Title :A Bug's Life
Platforms :Nintendo 64, Sony PlayStation
Publisher :Activision
Game Rating :5.5
Review by :Ken Gagne

Have you ever stomped on an anthill, careless of the pain and suffering that it would cause the occupants? It's the insects' revenge in the dreadful A Bug's Life, Activision's Nintendo 64 port of last year's PlayStation game. 

As Flik, players follow the storyline of last year's animated Disney/Pixar film. After ruining the ant's seasonal harvest-sacrifice to the grasshoppers, Flik decided to go to Bug City to find bigger bugs to fight the grasshoppers for them. The game is a 3D platformer, similar to Super Mario 64 and Banjo-Kazooie, but for many reasons fails to approach the quality of these predecessors. 

The stage layout is simplistic. The main goal is to make it to the end of each stage — that's it. There are various icons (letters, grain, etc) that experienced gamers may wish to seek out to totally "master" a stage, but there is little incentive to do so. Although not every 3D platformer need be as nonlinear as Banjo-Kazooie, A Bug's Life lacks a colorful world to keep players interested while railroading them to the exit. 

A simple game requires simple controls; A Bug's Life fills that order. The main buttons are jump (also an offensive butt-stomp, ala Mario) and shoot (berries). Flik's "extraordinary" talent (every game's hero needs one) is to grow seeds into various plants, depending on what plant tokens he has found. The interface to do so uses more button presses than are necessary, and for little gain; these plants are rarely used to access an essential area of the game. 

A Bug's Life does not boast the same quality of computer-generated graphics as its cinematic cousin. For most movies-turned-games, to expect such imagery would be unrealistic, but this title has the unique challenge of being derived from an animated film; previous Disney titles, such as Aladdin or Hercules, captured well the feeling of the movie, while this title does not. A few still scenes from the movie introduce each stage, but even these lack the smoothness of the original. 

Pop-up occurs frequently, with stage props appearing suddenly and often in Flik's vicinity. Enemies and stages are nondescript, despite having movie counterparts. 

The music bounces along with simple tunes based on flute and drum parts. Voice actors from the movie have the occasional spoken part — a neat yet rare feature. 

With plenty of levels, gamers who enjoy either the game or following the movie's story will be at this title for awhile. A separate Challenge mode sets goals for each level, time-attack style, in sixty combinations. There's depth and replay value, just no fun factor. 

A Bug's Life has nothing new, and those features it does sport are not done as well as games that came before. With games like Banjo-Kazooie on the market, there's little reason to spend time with this licensed "me-too".

This article is copyright (c) 1999, 2007 by Ken Gagne. All rights reserved. Not to be distributed without permission.

Original publication: Sentinel & Enterprise, 14-Jun-99