Insecticide isn't a straightforward adventure as much as it is an adventure and a 3D platformer pushed together with little care as to how the parts fit. Many of the platform action sequences are dull, repetitive, and seem to have been shoehorned in at the last minute to jazz up what would have otherwise been a traditional point-and-click adventure. So the end result is a haphazard mishmash that won't appeal to fans of either genre.
You play Chrys Liszt, a rookie detective working with her rather Sipowiczian senior partner, a cockroach named Roachy Caruthers, on investigating a homicide--er, insecticide--at the famous Nectarola soft drink plant. The plot is a cutesy, offbeat take on film noir with bugs playing all the key roles, like a combo of '70s TV cop shows, A Bug's Life, and Planet of the Apes. It's the far future city of Troi where the world has been taken over by insects, which have evolved in the wake of what seems to have been a nuclear war. Cockroaches and their buggy brethren now run the show, while mankind has been shoved aside to live as dimwitted hominids who are little better than third-class citizens. This bug world isn't a whole lot different from our own, however. Insects may have survived nukes, but they have the same problem with crime that we do and the same grizzled, seen-it-all-before cops out there trying to deal with it. You've seen it all before in dozens of crime movies and TV shows, albeit not with bugs in place of the usual human stars.
At least the writers do a good job of sending up this noir setting. Insecticide is loaded with puns, inside jokes, and references to old sci-fi shows. The goofiness is so broad that you can readily tell that the lineage of the game goes back to the days when LucasArts was making the adventures that all the cool kids wanted to play. Much of the dialogue is balanced between appealing to kids and adults. References to the "wingless protection program," lines like "Don't be a pupa," and all the characters with buggy cop names like Silverfishberg or McMantis mean that you'll alternate between giggling and groaning, depending on your age. Lines themselves aren't typically all that funny, and everything is sold more as a broad satire than a pure comedy. Nevertheless, the whole presentation is handled with such cheer and the voice acting is done with such a perfect Saturday-morning cartoon bite that you won't much care.
What you'll likely care more about is the ham-fisted way that the adventure and 3D platform game styles are slammed together. The levels switch between the two styles of play, so it feels like you're playing two entirely different games instead of a blend. Adventure levels are generally pretty good, if unimaginative. Many quests are of the straightforward "You scratch my back, I'll scratch yours" variety, with you playing as the delivery girl. For instance, Roachy has a case file you need, but he can't remember where it is on an empty stomach. So it's your job to jog his memory with a dung donut and coffee. Nothing here requires you to strain your synapses too much. Most of the puzzles involve nothing but common-sense solutions. The biggest challenge to your sleuthing is posed by the graphics, which are so dark that they often obscure plot points and important objects. There is no way to adjust the gamma from within the game, either, which means that you either live with the gloom or adjust your video card's gamma setting from Windows. Even if you do this, you have to tweak the setting enough to wash everything out.
Platform levels are focused solely on mindless running, jumping, and gunning. Chrys races from point A to point B blasting a succession of bad-guy bugs that slide in and out of cover like targets in a carnival shooting game. The only break in the monotony is provided by the regular gulping down of health packs that come in the form of Nectarola pop cans. This all gets old really fast because of repetition and a number of overly finicky challenges that require more dexterity than the clunky control system provides. Walking across wires, for instance, which you do on more than a few occasions, is often made rather difficult by the way that Chrys's feet seem to stick in place when she's in tightrope-walker mode. This is more than a bit annoying, especially when you're trying to dodge electrified lines powered by trains rushing underneath. At any rate, the action sequences are so lame that you rush through them to get back to the mediocre adventure game as soon as possible. They come off like somebody's last-minute idea to spice up an old-school adventure. That might have been a reasonable idea back when Insecticide was a Nintendo DS game, but the shooting stuff is totally unnecessary on the PC.
You'll never stop smiling while playing Insecticide Part 1. But even though you'll have a friendly, likable enough experience with this winning story and setting, the actual gameplay disappointingly blends the old fashioned with the awkward. Spending a little more time refining the platform levels--or just ditching them entirely--would be a good idea for Part 2.