|System: DS, PC||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Crackpot Entertainment||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Gamecock||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: March 11, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
crawls onto DS
by Matt Cabral
There's lots of adventure-loving gamers out there still pining for the good old days; you, know, back when LucasArts was consistently cranking out point-and-click yarns such as Grim Fandango and Full Throttle. The return of Sam and Max, through GameTap's online service, has helped fill this void a bit, and now Insecticide has arrived with hopes of further bringing classic gaming adventures back into the spotlight.
Crackpot Entertainment, the developers behind this unique little DS title, have played it a bit safe though. They do provide some of that old school adventure flare, but also attempt to balance it with the kind of action-packed play that today's gamers might be more accustomed to. The results are mixed in the gameplay department, but an offbeat story and quirky presentation mostly outshine the few flaws.
The first thing that occurred to me while playing Insecticide was that it would make a great Disney/Pixar movie. The writing would have to be kicked up several creative notches, but the idea of bug detectives solving crimes in an insect-controlled world seems like a natural fit for the Bug's Life and Monster's Inc. creators. The game's four-legged protagonist Chrys is adorable and engaging--definite big screen potential--and her world is a fully realized one where bugs are in charge and humans have been driven to the sewers as the lowest life form. It's unfortunate that the writing doesn't quite live up to the inspired design; it's not bad, mind you, and is actually quite funny at times, but the reliance on cheesy bug puns is way over the top. Your partner's name, for example, is Roachy and even the title is a play on the word "Homicide." There's lots of this, and although it's fun at first, it gets a bit cringe-worthy after you've heard the hundredth or so bug-related reference. Still, if this is the only price we have to pay for an otherwise original experience, then bring on the insect humor.
While you'll find the world and its arachnid inhabitants immediately appealing, it might take a bit longer to get into the gameplay. The split between adventure style gaming and more action-fueled platforming and shooting is pretty even. The former will be familiar to anyone brought up on this type of gaming, as you'll be pointing and clicking (except with stylus and touch-screen) through dialogue trees as well as specific story-driving items. The narrative is a nicely spun detective noir, so these segments are heavily slanted towards questioning suspects and witnesses and studying evidence for clues. It's mostly fun, but occasionally frustrating; it's extremely satisfying to crack a case-solving puzzle, but some obscure clues will have you head-scratching beyond the point of fun. These instances are few and far between, and the reward of solving a difficult puzzle generally outweighs the moments when you just sort of accidentally figure something out before hopelessly pulling out your hair. Plus, this intermittent frustration won't be new to fans of the genre as it's pretty common in adventure games. Additionally, the great characters and clever story make the trial-and-error moments mostly tolerable.
When wannabe bug detectives aren't cracking cases, they're unleashed on the streets to take a more hands-on approach to insect style crime fighting. The action sequences incorporate both shooting and platforming. The gunplay, supported by a nice lock-on targeting system is simple and fun. You'll take on all sorts of bug baddies and occasionally face-off against screen-filling bosses rendered fairy impressively on the modestly powered DS. Weapon variety is also there, although, due to some questionable balancing, you won't find yourself straying far from your default pistol--it gets the job done, and switching weapons via stylus will often get you squashed like, well, a bug. There's also an upgrade option where you collect pollen to tweak your firepower, but again, regardless of upgrades, the weapons aren't different enough to make it worth the work.