Take a traditional two-dimensional platform game, add a third dimension, and you have Bug! - the latest offering from Sega Entertainment. Premiering on the Saturn almost a year ago, Bug! was designed to show off the system's impressive 3-D capabilities while simultaneously delivering "Mario-killing" gameplay. While the Sega Away Team certainly got the first part right, the little Italian Plumber had nothing to fear from this insect. Now that Sega Entertainment has decided to bring many of its hits to the PC, Bug! has once again appeared on my desk - and very little has changed in the interim.
Let me say right off that there is nothing inherently flawed about Bug!'s gameplay. My main gripe is that it fails to explore any new territory. The creation of a third dimension should have revolutionized the platform game (in much the same way that Virtua Fighter revolutionized arcade beat-'em-ups), but in the case of Bug!, the 3-D is more of a gimmick than a bold experiment. By narrowly constraining your movements to a simple back-and-forth traverse of narrow passages, you will quickly forget that this game is 3-D. To make matters worse, this game manages to include almost every cliché that has permeated the genre since its inception. From the sickeningly cute characters (which you can kill by jumping on their backs) to the wisecracking attitude, almost every aspect of the game seems strangely familiar. While there is validity to the phrase, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it," it is Bug!'s subsequent failure to inject anything new into this mix that dooms it to the realm of mediocrity.
Aside from its lack of ingenuity, the actual play mechanics in Bug! are fairly well done. The animation is smooth in 320x240 VGA (although you will need at least a Pentium 133 to truly enjoy the SVGA mode), and the control is quick and responsive. In addition, the individual levels are huge, with plenty of secrets scattered throughout. Populating these hovering "mazes in the sky" are numerous SGI-rendered characters that are very detailed (and often humorous), but seem to lack the personality of traditional hand-drawn art.
In conclusion, Bug! is a visually stunning game that, despite its revolutionary look, fails to deliver anything new to a tired genre. While certainly not a bad game, its lack of ingenuity will taint its chances of appealing to existing platform game fans - and of creating new ones.