Name – Insecticide
Genre – Action/Adventure
Platform – DS
Last year’s sleeper DS hit, Dementium The Ward was a first –person adventure game by renegade publisher, Gamecock. The game featured a combination of puzzle-solving and action elements that were blended together perfectly. By almost all accounts, Dementium was an excellent foray into the handheld world, and one that had many gamers awaiting the next Gamecock DS project. Well, that project has arrived in the form of Insecticide. While it lives up to some of the puzzle-related promise, the rest of the game does nothing but disappoint.
Insecticide follows the story of Detective Chrys Liszt as she investigates a possible murder at the offices of monopolistic beverage company, Nectarola. In classic noir-style, the game is populated with bug versions of stereotypical characters like the gruff Police Chief and cowardly, shaky perps. The jazzy, atmospheric music helps establish the hard-boiled detective feel the game, as does the well-voiced dialog, which is reminiscent of old John Huston films (if John Huston REALLY liked insect puns.) The faux-gritty, hardboiled feel of the game is probably its best feature, and it’s presented very well. It’s a shame that so many of the game’s other aspects fall flat.
The game is split into two types of gameplay; action-platforming and old-school puzzle-solving. The puzzle sections are well-handled, and are reminiscent of old Lucasarts adventure games. Whether it’s finding a donut for your partner to get access to crime scene photos or using pliers to fix a robobug, the puzzles are always fun and challenging without being vague or frustrating. I’m surprised that more games haven’t used the touch screen for point-and-click-type adventure-gaming because it works very well for this game.
Action segments, on the other hand, are not pulled off well in Insecticide. Controlling Chrys is a massive chore because all movements are mapped to the D-pad. This means that if you want to turn left you’ll need to stop moving, turn, then resume moving forward. You can use the touch screen to look around, but not while moving. In addition, it is nearly impossible to use weapons unless you lock on to your opponent, and even then the action is sub-par. Chrys’ gun feels weak and only fires every 5-10 seconds, making combat a slow, uninteresting affair. There are also some collision detection issues, with your bullets bouncing off of invisible walls. On the whole, the action sequences (of which there are a lot) feel slapped together and lazy.
Jumping puzzles and balance sections make up the bulk of the game’s platforming element. The jumping puzzles work ok, but are generally very easy. The balance sections, on the other hand, are almost broken, leading to some seriously frustrating moments that you’ll have to repeat over and over.
For a DS game, Insecticide is quite nice looking. Environments look excellent during puzzle sections, and only slightly less impressive in the action sequences. Character models are clean and expressive, if a bit jerkily animated, and they all fit nicely within the game’s tone. Comparisons to Psychonauts would not be out of place here. There are some weak enemy designs, and levels lack diversity, but overall, it’s a fine looking package.
Insecticide’s stellar voice-work, quirky tone and enjoyable puzzles just can’t make up for the game’s glaring technical issues and awful combat mechanics. There are nuggets of potential to be found within the game, but it’s just not worth it to sift through countless, boring action sequences. Perhaps the DS’ limited control options affected the game’s overall quality, and the PC version will find ways around this. Regardless, Insecticide is an interesting failure at best.