Reviewed: December 8, 2006
Released: November 19, 2006
The Nintendo Wii has launched with more titles than most consoles to come before it, but as we are quickly learning, a lot of these titles are mere ports from other systems and not very good ones at that. Midway seems to be the leader in uninspired Wii ports, at least for now, with Happy Feet and The Ant Bully.
Iím sure a big part of this travesty is the curse of the movie license, but there is no denying that these titles just seem rushed out the door to fill the shelves and bolster the Wii launch. So while the Wii launches with the most titles, it also has the largest selection of lame releases to dodge your way through on your way to the checkout line.
For the most part, The Ant Bully for Wii is a direct port from the PS2 and GameCube version, only with some tacked on Wii control support and some new tutorials, which are more about using the controls than playing the game. Itís a novelty at first and I suppose if you really love the movie then the game will appeal to that same audience. Itís no worse than the other versions, but at the same time, itís sadly no better.
The Ant Bully follows the misadventures of Lucas, who displaces his own anger at being bullied by terrorizing the local ant colony in his front yard, thus earning the title, ďThe DestroyerĒ. To pay for his crimes, or at least teach him a lesson, the ants use some mystical magic potion to shrink Lucas down to ant-size so he can experience life from their point of view. Only when he has completed numerous ant tasks can he return to human size.
The Ant Bully is part adventure, part action, and a lot of platform gaming. Other than the specific Wii control tutorials, there is no generic tutorial on how to play, so you are sort of thrust into the game, much like Lucas. Thankfully the gameplay is as intuitive as the controls and even younger gamers should have no trouble becoming one with the colony.
The analog stick on the nunchuk is used for nearly all movement, even jumping and climbing, which is handled by location-sensitive movement. Just run toward a gap and Lucas will jump or push into a climbable surface and up you go. It really streamlines the gameplay. The camera is controlled by tilting the nunchuk to pan around Lucas, and you can also use the Z button to auto-lock on targets and have the camera track them.
So with a solid control scheme in place we are left with a game that is part combat and part exploration. The combat is fantastic with a highly intuitive system that has you swing the controller to mimic the motion of the staff, or pointing and shooting when armed with a larva silk shooter or bow and arrow. Unfortunately, the combat is only a small part of the overall adventure and youíll find yourself going on way too many fetch quests as you build new weapons from scattered parts or just seek out food and supplies.
The game presents itself as non-linear but this is deceptive. Even though you can travel freely through the hub world there will only be one or maybe two mission options open to you at any time. Some of these mission can be quite difficult, even by adult standards, taking upwards of 15-20 minutes and easily lost and forced to be repeated until you succeed. This is especially true in some of the protection missions where losing a single item loses the mission.
I was particularly fond of the jumping and gliding sequences where you tilt the controls to sail over the levels and reach otherwise unattainable locations. There is a great sense of scale that really makes you feel small, and this translates into some magical gameplay. Sure, this is the exact same game you can get for the GameCube ($20 cheaper); heck, it will even play in the Wii, but if you want the cool Wii controls youíll have to spring for the Wii version.
The Ant Bully is yet another launch title that fails to utilize widescreen or progressive scan technology, making it an identical copy of the GameCube version. The only thing added are some non-interactive video tutorials that explain the new controls, and even these have no voices, only a text caption.
The levels are creative and the character designs seem to be taken right from the film. The animation is fun and the entire game is colorful and quite charming. It just lacks any technical polish required to call this a next-gen game.
I have no complaints about the soundtrack which includes a score I can only assume was lifted from the film. It keeps to the background where it should so you can hear the interesting and organic sound effects, some of which get a bit disgusting.
The voice work is horrible, perhaps even more broken than the other consoles. Some lines of dialogue repeat for no reason and other times the audio will cut short or drop out entirely. The sound design is very sloppy on the Wii.
The Ant Bully is a rental at best and only if you are a diehard fan of the film. The entire story mode can be knocked off in a single sitting and there is no multiplayer or any other reason to revisit the game anytime soon after finishing it the first time.
I did see a whole slew of unexplored possibilities in the way of mini-games that would have been great for multiplayer, but alas, until I move from game reviewer to game designer, there is little I can do about that.
If I had reviewed The Ant Bully after only an hour, or even two, of gameplay I probably would have scored this game much higher. The game sucks you in with some deceptively clever and cryptic gameplay, but around the two-hour mark youíll quickly realize you have tapped this game for what little fun it has to offer and there is nothing left. Thatís not too bad if you rented the game but itís the curse of death if you actually bought it.
Young kids and fans of the film will certainly find a few fun moments and the unique Wii controls certainly add some flavor to the gameplay, but itís way too early into the life cycle of the Wii to tolerate or even settle for mediocre games like The Ant Bully.