The more things change, the more they play the same.
See Bugatron Worlds, a frantically-paced spaceship shooter that successfully apes 1981 arcade classic Galaga to excellent effect. Neither the deepest nor most engaging desktop amusement out there, it’ll nonetheless captivate the entire family, offering an afternoon or two’s worth of high-energy, button-mashing fun.
"Shoot bugs! Dodge bullets! Get power-ups!" That’s the title’s instructions in their entirety. Truth be told, I can’t think of a more apt description – it just about covers the entire outing up from top to bottom.
You control a single high-tech gunship, situated at the bottom of a star-filled screen. Moving your mouse left or right causes the vessel to respond in kind. Click the left-hand button and you’ll spit out a bullet. See something moving? Blast it! Voila – that’s all you need to know to master the basics.
Of course, there’s more to the experience than simply perfecting one’s hand-eye coordination, a fact made painfully apparent the second bugs start swarming on the scene.
Mosquitoes, beetles, dragonflies, bees, wasps, even scorpions… With each passing second, another host of attractively-modeled 3D creepy-crawlies comes spiraling onto the playfield. Your job: Blow them all back to kingdom come. It’s a task easier said than done though, as baddies loop and whirl in increasingly unpredictable patterns, zipping sideways along your monitor or appearing to fly straight out of it towards the player.
Nail them as they arrive, and you’ll earn bonus points. Miss any targets, and they’ll assume a stationary position towards the top of the screen, where they’ll start spewing shots before taking a periodic break to dive-bomb your position.
Wipe out every level’s complete cadre of adversaries, and you’ll advance to the next. Beat seven or eight stages, and trophies are awarded. These collectibles give you the option to continue your game from that point at any time. Consider it a bonus, as you’re afforded only three lives to reach each goal, and failing to do so means restarting anew from the last trophy until you successfully reach the next.
On a happy note, however, several catchy power-ups do help you rain destruction down upon your rivals. Examples include:
- Guided Bullets – Can be manipulated in mid-air via mouse movement.
- Wiggle Shot – Travels in wave-like motions, making it easier to hit opponents.
- Wrecking Ball – Tie one to your ship, and you can send it soaring into unfortunate foes with a flick of your wrist.
- Railgun – Blazes a path of devastation capable of cutting through row after row of assailants.
- Capture – Lets you turn enemies into controllable, heat-seeking rocket- or lead-belching sidekicks.
Of course, such straightforward duels could get a little stale across the title’s 60 levels. Hence the reason several neat twists are also featured including:
- Fans that blow your shots off-course.
- Giant balls (and eyeballs) you must use to smash certain opponents.
- Clusters of enemies that rotate around one central baddie. (This central target must be eliminated before its escorts can be nuked.)
Mind you, this one’s a little on the short side – I blazed through the game in a single 90-minute session. Challenge factor isn’t high either. (Granted, I’m a professional reviewer, but not losing a life until level 25 the first time I played on the default difficulty setting means the program’s a mite too forgiving.)
Still, issues like these, a byproduct of not being able to lethally collide directly with opponents as in similarly-styled outings, are largely subjective. Beginners will, in fact, find such caveats a positive: Bugatron Worlds makes an excellent introduction to both casual and retro gaming for neophytes.
Add in point-driven bonus rounds, ultra-responsive controls and perky sound effects/graphical touches such as victims that explode with an audible pop and spray of stars, and it’s obvious… The title makes every possible effort to modernize an arcade classic for a whole new generation of fun-loving fans.
Bearing this in mind, it’s hard to find fault with the package. While you won’t wind up investing more than a couple nights max, rest assured it’ll be time – and your hard-earned money – well spent.