The Bug Factor
Listen to this for a game pitch: "The Bug Factor is a 3D mech shooter of wacky, over-the-top exobot action featuring an unlikely lot of special ops alien eradicators, the Debuggers. Hired to protect the Earth from all out extra-terrestrial domination, the Debuggers set out to locate and eliminate the source of the aliens' power, the Nucleus Pod." Excited yet?
With such a great pitch, and a superb website to back it up, developer Sarbakan has certainly pressed all the right buttons to make The Bug Factor a game to look forward too. So, just how good is this Exobot actioner?
One of the first things to get your attention when starting up the game is the presentation on show. Whilst the artistic stylings are a little too wacky for my tastes, the introduction and menus do a good job of convincing you that the developer has spent time getting things right. You can certainly tell that the same people were involved with the website design!
Once you've been through the intro and picked a character, you'll find that the same level of quality is evident in the main game, although the texture quality is a lot lower. Gameplay is handled by a top-down engine with you controlling your Mech using keyboard for movement and the mouse for aiming and shooting.
Your task throughout the game is to reach the next checkpoint. Challenge is provided by swarms of bugs who enter the screen at predefined points, ready to kill. Fortunately, your trusty exobot can defend itself with one of three weapons. The left mousebutton shoots a rapid fire gun that is weak but infinite, holding the right mousebutton throws a timed grenade and a tap of the spacebar lets loose the special weapon associated with your chosen character/mech.
Once you've played for a few minutes you'll have determined the pattern of play for the rest of the game. Firstly, grenades are useless, don't use them. Set on a timer, they are only useful for stationary enemies and even then, your main gun has usually finished them off before the grenade has boomed. Secondly, expect some repetition.
Games always have some repetition but The Bug Factor shows us the extemes. Your first hour pretty much has you firing continuously and standing still whilst the bad guys fly into your path. If an enemy gets too close, just use your special weapon and hope that you'll find another in one of the many pickups to be found.
The main problem here is the lack of strategy. Pickups provide energy boosts, bigger guns, more grenades and special weapons but they are given out so randomly that you are often left frustrated by your own bad luck. In one game I didn't collect a weapon powerup until the very end of level one! I did find one redeeming feature though; the approach to dying is taken differently with your Mech losing energy and exploding but not without first ejecting your character who can then run and hide whilst a new Mech is delivered.
Sarbakan's thebugfactor.com website states that this game is aimed at 'boys and girls' in the 9 to 13 age bracket so adult readers should keep that in mind. The Bug Factor is certainly playable for a short while and in small doses but this is one game that demands you try the demo first.
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