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Escape from Bug Island (Wii) artwork

Escape from Bug Island (Wii) review

"To quote Al Lewis: '...Praying's not going to help this mantis.'"

Escape from Bug Island (Wii) image

My first session with Escape from Bug Island was akin to a visit from an old friend. I grew up watching tons of B-movies as a kid, especially old school sci-fi films loaded with monstrous bugs and mysterious islands. During my first encounter with a giant mantis, memories of movies like "The Deadly Mantis" and "Son of Godzilla" flooded back to me, as well as old film showcases like "Super Scary Saturday" or "Commander USA's Groovie Movies." Hell, I half-expected Al Lewis or Jim Hendricks to pop up and hit me with a bad joke or two. I was overcome with B-flick bliss in that moment, and all was right with the universe.

As I advanced through Bug Island, I delighted in spying various references. I laughed as I dodged flying, carnivorous fish like those in an old James Cameron movie, and battled explosive ants similar to the fire-starting cockroaches in the 1975 film "Bug." Between these campy hat-tips, the game treated me to silly cutscenes packed with terrible dialogue and grainy cinematography similar to many drive-in flicks. I would typically slate these qualities, but they're absolutely right at home here. Granted, some folks won't abide the game's cringe-worthy acting, but those of us who are in on the joke will likely appreciate these callbacks to accidentally hilarious movies of yore.

However, charm can only carry a title so far. Eventually, the game has to back its pizzazz up with something concrete, or all of its style will come off as a distraction meant to prevent you from noticing its shortcomings.

Escape from Bug Island (Wii) image

I didn't know it at first, but Bug Island issued a huge warning during its tutorial segment at the beginning of the campaign. Here, the game guided me through a laundry list of complicated maneuvers that achieved simple ends, all of which utilized the Wii's motion controls. At first, it all sounded like a sweet deal, especially as the game introduced three different dodging moves, three basic attacks that varied in strength as I swung the Remote more quickly, and even a first-person mode. After I completed the tutorial, I thought I'd stumbled upon a sleeper hit with surprisingly deep combat.

I didn't know how mistaken I was until I tested the control scheme against actual opponents. For instance, flying enemies seemed like easy prey for my anti-aerial attacks. I just had to hold 'Up + B' and swing the Remote like crazy. I thought I had it down pat until a giant cockroach flew out of nowhere and started nibbling on my skull. At that moment my fingers forgot how to perform the upward thrust, even though I knew the button combination. It took a long time for my hands to coordinate the attack, and by the time I did I had lost a fair amount of hit points. After all, I had a whole score of other maneuvers to memorize, and most of them required some strange combination of buttons and movement.

I also had problems with the remote registering certain button presses. In order to execute an attack, you must hold 'B' while swinging the remote. If you don't hold the button, you'll tuck and roll instead. Guess what happened numerous times when I tried to strike? Let's just say rolling on the ground doesn't kill mantises.

Escape from Bug Island (Wii) image

During another segment, I had to vanquish a massive gorilla boss. I had a hell of a time dodging his blows, thanks to Bug Island's stiff control response. Just the act of turning to face him when he was behind me was agonizing, as he usually got a shot in before I could fully rotate. I haven't even gotten to the painful part yet. In order to damage him, I needed to switch to first-person mode and aim my overly sensitive reticle at him. From there, I had to manually switch to a projectile weapon, hold the 'B' button and execute an overhead swing. All that to launch one frickin' bullet!

You want to know what's the absolute pits? Missing the ape or getting smacked while you're setting up a shot, and waiting for your next opportunity to nail him again.

I often questioned Bug Island's genre distinction, because it seemed to be caught in an identity crisis. The game featured clunky play control and somewhat sluggish response, both of which are prime setups for building tension in horror titles. However, it doesn't often offer you the luxury of escaping altercations, which is also a huge part of survival-horror. Sure, you can elude some monsters for a while, but the larger and swifter ones almost always catch you. Survival elements work best when you're able to not only reduce damage, but be frugal with your supplies. That's not a simple task to accomplish when every foe seems to think they're part of a straightforward action affair and not a title with survival elements. You might say that the simple answer is that Bug Island is a standard action game, but then why are its controls designed to build tension if that's the case?

Escape from Bug Island (Wii) image

I reached a critical point with this campaign. I thought I either needed to give up or push back, and push hard. I chose the latter, and I can tell you it's delightful to watch your enemies burn. All of those times I spent getting ripped up by an orchestra of crickets paid off when I finally turned the tables on them. I laughed gleefully every time I set a nest on fire or focused enough to score a nearly flawless victory on a mantis. I reveled whenever I slew lizard women, especially after they took so many chunks out of me with their powerful jaws. Eventually, I became decent enough at Bug Island to get through its hairiest scenes and glimpse all its glorious camp.

But I had to ask myself in the end if it was worth it. Yeah, Escape from Bug Island speaks my language, but its fondness for motion controls prevents me from completely digging it. I didn't need complicated control schemes and lots of unnecessary swinging. I would gladly pass on the ability to shoo away giant crickets with my flashlight by waving the remote in front of me, as long as I received a manageable control setup. It's painful for me to say this, because Bug Island really does have a good, goofy campaign with lots of thrills, but the Wii's motion controls get in the way of the fun. I hope this isn't the last time I see a sci-fi/horror throwback of this caliber on a console. Hopefully, if a concept like this crops up again, it'll emerge in the form of a less confusing and more thrilling adventure.

Project Horror 2018
Project Horror saw one (1) horror review submitted every day through the month of October. This review was part of that effort.


JoeTheDestroyer's avatar
Staff review by Joseph Shaffer (October 25, 2018)

Rumor has it that Joe is not actually a man, but a machine that likes video games, horror movies, and long walks on the beach. His/Its first contribution to HonestGamers was a review of Breath of Fire III.

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