Legendary filmmaker James Cameron is supposed to have said that the key to his success lay in the fact that he never did the exact same thing twice. After a hit like Bug Heroes, one couldn’t have blamed Foursaken Media if they wanted to repackage the same experience in a shiny new App Store offering, but boy, am I glad to see that they’ve gone the Cameron route with Bug Heroes Quest (Out Now, On Sale for $0.99)! If Action RPG fans weren’t already drawn to the first bug-ridden adventure they’ll definitely want to don their exoskeletons and jump into this one.
If you’re just now learning about the Bug Heroes franchise, the main thing you need to know is that it takes place in a world where insects armed with little submachine guns, big sticks, and makeshift blades emerge to conduct war the moment a room is left unoccupied by humans. Like the original Bug Heroes, Quest stars the gun-toting Ant, ninja-like Spider, and gentle-but-strong Beetle, who join forces to combat scorpions bent on household domination. That’s not all Quest has in common with the original. Quest leaves the franchise fan guessing as it pursues each bug’s story in Pulp Fiction-style viewpoint switching at first, but once the player characters meet up it becomes evident that this is a re-telling of Bug Heroes — albeit within a much more fleshed out world that’s been rebuilt from the ground up.
Quest ditches the food cache defense routine that made Bug Heroes so compelling. As a tradeoff, players finally get to experience the tetherless adventure they may have yearned for in the first game’s constricted arenas! As the player scours incredibly expansive and well-varied environments completing mission objectives, he or she must keep a keen eye out for treasure chests tucked into easily overlooked areas — these contain critical skills and equipment necessary for the Bug Heroes’ survival. A handy map helps the player keep track of NPCs and items once they’ve been sighted, but this is where my one gameplay gripe kicks in. The action doesn’t pause while the player’s viewing the map, and since the developers stuffed Quest‘s generous environments full of enemies that teleport in en masse, it’s not often the player catches the breaks needed to get his or her bearings.
Indeed, so many enemy formations pop up in Quest that it may very well surprise Bug Heroes veterans! The possibility of all these encounters getting boring is completely nixed by the same traits that made the first game so well rounded: varied player characters that need to be switched on-the-fly to handle different enemy types; hotlinked special attacks the player must strategically budget; and Level Up points that noticeably shape how the player characters handle in real-time. Action RPG vets are no doubt growing weary of formulas where it seems the player just parks in front of enemies and whacks away; Bug Heroes was such a breath of fresh air in the way it made the player focus on getting in tune with enemy behaviors and dodging, and this strength carries over beautifully to the target genre.
Like Bug Heroes before it, Quest sidesteps a major interface complaint by giving the player an option to switch its dual-stick default to a setup that uses auto-aiming. Again, the auto-aim comes highly recommended because the short-range Spider and Beetle might feel wonky if the player had to change their attack angle separately from their direction of movement. One interface addition that Action RPG fans would appreciate in updates is a context-sensitive virtual button that pops up onscreen to handle conversation with NPCs. Enemies don’t let up even in areas populated by storyline NPCs, so automatically initiated conversations interfere with the player’s concentration on battle maneuvers from time to time. Another mild annoyance I experienced on my iPod Touch 4 was the rare crash, but this happened so infrequently – twice during the seven hours I’ve spent with it so far – that I couldn’t put a finger on any risk factors.
Quest recycles many of the enemies and textures from Bug Heroes while introducing some new ones to help fill its expansive environments. They were all beautiful and crisp the first time around too, so I can’t call this much of a complaint! The zany voice clips that punctuate battles also return, but on the music side Foursaken went back to the composing room and returned with fresh themes that are every bit as enjoyable as the original’s. I can’t imagine why the player would really feel compelled to, but the developers even created a system for plucking one’s own custom soundtrack from an iTunes playlist. Talk about service!
Bug Heroes Quest should last the player 25 to 30 hours, and that’s not counting the extra-challenging arena levels the player can unlock if the game’s missions and sidequests somehow prove too easy.
iFanzine Verdict: Whether you’re already a Bug Heroes fan or completely new to this AAA indie franchise, Bug Heroes Quest makes for a very well-polished and compelling Action RPG. If you’re just in it for the action you won’t be disappointed either!