As the latest entry in the 3DS eShop Guild 02 collection (a series of smaller games based on smaller ideas with a well-known gaming legend behind it), Bug vs. Tanks! presents the concept of industry veteran Keiji Inafune. Like other Guild 02 games, it is certainly interesting and fun in its own way, but also like the Guild 02 games, some ideas and decisions remain questionable at best.
An arcade style game, BvT places you as part of a German platoon during World War II that has been shrunken down to an extremely small size. As Nazis-that-aren’t-directly-referred-to-as-Nazis, the platoon assumes the situation is the result of Allied plotting, and your goal is to basically survive and reverse the damage done.
Ultimately, the game revolves around killing “giant” bugs, but you are constantly in a tank alongside other tanks instead of on your feet like in Earth Defense Force. When on the ground in a tank, you can move the tank around and fire at bugs. The game offers manual and automatic fire, and automatic is way easier to deal with. Not only because it does the killing for you, but manual fire has no defined range with a reticle, and is just problematic to deal with in situations when killing a bug immediately is required to survive. While it seems easy at first having the action carried out on your behalf, it becomes practically required in later missions if you want to beat the game without significant frustration thanks to the problematic manual controls — especially when coupled with the fact that you are controlling a vehicle that isn’t necessarily easy to control in the first place.
The game is based around small missions that consist of killing a certain number of bugs, gathering a certain number of supplies, rescuing other members of your team, or defending your base from enemy waves. Although the missions are brisk (usually a few minutes), they grow pretty tedious as the difficulty increases (significantly, at least on Normal) but the gameplay diversity does not (outside of bug types, mostly). Maybe the game is built for shorter play, but killing bugs with a tank feels surprisingly slow and not that exciting after you’ve been doing it for 15 missions straight, let alone the 29 story and 10 additional missions that the game offers.
That said, BvT does put in some effort to mix up the gameplay a bit. During missions, you can often find abandoned tanks with parts to keep your vehicle and weaponry upgraded for the enemy onslaught. The chassis, paint, and turret are upgradable, and boosts stats like speed, defense, and power. As the enemies get stronger, you will need to cycle your equipment every two or three missions to keep your stats at a decent level. Outside of this, there is also an extremely powerful SOS attack that can be used once per mission that can help clear the screen when it gets too packed. With any complaints I have given the game thus far, I do appreciate the layer of strategy the game tosses in to keep it from being a completely vanilla experience, and these features definitely encourage real strategy to be used in the game.
I do have some issues with the presentation. The graphics are charmingly unimpressive with minimal detail, which I did enjoy with the 3D on especially, but I wish there were some more interesting environments. For the few that are in the game, they do mostly offer the same sticks, leaves, and design style. And though I didn’t mention this above, there is an unexpected ton of dialogue that the soldiers speak between missions, which really isn’t that interesting in the scope of an arcade game (they can thankfully be skipped). Outside of that, soldiers repeat the same few lines of dialogue in missions, and it gets really grating really quickly.
Bugs vs. Tanks! isn’t all bad. It has an interesting premise, a so-bad-its-good art-style, mostly acceptable controls and gameplay, and a layer of strategy that keeps it from complete monotony. And yet, the repetition and slogging presented in the missions kept me from enjoying much of the creativity to be found in the game, and though I’m unsure whether the audience for this game is out there or not, I don’t think that audience includes most people.