Ant Nation Review
Ant Nation box art
System: Wii (WiiWare), DS Review Rating Legend
Dev: Konami 1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid 4.0 - 4.4 = Great
Pub: Konami 2.0 - 2.4 = Poor 4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
Release: July 13, 2009 2.5 - 2.9 = Average 5.0 = The Best
Players: 1 3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+ 3.5 - 3.9 = Good

While I am all for creativity in the gaming industry, sometimes I just have to wonder what developers are thinking when they come up with an idea for a game. Case in point: Ant Nation. While ants aren't terrible subjects for video games (SimAnt was interesting enough), making a game about torturing them certainly is. On the surface, Ant Nation claims to be a strategic title that challenges you to command your own nation of ants. However, after playing this title I can only conclude that Ant Nation is an interactive screensaver where you can burn the ants.

Ant Nation screenshot

The poor value of the game was pretty much evident from the second I started it up. Upon entering the game's main mode, the game asks if you want a tutorial. Being a newcomer to the Ant Nation, I replied "yes." The game then presented me with a handful of text screens that were supposed to explain how the game worked. The screens told me that the ants enjoyed eating candy, and I could use the magnifying glass to look around their environment and the dropper to pick them up. "OK," I thought, "this seems pretty simple."

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The game progresses by allowing you to take on special missions. The first few were very simple tutorial-style missions that told us to pick up ants and to zoom in on them with the magnifying glass - so far, so good. However, the trouble came in when the game told me to level up an ant. The tutorial made no mention of leveling, and I was utterly stumped as to how to perform this feat. Picking the ant up didn't help, zooming in didn't help, and I had to resort to just pressing random buttons to try and figure it out. This is where Ant Nation takes a turn for the weird.

Ant Nation screenshot

After much trial and error, I figured out that "leveling up" your ants entails picking them up with the hand tool and then draining their life. Sometimes you will only have to drain their HP by 40 or 50, and sometimes you will have to get them into single digits in order for their level to increase. To make matters worse, when this leveling does occur, it does not automatically replenish your ant's life bar. If you had to drain them to 2 HP, then they will stay there. The little wounded ants turn blue and hobble around, and they even sport a frowny face above their bodies to let you know that they aren't doing well. This mechanic forms the backbone of the gameplay, and I have to say that while I am not a staunch animal rights activist, I couldn't help but feel uncomfortable torturing the ants to level them up.

Once you have leveled them up for the first time, the game will start to give you more divergent tasks. Some involve getting your ants into combat (there are several missions which involve you galvanizing your army to fight evil ladybugs) and others entail finding red ants and smashing them with a hammer; yes, a hammer. Although here's an interesting fact: while giant hammers definitely squish fire ants in Ant Nation, they bounce off of ladybugs. Just thought I'd mention that.

Ant Nation screenshot

Screenshots / Images
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