Like a viscera-loving fly, developer Spike has wormed its way into the rotting body cavities of countless survival horrors, laid its eggs and given birth to Escape from Bug Island. It’s a real scavenger of a game, gnawing on the meat of the finest pedigree - namely Resident Evil 2 and Silent Hill 3. But like the common fly, it’s unable to digest it all without puking up on it first and churning it into a grotesque gaming mess.
Playing as a floppy-haired girly-faced guy - whose soft, boy-band looks look rather out of place when tearing out a praying mantis’ guts with a scythe - you wander about a mist-shrouded isle with only a torch, various instruments of whackage and a hefty supply of throwable rocks to keep you safe. “Keep you safe from what?” we hear you cry, as you look nervously over your shoulder. Well, due to a plot mechanic we were unable to translate, the island has seen a sudden spurt of insect evolution, with normally boot-fearing critters now boasting a gigantic size and a taste for floppy-haired girly-faced guys.
The idea of eschewing zombies and mutants for the oozing menace of the insect world is enticing; few things match the natural creepiness of flaky exoskeleton plates or the mechanical crack of mandibles. However, Spike is simply content with blowing creepy-crawlies out of proportion for some cheesy B-movie giant bug scares - in the process making it easier to see the joints between the blocky polygons in the poor insect design. The bugs are so clunky, they wouldn’t have looked out of place in N64’s GTA-meets-Starship Troopers title Body Harvest.
Weirder still is the eventual betrayal of the insect angle as scaly fish-women and highly disturbing man/dog/toad hybrids are introduced into the mix. This further move into fantastical-horror is completely unnecessary, though we must admit to quite enjoying throwing rocks at a seriously irate demon gorilla - despite his exposed brain and glowing red eyes making him appear less King Kong, more King Wrong.
The most disappointing thing about this move into silliness is that it arrives in the game just as Spike begins to get their insect threat act together. They introduce fat, hairy caterpillars that fall out of trees, their garish body colors sitting uncomfortably with the muted greens of the foggy landscapes. And when you stumble into a gorge full of crickets jumping in unison, you’re more than adequately reminded of the gruesome potential of the swarm.
Faced with overwhelming numbers, it’s time to turn bug-exterminator, and due to their size, it’s going to take more than a rolled-up newspaper to bring this lot down. It calls for some rock throwing - or some rough and ready melee bug-whacking with a variety of sticks, clubs and machetes, conveniently scattered about the woodland environments.
Projectiles are thrown by entering into a first-person mode with the A button directing your sights with the remote pointer a la Red Steel, before - and here’s where the stupid alert begins to flash - holding B to lock your view in place before flicking the remote to throw a rock. Considering that you’re often fighting scattering creatures, by the time you’ve locked and made a throwing gesture they’ve probably run off - not helped by the agonizing delay between gesture and throwing action.
Melee combat fares no better. Pressing B brings up your chosen beating implement and flicking the remote takes a swipe. There’s no remote/beating-stick movement mapping - any gesture will result in the same attack animation. This animation is an excruciatingly drawn-out swipe, with the protagonist more often than not left swinging into thin air like a drunk trying to hit a piñata. You can’t move while attacking, so to maximize the chances of ever actually managing to plant a hit, you have to get up really close and personal, literally pressing your body against a foe before instigating a whack.
Running away is often the only option and is probably the best course of action with regard to the title too; it’ll only bug the hell out of you otherwise.