further investigation from taking place, leaving the squadron to fend for themselves against a powerful new enemy.
This new enemy, of course, are insects. Ants, bees and other invertebrates are your rivals as you fight for the safety of your comrades. This action takes place as a real-time action experience wherein the player takes direct control over a tank and heads-out into the battlefield to takedown enemy units with superior firepower. The controls are fairly straightforward, with the analog slider used to control movement and the face buttons used to aim your turret. The player can opt for either manual or automatic shooting (though the aim control will remain their remit no matter which option they choose) and the front of each tank features mounted machine guns capable of slowing down enemy units, but not defeating them.
This is the bulk of the experience that Bugs Vs. Tanks provides. It’s a videogame about evaluation and reaction skills. There are dozens of missions that vary the overall objective, whether it be reconnaissance, direct attack or anything in between, but the foundation of Bugs Vs. Tanks most certainly resides in learning how to appropriately position your tank to take out overwhelming numbers of enemy units.
As you progress through the numerous missions and explore the small maps you’ll come across abandoned tanks and other resources which can then be used to customise your own vehicle. A number of accessories can be changed, including the type of shell used, and you can even find new tanks with different strengths and weaknesses.
Should you find that the challenge is too great, two options are available to even the scales. The player is able to use their SOS command once per level, damaging all enemies in the local area, and should another player be playing close by they can assist you for a short period of time in the same fashion. You can also replay earlier levels in the hope of finding new tanks parts that you had missed previously, but this is a far less reliable method of advancing your combat prowess.
Bugs Vs. Tanks isn’t particularly striking visually, with muddy textures and average animation on enemy units. The polygon models could have been achieved on the original Nintendo DS hardware and although the stereoscopic 3D effect is out to good use it’s hardly unique a selling point. The story is delivered through dialogue between and during missions which is actually quite well scripted, with some interesting – if one dimensional – characters providing conflict outside of the warzone.
Coming to the Nintendo eShop this week, Bugs Vs. Tanks is never going to be seen as a highlight of anyone’s Nintendo 3DS software collection. However, launching at a pocket money price and offering both accessibility and an enduring campaign, Bugs Vs. Tanks is perfect for that long journey or time away from your home console that many will be experiencing this summer. And with that it seems as though Level-5 has achieved their goal once again: Bugs Vs. Tanks is an enjoyable bite-sized gameplay experience perfectly suited to the Nintendo 3DS’ digital distribution platform.