Ant Nation Hands-On

This game puts the "idea" in Vespoidea. We check out this bug-based real-time strategy game from Konami.


Konami's fixation with bug torture isn't limited to the Wii. After checking out the upcoming WiiWare game Ant Nation, we got some time in with the DS version of the game, which is quite a bit different from its console cousin. The premise revolves around the children's pastime of torturing ants, but it puts a purpose behind it. Whereas the WiiWare game is a mellow, sandbox-like experience, the DS game is more along the lines of a real-time strategy game.

Where bugs and real-time strategy combine: It's Ant Nation for the DS.
Where bugs and real-time strategy combine: It's Ant Nation for the DS.

You'll be tasked with taking on 100 missions. To do so, you'll need to buff out your lowly ants, which will come in two varieties: warriors and drones. The two ant types break down the way you'd expect: warriors fight and drones do manual labor. The key to success in missions is finding the right balance between your types. Drones need to collect materials for the ant colony, so the more you have in play, the faster the work gets done. Unfortunately, local hazards and enemy ants pose significant threats to your boys and will require the creation of warrior ants. As you make more ants, you'll have to expand the colony by creating new chambers that will require you to harvest resources with drones. When you earn enough, you'll choose which ant type will be generated by the new chamber.

Creating enough of the two ant types isn't enough to succeed. That's where the torture comes in. You'll have a toolbox full of unique items you'll use to get your tough ant love on. Basically, you'll be able to hit your ants with water, fire, and other hazards to raise their particular resistances. The elemental resistances help the colony not only deal with the traditional enemies, but also withstand natural hazards, such as volcanic eruptions.

There's a decent amount of strategy involved in what we played, but there's one pretty big bump in the road for the game. The action is mainly set aboveground, although you'll have to take a quick detour belowground when adding new chambers to the colony, and it's shown from a top-down perspective. The view is set high enough to give a decent view of the ant hole and the surrounding area, which features a fair amount of detail. The hitch is that the ants are fairly small onscreen, which makes it pretty rough to target them when you're trying to beef up their resistances.

Based on what we played, there's a cool idea in Ant Nation on the DS, but it's rough around the edges. There's definitely some addictive potential in the gameplay, but the visuals make it a bit problematic. Here's hoping the game can be polished up in time for its release later this year on the DS.

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