Review: Bugs'N'Balls (DSiWare)

Together at last

Say what you will about the rest of the game, one thing Bugs'N'Balls gets exactly right is its title. It has bugs, and they are indeed armed with balls. The question is this: do bugs and balls go together like peanut butter and jelly, or is it more like oil and water?

Let's just say it's peanut butter jelly time.

Bugs'N'Balls is excellent fun in short bursts, and it comes with an impressive amount of variety for its price. Its developers really seemed to want to create something that gamers would return to many times rather than play once and forget about, and we're pleased to say that these efforts were largely successful.

The game itself is simple: two bugs are playing a friendly game in which they roll balls back and forth across a flat surface. The object of the game is for one bug to get all of his balls onto the other bug's side of the table, and your mission is to be that winning bug.

The gameplay consists of the left and right directional controls and one button, and you'll have a complete understanding of how the game is played within seconds. This means you spend more time enjoying Bugs'N'Balls than fighting to master it, which we certainly appreciate.

During the game you pick up balls and roll them across the table as your opponent does the same to you. If either of you is struck with a ball you'll be stunned, allowing the other player plenty of time to bombard you some more. If you strike one ball with another they deflect off of each other very satisfyingly; this game's physics are reliable and smooth, which contributes greatly to its enjoyability.

A round will end if all the balls end up one side of the table, but if time runs out a winner is declared depending upon the distribution of balls. If you win the best of three rounds you'll move on to face the next opponent.

You'll also get to play a mini-game before the next match. There's no punishment for performing poorly in the mini-games, but you can use them to rack up points. Points serve no purpose outside of placing you on the game's internal leaderboard, but the mini-games are still a great deal of fun.

They're all true to the game's central mechanic of rolling balls back and forth, but within that seemingly limiting scope they manage to be both unique and interesting, and are quite refreshing between matches as well. You can unlock a mini-games option from the main menu which will allow you to play them without playing through a complete tournament, but, puzzlingly, you cannot select any mini-game you like; they are chosen at random. A very strange and kind of disappointing aspect to an otherwise well-handled release.

At first you may only compete in the Cucumber League, in which the AI is fairly lenient. Master it, though, and you'll move on to more difficult matches. As mentioned before, you can also unlock mini-games, and additional playable characters; at first there are only two, but the others are unlocked once you beat them in the tournament. (The bee is the best, by the way, but you didn't hear that from us.)

There is also an option to just play a quick, single match against the computer, but your competitor is chosen randomly, like the mini-games. It's very strange that the developer didn't give the players the ability to choose in these situations, but that's a relatively small complaint.

The game itself is presented exceptionally well. The screenshots don't do it justice; in motion, this game is gorgeous. The environments had a delightful amount of detail put into them, and the characters move and react adorably. The sound, likewise, is top-notch. The music is fitting and memorable, and the overjoyed laughter of the bugs is utterly contagious.

In fact, the only truly negative thing we can say about the game is that it doesn't support a second player. We understand that this might be asking a bit much for a discount title, but the ability to play with a friend would have easily elevated Bugs'N'Balls to a must-have title. As it stands it's a very good game, but playing against the computer will eventually grow tiresome, and that can be a problem. Fortunately, it's likely to be a good while before that happens.

Conclusion

For quick gaming sessions, you could do a lot worse than Bugs'N'Balls. The gameplay is somewhat repetitive, but the action moves quickly enough that it never feels dull. While there are certainly things we could take issue with — seriously, why can't we choose which mini-game we'd like to play? — its excellent controls, adorable artwork and discount price make it easy enough to recommend. It's fast-paced quirky fun, and you'll return to it more often than you might expect.