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Escape from Bug Island

Score: 70%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: Eidos Interactive
Developer: Spike
Media: CD/1
Players: 1
Genre: Survival Horror/ Action/ Adventure

Graphics & Sound:

Survival horror has always been a genre that required plenty of visceral impact. Escape from Bug Island has its share of chills and thrills, but they are not enough to pull this out of the clinker. Gamers on the Wii with no previous measure of quality other than maybe the N64 could be forgiven for thinking that Escape from Bug Island represents a strong offering on this platform. This is especially true when Resident Evil 4 hit shelves at almost exactly the same time as this title. Rent both and try comparing them in a dark room on a stormy night. Escape from Bug Island has moments, but fails to pull us in as much and create a truly spooky atmosphere. Instead we have a very claustrophobic environment that features many types of strange, giant bugs. I am a person that is deeply freaked out by bugs, so I had every reason to be terrified while playing this game. This occurred to me as I was booting it up, but the first few hours were completely absent any freak-out moments. Even the first boss battle is anticlimactic and fairly drab. If the gameplay were stellar, we wouldn't care about mediocre graphics but that just isn't the case.

Good sound design is just collateral damage in Escape from Bug Island. Someone put some good time into building some moody music that builds and changes dynamically as you get into encounters. Voice acting, on the other hand, is completely awful. No person on American shores could possibly watch these cut-scenes and not cringe. "Wooden" as a descriptor falls terribly short of portraying how the voice actors sound. It's as if they were rehearsing the parts instead of performing them. I'm sure the actors will blame it on the editors... A high point in this category is the sound of the bugs on the island as you walk around in the dark. Hearing a click or squeal begins to get on your nerves in a good way. There just isn't enough solid gameplay to back these emotions up with execution.


Anyone pointing fingers at the premise of Escape from Bug Island must immediately go back to titles like Dino Crisis and other Resident Evil imitators and point out to me how they were any different. Improbable scenarios and fantastic enemies were standard in all these games. The difference between older classics and something new like Resident Evil 4 is all in pacing and control. The stories are feeble through and through, but can be overcome with sufficient action and good suspense. Escape from Bug Island is lacking on both counts.

The game begins after you have landed on a strange island with a bug-crazy girl and a gun-crazy tough. Why this band of three went adventuring is unknown, but the girl at least has a legitimate reason to be on the island. For someone that loves bugs, this place is a paradise. Massive specimens of creepy and crawly abound on Bug Island. Rather than study the bugs by day and retreat to the safety of a nice boat by night, as I would do, these three decide to make camp. They camp out among the ruins of a small settlement, wiped out by a tsunami. Camping in the middle of deserted cabins would not be my cup of tea, but it floats the boats of these kids. Soon the girl wanders off, the guy with the gun leaves and you realize that you are now playing in the shoes of the pathetic kid that couldn't work up nerve to approach the girl. After a brief tutorial on controls, you are off in the woods on your own to explore the island and find your friends.

Exploring is an adventure since the majority of the island is shrouded in darkness. You find a nice flashlight to illuminate your surroundings and then realize that giant bugs are being attracted to the light. Change of plan, right? Turn off the light and grope your way around to see what you can see. Pick up items, explore, and occasionally battle giant bugs. Sounds easy when I put it like that, eh?


It IS pretty easy, unfortunately. There are settings within the game for the difficulty level that you probably won't need or use. Every segment is short and contains little challenge as long as you move slowly and keep the light off. The first boss basically took himself out of the fight without any urging from me. You are more likely to die from small bugs that crawl up your body from the ground than you are from most of the boss battles. You win points for defeating enemies and a boss, but these are minor compared to the real goal of rescuing your friends. Playing the game over again would be too tedious for most folks, but there are some nice incentives to do so.

Game Mechanics:

Escape from Bug Island makes good use of the Wii controller, although the controls feel squishy. Slashing down and doing a point-and-push toward the screen causes the character to make special attacks. You can finish enemies you have downed with your weapon and outrun them. If you take damage, you can use pick-up items found in plentiful supply around the island. Avoiding damage makes use of the side-to-side motion sensors in the Wii-mote and the Nunchuk controller. I found both somewhat unpredictable and the battles are usually brief and in your favor. Playing most of the early game with just a stick or knife makes for some interesting situations. The boss battles are not very well constructed, but operate in your favor if you like to blow past bosses and keep things moving. The overall vanilla aspects of the game feel like a step back for a platform strong enough to host Resident Evil 4. Everything is muddy and only a true fan of survival horror without any other platform choice would gravitate toward Escape from Bug Island. With other options now on the shelf in this genre and more on the way, there isn't much motivation to embrace Escape from Bug Island. The bar for survival horror has been set high, but many companies have met the challenge. Concepts like scary and spooky are in the eye of the beholder but as a veteran gamer that enjoys the genre, Escape from Bug Island just didn't move me. Try it as a rental to find out if it is your cup of tea before you plunk down the money to buy.

-Fridtjof, GameVortex Communications
AKA Matt Paddock

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