A Bug’s Life
(Activision for the Nintendo 64)
by Eric Johnson
Kids games don’t have to be all that bad. For years, the majority of Nintendo’s lineup has been primarily geared for kids, but is accessible to a wider audience by virtue of simply being entertaining and engaging. I can state with a clear conscience that as I beheld the packaging for A Bug’s Life, with its wide-eyed, anatomically-incorrect insect smiling at me, I didn’t feel any tremendous surge of dread. Games based on movies have a poor track record, especially those made as a result of animated films associated in any way with Disney, a casualty of the “squeeze every penny out of a project” approach to marketing. “What kind of game will this be?” I asked, as I took it out of the box. Only time, and the bitter aftertaste of experience, would tell.
A Bug’s Life is a rather simple three-dimensional adventure game where the player pilots Flik, a bumbling, imaginative ant, through a quest that follows the plot of the film rather closely. The camera follows Flik as he wanders around, picking up seeds and arming himself with a progressively more powerful arsenal of berries to throw at belligerent grasshoppers and other cruel insects. As with many games of this type, there are about a dozen ways of collecting extra lives, including amassing letters to spell out Flik, and the hundred seed trick that never really thrilled me much. A few tricky maneuvers and the manipulation of random objects teaches Flik how to navigate the more difficult areas of the small world he inhabits. All in all, this is fairly standard for the now-common 3-D adventure. It’s all been simplified for young kids to enjoy, so it’s exceptionally easy, and fairly entertaining. It’s a good kids game, but is not accessible to that wider audience because it’s a little too simple and repetitive. The only serious weaknesses I noticed were the disappointing graphics and the aggravating level design. The graphics should’ve been better because it’s based on an incredibly well-animated film; the N64 is capable of much better than this game provides. The level design reminded me of those Chinese mazes that have concentric circles moving out from a central point. This frustrated the hell out of me and I couldn’t handle it after a while – I can’t stand it when all perspective is lost because of confusing level design. Otherwise, there is little I can say except to keep this game in mind if there is a six year old out there with a birthday coming up.