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GDC 07: Band of Bugs hands on


Sitting right next to Castle Crashers was a game not nearly as publicized, NinjaBee's Band of Bugs. We managed to wrangle a Band of Bugs interview a while back, and we were pleased to see the game at GDC (Band of Bugs is part of the Independent Games Festival) and speak with Steve Taylor, president of Wahoo Studios (NinjaBee's parent company). We spent a lot of time looking at Band of Bugs. We got a chance to learn about the level editor and even got a little time to play the game itself. Read on for first hand impressions of this unique Xbox Live Arcade title.

First Steve showed us what's possible in the level editor. As we revealed, the level editor that ships with Band of Bugs was actually used to create all of the game's campaign levels. As a result, the level editor is fully featured and allows for a large degree of control. Levels are grid based, composed of square pieces of terrain that sit at variable heights. There are multiple terrain types. Some terrain is sticky and impedes movement, other types move units like a conveyor belt, and another type actually damages units that cross it. Water is also available. Ground units will drown in water, but flying units can traverse it unharmed. The variable height is important in the game, as height gives range and damage bonuses to long range units. Surrounding enemy units yields a flanking bonus.

As for the units, all of them are represented by different types of insects. Grasshoppers wield tiny bows and arrows made of twigs, for example. Large, beefy beetles represent a soldier class. After a quick consultation with the rest of the team, Steve Taylor informed us that there are at least 10 different units available in the game. More units are planned as downloadable content down the line.

Now it was time to fire up the game for ourselves. Surprisingly, the game actually features a storyline. Naturally, since the story revolves around warring bands of insects, it's fairly lighthearted (a trademark of NinjaBee's offerings so far). The humor is even self-referential at times. Our favorite line began, "we are talking, sentient bugs after all." The loading screen also advised us that "no bugs were harmed" in the making of the game.

The game will be very familiar to any fan of tactical, turn based RPGs. You control each of your units one at a time, moving them and performing a following action. Once all your units finish moving and attacking, the enemy gets a chance to retaliate. Victory depends on using the terrain and tactical options to your advantage. Steve also told us that there are several objective types for a given match besides the standard "kill all the enemies." Other types include escape -- in which you must be the first to move all your units to the exit point -- and defense -- in which you must defend a certain point from the enemy.

Multiplayer will support up to 4 players for standard matches. Though 4 players will be allowed in a match, the game is restricted to 2 teams. In other words, each player will be paired with another. There is also an 8 player mode called "spider hunter." In spider hunter, player control only a single unit and compete to (you guessed it) kill spiders.

We really enjoyed our time with Band of Bugs. What we played was interesting and unlike any of the other options available on Live Arcade right now. That alone makes it worthy of some attention. Unfortunately, we weren't able to get any release date or price on the game. Still, we liked what we played and we're more than willing to give the game a try when it hits Live Arcade.

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