iPhone review of the day: Bug Heroes - A fantastic dual-stick shooter that feels like an tower defense-infused RPG

On iPhone
Bug Heroes
Price: $1.99 / %26pound;1.19
Size: 49.9 MB
Get it now at the iTunes store:US/UK

Stop me if you've heard this one. An ant, a spider, and a beetle walk into an office. They build a stash for their food and fortify it with sniper turrets and bomb launchers. Then, as hordes of fleas, spiders, centipedes, and scorpions intent on stealing their booty swarm in, our heroes arm themselves with machine guns, big sticks, and swords and savagely lay waste to all comers, just in case the automated defenses can%26rsquo;t do it alone. There is no punch line here, because Bug Heroes ain't no joke; it's an ass-kicking good game with a little something for everyone.

On the surface, Bug Heroes looks like little more than a dual-stick shooter with arthropod antagonists. Two virtual control sticks are placed in their usual lower-left and lower-right spots on the screen. The left stick is used to move the character around the screen, and the right stick is used to shoot (or attack) in the direction you point it. Think Geometry Wars, but with wit and humor and insects instead of shapes and colorful explosions.

At any given time, you control one of three characters, whom you can swap between at will: an ant, a spider, and a beetle. The ant is the one with the guns, and can kill from a distance or up close. The spider is the quick and agile assassin who uses blades and poisons to down her foes, and the beetle is the brutish brawler wielding sticks and shields to batter his enemies into submission. If this sounds a lot like the difference between characters in a role-playing game or a class-based shooter like Team Fortress, give yourself a cookie. This is the point at which you start to realize this isn%26rsquo;t your typical twin-stick shooter.

Bug Heroes starts to feel more and more like an RPG as you start to upgrade your characters' stats, as well as their arsenal of weapons and special attacks. You%26rsquo;re also tasked with side objectives, like rescuing slaves from their captors, and recovering historical texts that document the war from its beginning. A lot of games try to incorporate RPG like features, but we were convinced Bug Heroes did it right after spending an entire hour doing nothing more than side-quests to level up.

As if that wasn't enough, Bug Heroes also has a sprinkling of castle defense to it as you'll need to continually upgrade your food stores with the latest and greatest weapons to help keep the enemy onslaught at bay.

Many iPhone games take a risk by mixing several different types of gameplay into one. Most of them fail and wind up leaving a bad taste in the players' mouth. Fortunately, Bug Heroes succeeds tremendously, and serves up a delicious cocktail of gameplay that is sure to leave you craving more.

Feb 10, 2011