A Bug's Life
Once a 3D platform game is announced for release on the Nintendo 64, the first thing gamers will want to know is how it compares to either Super Mario 64 or Banjo-Kazooie, far and away the two leaders in the genre as of 1999. That's simply the price a company has to pay for diving into a crowded pool.
A Bug's Life adds a few new elements to the mix, but the ordinary gameplay keeps it from deserving a spot in your personal insect collection. The first problem is that it crawls its way onto the system nearly seven months after its PlayStation debut. So this ant is already late to the picnic...
Fortunately, time was spent addressing some of the faults in the 32-bit version. The fog has been pushed back so you can see more in front of you (although visibility is still a problem), the excessive pop-up has become less of an annoyance and more attention was given to extending the replay value.
Alas, not everything has improved over the original. The voice clips have taken a serious hit, as Flik only says a few choice words compared to the talkative character found on CD (phrases now appear as text on the screen). The graphics also look a little fuzzy compared to the high-res PlayStation game, and the movie footage was removed in favor of still photos, likely due to the space limitations on cartridge.
Otherwise, this is the same game. Players guide Flik through colorful levels that mostly take place in outdoor environments, including a forest, canyon and city. In order to succeed, Flik will have to avoid enemy insects (attacking from the ground and the air) in the hunt to find the exit leading to the next level. His friends will also make cameos later in the game.
Completing levels is a simple matter of running (or gliding in some cases) from point A to point B, but you'll often need to find and use seeds to reach higher platforms. Since Flik is an ant, he can't make it through many areas without the help of something to climb on. Thus grabbing seeds allows you to "create" plants to serve as ladders. Of course, in order to grow a specific plant, you'll first need to obtain a specific coin.
This is where things start to get tedious. Instead of letting players freely explore the world around them, the game boils down to finding certain coins and seeds in order to advance. Unlike Banjo-Kazooie or Super Mario 64 the levels are extremely linear, meaning there is little to do besides exiting the stage.
The other problems spill over from the PlayStation game: the entire first act can be rushed through within minutes, bosses can be defeated by holding down one button, and the control is too loose, making for some sloppy jumping sequences. The frame rate also suffers when there are several insects on the screen, and the camera seems to have a mind of its own.
The lack of difficulty can be forgiven when you consider the young audience the game is meant to appeal to, but there is no excuse for unexciting gameplay. Each level requires you to perform one task from the movie, whether it's finding the entrance to an anthill, gathering missing pieces to a mechanical bird, or flying across a canyon while holding a dandelion. The problem is each level feels exactly the same as the last, and the relatively short stages are made longer only because you are forced to grab seeds. That's not fun.
While the replay value has significantly improved from the PlayStation version (where the only incentive for collecting everything was to watch short movie clips), the exclusive Challenge Mode seems tacked on with little thought. Each "challenge" involves going through the same levels trying to complete a new objective within a time limit.
This could involve collecting all of the grain on a level, for example, or running as fast as you can to the exit. The funny thing is this mode is the most difficult part of the game, since there is not a lot of time given to finish these tasks. That makes the loose control even more frustrating.
In the end, little buggers who love the movie will almost certainly want to relive specific sequences in this game. Just don't be surprised when boredom sets in after they realize there isn't much to do besides bouncing on seeds. The Challenge Mode is simply too frustrating for the target audience, and let's be honest, it doesn't add anything to the game. Parents are better off investing their money on the video -- not only is it cheaper, but it's also more entertaining. I guarantee it will be played longer! ~ Scott Alan Marriott, All Game Guide
The 3D environments are pretty to look at, but the graphic engine is marred by some fogging and pop-up. In addition, the worlds aren't very big, so you'll run into invisible barriers whenever you're about to do some exploring. On the other hand, the characters look exactly like those found in the film. ~ Scott Alan Marriott, All Game Guide
Dave Foley of TV's News Radio supplies the voice of Flik, although his samples have been drastically reduced in this version. ~ Scott Alan Marriott, All Game Guide
The best part of the game is using the dandelion to fly. Unfortunately, this sequence is far too short and the rest of the levels become tedious to play through. Still, the game isn't difficult, which may appeal to young gamers who have a hard time with other platform games. ~ Scott Alan Marriott, All Game Guide
There is not much incentive for returning to earlier stages, unless you want to unlock more timed challenges. Once you get a taste of the initial set, however, you'll be content with leaving them alone. I'm surprised a multi-player game wasn't added, especially considering the appealing characters. Everyone could have thrown berries at each other! ~ Scott Alan Marriott, All Game Guide
The manual is easy on the eyes with colorful pictures and clear instructions. ~ Scott Alan Marriott, All Game Guide