Bugs and I have an uneasy friendship. On the one hand I can appreciate the beauty of creation in their skeletons, the elegance of their societies, and the important role they play in our ecosystem. On the other hand, should one drop down the back of my shirt or start burrowing in to the Reese's Puffs, talks are going to break down pretty quickly. It is to the latter part of my psyche that Insectonator, the new topdown shooter from Denis Kukushkin and family, John and Alex, is aimed. It might not be too nice to all things great and small, but if you have a hankerin' for some arthropod blastin', it'll be sure to catch you in its web.
Using the mouse, you take aim and squish various varieties of spiders, roaches, mantis and other crawlies, starting with chucking rocks, then moving on to knives, fire-arms and others. You may also use the [arrow] keys for more pinpoint accuracy. Weapons can be switched with a a click of the mouse, the [Z], [X] and [C] keys, or by setting the options to switch randomly after a clip has been unloaded. Bonus points are awarded for quick kills, head-shots, and consistent accuracy. Between each round There are three basic types of selectable gameplay rounds: ones where you must clear the area of all the insects, ones where you have to shoot a certain amount of specific varieties, and ones where you must shoot certain bugs in a certain order. Over time, various conditions will be met and new and crazier weapons will be unlocked.
Analysis: Insectonator is seriously creepy, and I mean that as a compliment. Anyone with the slightest hint of entomophobia should stay far away, but the game is so atmospheric that it almost borders on parody: it seems that you should be blasting zombies or demons rather than termites. The game's tone is over-the-top and it totally works. Complementing this tone is the game's comprehensiveness: I counted at least 20 different bug types crawling around, and the menu promises 26 different weapons to use against them, and each combination thereof is gorgeously and gorily animated. After each round, the playing field will be a mess, and it's fun as heck to make it like that.
The biggest drawback to Insectonator is its sense of aimlessness. It's a game about killing bugs and nothing more. Certainly there are achievements to earn and a completeness percentage to fill up, but no larger goal at play. This is fine... this is more than fine, and it's quite good at relieving the stress. However it does meant your enjoyment of the game will be entirely proportional to how intrigued you are in finding out what it looks like when you use napalm or a nuclear bomb on scurrying critters. Certainly most of them do seem to contain more guts than their size would imply. Undoubtedly the shade of sadism inherent in the premise will, quite justifiably, turn some away. On the other hand... they're just bugs, fictional ones, and they make a quite satisfying noise when they are squooshed.
Overall, Insectonator reminds me of a shooting game you'd find at the kind of arcade where you trade tickets for prizes: Something whose graphics and sounds beckon you in, that doesn't have much overall depth in its mechanics, but will happily keep you entertained token after spent token. After a couple of minutes play, even your ant mite bee able to spy-der amazing charms of Insectonator, and mayfly to it over and over again to slug out another cathartic session. Playing it is an absolute moth, as its shooting action is hard to beetle, and it's likely to worm it's way into your heart, grasshopper. Now, if you excuse me, I need to pick up my check from the International Insect Pun Committee.