When you first come across Band of Bugs (BoB) on the Xbox Live Arcade, you may be fooled into thinking that 800 Microsoft Points is an absolute bargain for such a feature full game, and in some respects this is absolutely right. However, there are a few issues with the gameplay which ultimately mean that BoB is only a good game, rather than the great game it had the potential to be.
The gameplay of BoB will be very easily accessible to anyone who has played a turn-based strategy game before. The game is played on a 3d grid, with each unit being able to move/shoot over a certain distance each turn. The general formula is simple; select a unit, tell it where to move, and what to attack. Then sit back and watch as your opponent does the same. Of course, there are variations to this formula, which include casting support spells with your mage unit, and using the various items found throughout the game. If you don’t like this style of gameplay, BoB is not for you, as it does not really add anything new to the genre. However, what it does, it does pretty well.
The campaign mode pits you and you merry band of bugs against various enemies in 20 different missions, with the missions being nicely varied. Some will be as basic as wiping out the opposition, whilst others will involve you trying to battle your way through a mob of angry bugs to reach the exit, whilst behind you the ground is collapsing. It’s this variation which helps to keep the game feeling fresh.
Aside from the Campaign mode, the game offers reasonable replay value as there are standalone missions and a variety of skirmish modes including Capture, Escape and Elimination, all of which can be played against the AI, up to 3 friends on one console, or up to 8 people online. To top off the list of features is a fully fledged map editor, allowing you to play around and create all manner of crazy maps.
Graphically the game will probably be off-putting to hardcore gamers due to its cutesy character design and bright colour palette. The same can be said for the audio, which features very cartoony attack sounds, and various squeaks and grunts as the bugs speak during the campaign. However, if you can look past the initial cutesy style, you will find a game that has been made very lovingly, with all the elements of the game fitting together nicely to create a nice, consistent overall design.
As great as this may all sound, there are some niggling issues with the core gameplay. Each bug usually carries multiple weapons, which may alter their attack to include a knock-back effect, or it may enable the bug to attack at range. This is a nice idea, but unfortunately in order to use any other weapons you have to switch between them, which ends that bugs turn. As a result of this you will find yourself rarely switching weapons, simply because it means you won’t be able to attack that turn. Another issue is that you never really feel as though you have any ownership over the party that you are controlling. This is because rather than leading the same group of bugs through each mission and levelling up their stats like in an RPG, you simply get given a select group of bugs at the start of each mission, and this group of bugs is different nearly every mission you go into. Other issues with the game include balancing issues resulting in certain bugs being overpowered, and simple annoyances, like being forced to watch the cutscene at the beginning of a level if you fail and have to restart it.
Overall, anyone who enjoys turn-based strategy games should definitely give BoB a go, as for 800 MS points, you really get a lot of gameplay for your money.