Finally – an insect encounter that doesn’t bite.
To wit: Despite featuring a colorful array of creepy-crawly critters from grasshoppers to snails and fireflies, pattern-matching puzzler Bugged Out will get under your skin in an entirely good way.
While neither the deepest nor most replay value-intensive head-scratcher we’ve had the pleasure of spending time with in recent memory, it’s nonetheless a good fit for anyone seeking mellow, yet still marvelously mind-bending thrills.
Two modes of play are offered: Classic and Relaxed. The former pits you against a ticking clock. The latter, on the other hand, offers a more stress-free way to kick back, relax and test the old grey matter without causing your blood pressure to skyrocket.
Either way, the action’s the same.
Stages are composed of a series of circular tiles stamped with the likeness of specific bugs, laid out in neatly organized rows. Place a cursor over any sphere, and a yellow grid instantly appears, connecting it to three other globes. Clicking and holding the mouse button allows you to rotate these pieces by moving your wrist left or right, with the tile you’ve selected serving as the axis around which spheres swivel.
Naturally, there’s a catch, though… Unless you manage to match three or more of the same bug-branded tiles horizontally or vertically by doing so, objects instantly shift back into their original position. On the upside, successful attempts cause any such matches to disappear from the board in a flap of wings or pitter-patter of tiny feet. Any gaps created via this process are immediately plugged by randomly appearing spheres, which fall down to patch the holes, making it possible to create point-multiplying chain reactions, or cascades as the creators call them.
In addition, every match made fills your progress meter, located on the left side of the screen, a little more. Fill it completely, and you’ll complete the current stage and advance deeper into the game.
The further you progress, the more matches must be made – and the larger the cascades you’ll have to configure – to meet any given quota before time runs out. The clock also winds down faster on later levels. Stage layouts periodically shift position (e.g. by narrowing) between encounters as well, keeping you from removing large amounts of bugs in one fell swoop.
All told, it makes for a surprisingly challenging (if largely repetitive) game-play experience. There’s nothing here that’ll revolutionize the market, nor excite jaded enthusiasts… just solid brain-teasing mechanics that prove suitable for all comers. As featured audiovisuals – think vivid encounters with large, brightly-colored beasties like bees and ants set atop leafy backgrounds and bouncy beats – illustrate, the program’s no slouch when it comes to production values.
Waste time all you want… There’s no stress involved, and very little to get worked up about, making Bugged Out an excellent fit for those seeking something a little bit calmer and less panic-inducing than the usual downloadable diversion. Nevertheless, don’t be fooled by the amusement’s breezy pacing and relaxed attitude. Winning takes some strategy (hint: nine times out of ten, whenever two bugs are adjacent, they’re the next match waiting to happen), so even the biggest brainiac will find it a worthy competitor.
Flashier and more exciting electronic amusements do exist. However, as coffee break-style distractions go, even those of us for whom bug spray’s a must won’t find it in any way, ahem, repellent.