|System: PC||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: NinjaBee||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: NinjaBee||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Dec. 3, 2007||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1, 2-8 online||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
Combat progresses in rounds with each character receiving a single chance to move and take an action each round. For the most part, each side will alternate unit-by-unit based on individual initiative. During players' turns they can select any unit that hasn't already acted in the round. The range of actions your individual units can take is pretty limited depending on that unit's type. In most cases, you'll move and attack with either a melee or ranged weapon. Other times you can cast some form of offensive, healing or defensive spell via special units or use an item or skill. When your turn is done, you can select which direction to face your unit. Special care must be given to direction and terrain height as attackers will receive bonuses if they hit from behind, either flank, or from higher ground.
The battlefield is made up of grid tiles with varying terrain heights and land features similar in nature to those founds found in Final Fantasy Tactics and other isometric turn-based strategy titles. You'll occasionally come across some interesting terrain elements which can be exploited to your benefit such as quicksand that will draw enemies into the gaping maws of sand lions, spider webs that slow the progress of friend and foe alike, and switches that build walls. Water plays a surprisingly important role in the game as well since most bug units that make contact with the wet stuff will instantly perish. Chill magic can be used to freeze water solid to open convenient pathways of travel while fire magic can be used insidiously to melt the ice beneath the foot of a foe to send them to a watery grave. These few touches make the environments slightly more interesting to battle in.
A built-in level editor lets you create your own map scenarios for play against the computer A.I. or human opponents both in hot-seat and online matches. The local multi-player modes offer a brief amount of additional entertainment, but you may be hard-pressed to find others to go up against in online matches. In multiplayer, you can play any mission scenario or pick from a selection of pre-built maps in elimination, escape, and capture games. An additional gameplay mode, spider hunt, is only available in online matches. A currently unusable (but potentially excellent) option is a feature to download additional content to expand the game. XBLA players have already seen a few downloadable add-ons, so hopefully the PC version will get the same treatment.
Though Band of Bugs may not completely satiate the turn-based strategy cravings of the gaming elite, new players to the genre will find it to be a great entry point to get accustomed to the gameplay concepts. It may even very well serve as the "gateway" game to other more established turn-based strategy franchises. The game is certainly capable of holding its own, but without the same high-level of expansive content found in other titles it's likely to get overlooked by many players in favor of the competition. If you're seeking some short and sweet turn-based gameplay with a fun, original presentation, then look no further. With some gameplay expansion, a slightly more involved story, and additional content, Band of Bugs could prove to be a substantial contender down the road.
CCC Freelance Writer