The Ant Bully Review

The Ant Bully on the Wii is basically the same uninteresting mess that came out for the GameCube six months earlier.

Because the Wii is similar to the GameCube in terms of its hardware, it was inevitable that companies would try to capitalize on the Wii launch by quickly porting over games previously published for the GameCube. Of course, you'd reasonably expect the Wii versions of those games to flaunt graphical upgrades and additional content over their earlier GameCube counterparts. However, the Wii version of The Ant Bully isn't any better than the GameCube version that was released six months earlier. The game is still the same repetitive mess that it was on the GameCube, the motion-sensitive controls come across as an afterthought, and the murky graphics haven't improved even though the Wii is supposed to be capable of better.

Missions generally involve fighting the same badly rendered pill bugs, spiders, and wasps over and over again.
Missions generally involve fighting the same badly rendered pill bugs, spiders, and wasps over and over again.

The Ant Bully video game is a far cry from the feature film on which it is based. This 3D action adventure game tries to expand on the movie by putting you through a sequence of 20 missions that delve into what Lucas, the insect-sized boy, went through off camera to learn the ways of the ants. But it mostly succeeds at showing why such events as these weren't portrayed in the movie in the first place. Nearly every mission involves fetching items or fighting the same enemies over and over again. Moreover, the noninteractive scenes that accompany each mission spend more time preaching the story's morals than developing the characters or building toward an exciting conclusion.

The basic idea here is that you need to explore the environment, find the items you're looking for, and pummel any enemies that cross your path. For exploration's sake, Lucas can run and roll, as well as perform a number of contextual abilities when he's close to specific objects and spots in the environment. When you run off a ledge, Lucas will jump automatically. When you're next to a marked wall, a small rock, or a rose petal, you can push the action button, and Lucas will climb the wall, hoist the rock, or use the rose petal like a glider. In some spots, he can call together nearby ants to form useful structures, such as bridges, catapults, or battering rams. To deal with enemies, you can make use of any of Lucas' four weapons. The wooden stick can be used to attack enemies up close, while sticky silk shooters, dart guns, and bombs let you deal with enemies at a distance.

Controls generally involve the use of the analog stick on the Nunchuk and the various buttons on both portions of the controller. The only Wii-specific control enhancements involve shaking the Wii Remote to swing Lucas's stick, shaking the Nunchuk to perform a roll, and tilting the Nunchuk to steer the glider or reposition the camera viewpoint. The game makes so little use of the Wii's motion-sensing capabilities that they're more of a distraction than anything else. However, the development team did tighten up the control response and collision detection in the Wii version of the game. Attacks come out more quickly than they did in the GameCube version, and shots pass through enemies far less often.

What kills the game is how the missions are structured. They all feel the same. Supposedly, by speaking to one of the four caste leaders, you'll be sent on a mission involving rescue, scouting, foraging, or all-out combat. In reality, nearly every mission involves either collecting a bunch of esoteric items or fighting the same cookie-cutter enemies over and over again. The game does throw a couple of boss stages into the mix, and you're always free to visit the areas you've previously cleared to hunt for fire crystals at your own pace. But these token nods to adventuring are much too modest to overcome the doldrums brought about by so many lame missions.

As it is, the aftermath of each mission tends to be anticlimactic. The ants cheer, the spiders or wasps run off, and Lucas has a brief conversation with one of the other characters. That's pretty much the extent of the game's cinematic aspects. There are a few fleeting bits of humor in the dialogue, but the script tends to hammer home the same moral messages of teamwork and honor at every opportunity. While that's nice and all, Bruce Campbell's legendary talents could have been put to better use on dialogue more suited to his comedic range.

The Wii version is graphically identical to the GameCube version. It doesn't even support progressive scan video output.
The Wii version is graphically identical to the GameCube version. It doesn't even support progressive scan video output.

In general, the graphics and audio aren't very good either. The characters are passably animated, but they're not what you'd call detailed or lifelike. The large shrubs and monster-sized insects in the environment succeed in conveying the larger-than-life scale of the insect world; but again, if you stop and look around, you'll notice that the same plants, insects, and objects are recycled constantly. Even more disappointing is that the Wii version of the game pretty much looks identical to the GameCube version. You can see further off into the distance in the Wii version, but the polygon count is still on the low side. The textures are also still blurry and murky. On top of that, this is one of the few Wii games that doesn't support progressive scan video output. That won't be an issue for a lot of people, but anyone who plays The Ant Bully on a large high-definition display is going to be shocked at how soft and blurry the image looks. While the audio isn't much better, the stereotypical jungle beats and orchestral riffs aren't offensive. The generic insect noises and pop-pop sounds at least fit the action.

The Ant Bully wasn't a good game when it was released for the GameCube, and it isn't any better now that it's available for the Wii. Being able to attack by shaking the controller doesn't change the fact that the game as a whole is repetitive and tedious. Furthermore, the graphics, which were ugly on the GameCube, look just as bad on the Wii. That's just not right.

The Good

  • Tells more of the movie's story
  • decent selection of actions and weapons
  • insect world is larger than life

The Bad

  • Missions lack variety
  • too many cookie-cutter enemies
  • graphics were behind the curve on the GameCube and look downright ancient on the Wii
  • motion-sensing controls seem like an afterthought

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