Xbox 360

  All Features


  PlayStation 3
  PlayStation 4
  Wii U
  Xbox 360
  Xbox One


Band of Bugs

Score: 70%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: Microsoft
Developer: NinjaBee
Media: Download/1
Players: 1; 2 - 7 (Online)
Genre: Turn-Based Strategy/ Online

Graphics & Sound:

NinjaBee has established itself as one of the top Xbox Live Arcade developers and is back with its latest entry to the service, Band of Bugs. Their latest game has the same charm and ease of play found in Cloning Clyde and Outpost Kaloki X, though the experience isn't quite what it should be - at least for strategy fans.

Band of Bugs sports a cel-shaded look that gives the game a bright, beautiful appearance. Characters have their own small traits, like a praying mantis with prosthetic limb made of sticks, which give them a small bit of personality. The grid-based maps are presented from an isometric point of view and are every bit as colorful as the characters - perhaps too colorful. The viewpoint and bright colors can create situations where it is hard to tell where units are on the map. It never gets so bad that it cripples the gameplay, and most can be picked out if you look for them, though it does hamper the ability to quickly make decisions based on unit positions.

Audio is pretty good, though it is limited mostly to background music that is oddly reminiscent of what you would expect to hear during an episode of Pee-Wee's Playhouse. Characters "speak" during mission briefings, though in a warbly bug speak. This is usually an easy way to annoy players, though the tones are downplayed enough that they sound kind of cool.


Band of Bugs follows Maal, a prince who enters the army. Since he is royalty, Maal is immediately thrown into a position of leadership despite having little battlefield experience. This lack of experience plays out as part of the game's initial stages as you are learning the ins-and-outs of command alongside your arthropod avatar. Your key ally is Teirnan, a battle-scarred veteran who serves as your main source of advice. As you progress through the game, you'll pick up more allies with their own special skill sets.

Band of Bugs is light on story, placing more emphasis on action. Mission goals are rarely more complicated than defeating all enemies, though some will throw in little twists such as having to finish a defensive wall by capturing points on the map or capturing and protecting eggs. The single-player campaign is 20 missions long and, though missions never run as long as more hardcore strategy games, it offers plenty of play time, especially if you are trying to earn gold medals in each mission. A number of standalone missions are available outside the main game and put you through some pretty interesting mission parameters and mechanics - some of which would have been fun to experience in the single-player campaign.

Band of Bugs offers multiplayer for up to seven players over Live or LAN. A level editor is also included that lets you create and share your own custom levels with other players. The toolset is incredibly easy to use, though making a good level is harder than it looks.


Band of Bugs is like a math test when it comes to difficulty. Getting the basics of movement and combat down is very simple; knowing how to do these things is only part of much more complex equation. You also have to learn to think strategically and place your units in the best possible position. Even when you have that down, each level introduces new mechanics that screw up what you are already comfortable with. Remember the day when your teacher introduced the concept of letters in a math problem or even worse, fractions? The level-based mechanics are a lot like that; once you know what you are doing, they come in and cause you to have to relearn things -- but not in a good way. Rather than adding challenge, some mechanics are just annoying. Granted, some will take to the new concepts with ease, though others will probably just give up and pray for extra credit or a curve.

Game Mechanics:

During each mission, you position your small army around the field with the intent of getting your soldiers in the best possible spot to attack. Position is one of the most important aspects in battle; from a good position, your troops can earn attack bonuses, including critical hits, or be in a good defensive spot. Depending on their type, characters have different attack ranges; most can only attack adjacent squares, though you will also have archers who have a greater range - something that will also influence your movement strategies. Some can even attack multiple times or counterattack.

Each unit on your army can switch between two weapon types, adding to the depth of strategy. Some can switch between melee and ranged attacks, while others can equip weapons with special properties. Maal, for example, can attack using a sword-like stick or a hammer. The stick does a little more damage, but the hammer produces a knockback effect that pushes enemies back a square when hit. This particular ability becomes important on maps with water since you can knock enemies into water, instantly killing them. Some maps feature flowing sand pits that act like a series of conveyer belts, many of which lead to water.

Band of Bugs is an okay entry-level strategy game for casual players. Hardcore fans of the genre who have already fought their way through hundreds of hours of Final Fantasy Tactics or Disgaea will probably find the game a little too simplistic, while casual players might be turned off by frustrating level mechanics. It is probably best to grab the demo before spending points on the full version.

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

Nintendo DS Marvel Trading Card Game Sony PlayStation Portable Disney Pixar's Ratatouille

Game Vortex :: PSIllustrated