The Summer movie season is known for having its share of kid friendly animated blockbusters. This year alone we’ve seen Over The Hedge, Cars, Barnyard and Monster House. Not surprisingly, all of these movies have video game tie-ins, ready and eager to cash in on the movies success. Regardless of their quality, the games always end up being some of the biggest moneymakers of the year.
The latest animated film attempting to make the jump to video game world is Midway’s Ant Bully, a run and jump platformer with some very familiar elements. Does Midway’s popcorn tie in have the goods, or is it just the latest game from the cookie cutter world of corporate tie-ins?
Ant Bully follows the story of Lucas, or “The Destroyer” as he’s come to be known. Lucas was given the destroyer moniker due to his fondness for destroying ant colonies. To try and teach the youngster a lesson, the leaders of the ant colony decide to shrink Lucas down to ant size, and make him work in the colony to learn the error of his ways.
This is where you come in. You must guide Lucas through various missions appointed by ants (look for Bruce Campbell as Fugax) throughout the colony so he can go back to his old size. Missions will often revolve around two basic tasks, collecting and fighting. You’ll be collecting this live pupa (ant larva in a protective cocoon) and food, while you defend the colony, fighting against pill bugs, centipedes, and other vicious insects. Though you will learn new skills from completing them, the repetitiveness of the missions is very evident and only slows down the game. It’s not until you start hang gliding on wasps and fighting exterminators that the mission objectives change enough to warrant continuing playing.
Midway must be given credit for taking a chance with the controls in Ant Bully, even though at times, they don’t always work quite as they’re supposed to. Instead of using the same control scheme seen in countless other movie based platformers with run, jump and attack buttons, Midway goes the Zelda context sensitive route. Ant Bully features no jump button, rather Lucas will jump when he needs to – say reaching the end of a cliff. At least that’s what the developers intended. Often, when Lucas reaches a cliff, or a gap, rather than jumping, he will fall, but grasp the edge and pull himself back up. It seems Lucas needs a little bit of a running start before he can do his stuff. This gets more frustrating when you take into account that the game has no tutorial level, so you’re spending far too much time falling off cliffs.
Midway doesn’t stop its homage to the Zelda series there. The camera and targeting system are inspired by Link’s adventures as well. The right thumbstick controls the camera, and L1 locks on to targets. While both work well on their own, trying to use the camera while you are locked on to a target (which is sometimes necessary in heavy combat sections of the game) you seem to get better looks at walls than your enemies.
Ant Bully is your typical video game tie in with a little extra sprinkled on top. Unfortunately, more often than not these bits of extra seem like rushed afterthoughs rather than core gameplay elements. All in all, the game will please its core audience, young fans of the movie, while adults will find small moments of pleasure from the title.