Escape from Bug Island is a dismal reminder of the low points of survival horror's past.
- Makes you grateful for Resident Evil 4.
- Clumsy Wii motion controls
- Horrible visuals smothered in fog
- Many enemies can be avoided altogether
- "Spooky" piano music loops ad nauseam.
Escape from Bug Island is a game out of time, a cheap Resident Evil knockoff of the kind we haven't seen in years, and with good reason. When you strip away the looming dread of facing overpowered, flesh-eating monstrosities and replace it with A-to-B objectives and lots of fog, as Escape from Bug Island does, the end result is boring and awkward. Amongst other things, the consistently blocky and washed-out visuals, cut-rate animation, and voice work that's not quite bad enough to be funny all drive home the sense that this game missed its window of relevance by a good five years. That Escape from Bug Island uses the Wii Remote comes off as anachronistic, and it ultimately only exacerbates the clumsy controls.
A question that might spring to mind early on while playing Escape from Bug Island is, "Why are people going to Bug Island in the first place?" This is a genuinely awful location. Rocky terrain and an unrelenting sheet of fog that limits your view to about 20 yards ahead keep it from being much of a vacation spot, and, oh yeah, it's totally infested with gigantic, terrifying bugs that want nothing more than to flay the flesh from your bones and lay a clutch of eggs in your chest cavity! It seems like some government body or scientific group should have this place under military lock and key, and yet you, and other characters you encounter, head to Bug Island like it's a casual thing to do.
You play as Ray, a timid tagalong whose sports-sandals, cut-off jeans, and multi-colored parka vest make him look like he lost his way home from a Phish concert. An infatuation with the dainty Michelle, a girl with a hobbyist-level interest in entomology, brings you to this waking hell. Meanwhile, your swaggering, shotgun-cocking buddy Mike's only purpose for being there is to arbitrarily make a move on Michelle before you can, all of this within the first five minutes of the game. Michelle runs off after this awkward episode, and you spend much of the rest of the game trying to catch up with her and fending off the island's inhabitants. From here, the game's interest in telling a story is scattered. Characters are introduced and killed off at weird, anticlimactic intervals, and everything is so disjointed and poorly explained that it ceases early on being worth the effort to care.
Contrary to its title, a good portion of Escape from Bug Island involves working your way deeper into the island as you search for Michelle, the object of your affection. This means you'll mostly trek across some largely linear levels, fighting bugs and fetching keys to open shack doors, safes, and pieces of luggage. The stiflingly soupy layers of fog make it hard to see where you're going, though the game makes up for it with a minimap that will almost always tell you exactly where you need to go next. Though you'll fight plenty of oversized bugs, it seems ironic that some of your nastiest foes aren't bugs at all: these include flying fish, giant gorillas, Amazonian lizard-women, and dogs with human heads. When it comes to combat, you've got ranged and melee options, both of which require some lame motion controls to use.
General movement is controlled with the analog stick on the Nunchuk, and melee attacks require you to first line yourself up with your enemy, press and hold the B button, and then repeatedly swing the Wii Remote down...and that's pretty much it. You can't move once you've started swinging, and lining up with your enemies is difficult, especially when dealing with smaller, faster enemies. A half-dozen football-sized crickets can prove far deadlier than a couple of 10-foot-tall praying mantises. Ranged attacks don't work much better. First you have to hold down the A button to enter a first-person view, then once you've lined up your shot, you have to hold the B button down as well, and finally swing the Wii Remote downward to throw your projectile. Again, lining up your shots is difficult due to the inaccuracy of your aiming reticle and the inconsistency of your throws.
You start off with a pointy stick and some rocks, although you can also find a knife, a baseball bat, a machete, a giant ceremonial lance, sandbags, hand grenades, and bug spray, among other weapons on Bug Island. Though better weapons can help you fell enemies, you'll quickly find that the path of least resistance often involves avoiding the enemies altogether. While certain critters will chase you relentlessly, most of the time you can just run right past your enemies with little to no consequence. Furthermore, the game isn't shy about providing you with plenty of health-replenishing foodstuffs from level to level, which makes your weak little side-roll and back-step evasive maneuvers seem exceptionally pointless. If you ever take damage, you've always got plenty of fruit, mushrooms, and canned goods to cure what ails you.
Escape from Bug Island is an ugly game, and the persistent fogginess almost makes it seem ashamed of itself, a feeling that's actually pretty well earned. What you can see looks gray and muddy, with a general fuzziness that almost makes it look like it was ported up from the Nintendo 64. The only memorable aspect of the sound design is a spooky piano piece, though it's only really memorable because it consists of two bars, and seems to loop constantly.
The technical deficiencies of Escape from Bug Island simply highlight the fact that games have evolved since survival horror first turned fashionable. There's really no place for something this clunky. Rather than Escape from Bug Island, why not avoid it altogether?