Clockwork Knight was a 2D game a few 3D elements graphical elements thrown in, 'Bug!' however tries to take it a step further by creating a (almost) fully 3D game and as a result we got a very experimental game. In a way I do miss the experimentation period of this era, once Mario 64 became the standard it was pretty much expected of every game in the genre to draw some influence from it.
In 'Bug!' you play as well, a bug who is tasked with saving his family... in a movie he's shooting. Yeah it's never really clear if it's just a movie or if you're actually rescuing anyone, I mean if it's just a movie why do the enemies kill you? Maybe I'm just over-thinking this.
As previously mentioned, this is an early 3D platformer, meaning you can movie in any direction, however, much like Clockwork Knight, every character in the game is a pre-rendered sprite. The makes the characters seem very clean and nicely animated but has the downside of making it hard to judge depth and distances between characters. To reduce this issue, most of the levels consist of narrow corridors and walkways, which does help, but the occasional judgement error will still take place.
You might think this system makes the maps rather limited, but the developers actually did a really good job here! Yes, they consist mostly of corridors with the occasional wide room, but the stages are really quite expansive, twisting and turning you scale up or climb down between all the ledges, springs and moving platforms. It's really quite easy to get lost and some levels even place a map at random spots so you know where you need to go. Regardless, the game does become repetitive after a while and the high difficulty only exacerbates this issue.
Bug's actions are rather limited for the most part, he can walk, duck and jump on enemies. Thankfully there are a few power ups scattered about that add to his moves, you'll need them too because this game is HARD. At first it may seem like there's a shortage of checkpoints, but actually bug is kind of secretive in how they work. While there are some sparse checkpoints on most levels, you'll also occasionally run across some guy wearing sunglasses, if you give him a coin not only does it act as a checkpoint, it also sends you to a bonus mini-stage. Another strange design choice was the save option, your progress is saved automatically and it keeps track of your lives and continues, but you need to start each world from the beginning, so some degree of backtracking is involved.
Each stage has a few bonus mini-games as previously mentioned and if you finish three consecutive levels with over 100 gems you're also greeted to a flying stage similar to what you might find in Space Harrier (minus the shooting).
The character models are composed of pre-rendered sprites, similar to what you'd find on Donkey Kong Country or Clockwork Knight, though they are definitely much cleaner here. The environments however look rather dull as they're mostly composed of corridors and a static background screen. Even with the sparse graphics, there it still a degree of pop-in for any platform farther than 20 feet, it's not long before you get tired of watching the same corridors over and over again.
I found the music rather annoying and while bug's comments are fun at first they eventually repeat themselves a little too often.
Overall I was pleasantly surprised with 'Bug!', the gameplay and the graphics have aged a bit and repetitiveness does eventually. With that said, Bug's charm eventually grew on me somewhat.
Trivia 2: In one of the bonus levels, you get to race against Sonic the Hedgehog, it even uses Sonic 3's sprite and animations. It's kind of strange Sega would just let Realtime Associates use its mascot like that.
- Fun gameplay in short bursts
- Character models look pretty good and are nicely animated for the time
- Mini-games and interesting level design help spice up the gameplay
- It's easy to get lost and the high difficulty can be frustrating
- Gameplay becomes somewhat repetitive after a while
- Visually the maps look extremely dull and boring
Final Grade: C+
Packaging Grade: D