Insector X (Genesis) review
"I really wanted to love Insector X. In a shooter genre overloaded with military planes and bizarrely-shaped spaceships, this Genesis game looked to be a breath of fresh air. Controlling a robotic insect, you’d get to engage in battle with other flying critters, both large and small. Sure, the differences would likely only be cosmetic, but considering how many shooters I’ve played that seemed to be little more than copies of more established names, even superficial cosmetic changes would be very ..."
I really wanted to love Insector X. In a shooter genre overloaded with military planes and bizarrely-shaped spaceships, this Genesis game looked to be a breath of fresh air. Controlling a robotic insect, you’d get to engage in battle with other flying critters, both large and small. Sure, the differences would likely only be cosmetic, but considering how many shooters I’ve played that seemed to be little more than copies of more established names, even superficial cosmetic changes would be very welcome.
So I eagerly booted up Insector X, anticipating a few hours of fun as I took on the forces of an insectoid villain known as Sovereign Baglon. The title screen only added to my eagerness, as I watched a slew of bees hovering in their hive as a brief, but ominous, snippet of music played.
But then the game started.
Drab graphics, bland music, frustratingly hard levels (and only five of them!), disgustingly easy bosses — think of every negative element you don’t want to encounter in a shooter, slam them all together into one cart and you have created Insector X. Suddenly, that cool insect theme that drew me to this game reminded me of the tantalizing song of the mythological Siren, hypnotizing me and leading me to my doom.
Let’s just say that the concept of controlling a super-powerful, gun-toting insect becomes a lot less cool when you actually get to control it for a few moments. You’ll immediately realize that your protagonist is a lot taller than the average ship — a major handicap to overcome in this game. A number of the minor enemies in Insector X tend to come in swarms and move very quickly, while shooting bullets which (at times) are even faster. You don’t need to have an advanced degree in physics to compute that an oversized bug is going to really struggle to dodge a multitude of bullets coming at you from all angles.
You might think that a few power-ups could help out in this situation. After all, who cares how inept your insect is at dodging attacks if he can shoot down foes before they can cover the screen in bullets? Right? Uhhh....please? Wrong!!!
Just to give one example, I vividly remember flying through the hive section of the final level with a fully-powered insect. I remember spraying the screen with fire, killing every little annoying insect the instant it started to appear on the screen. Sadly, I also remember watching the screen began to be covered in gunfire despite my best efforts. What had happened? Were the enemies triggered to shoot their first bullet as they began entering the screen? Were they designed to release their payload upon death? I have no clue, but regardless, I soon was forced to begin dodging bullets — an act that allowed a few enemies to get onto the screen unscathed. And a few more. And a few more. Before I knew it, my gameplan had been ruined and I was stuck trying to frenetically dodge bullets, lasers, spreadshots and possibly a couple more forms of attack (it’s hard to tell — things were moving really quickly by this point) with an insect that was just too tall to be effective at evasive maneuvers. At least when you die, your ship still retains the power-ups you’d collected earlier. Of course, you also get sent back to a checkpoint, so whatever killed you the first time will still be there, ready to extend its ''15 minutes of fame'' by blasting you out of the sky again.
Bizarrely, the obscene difficulty does not even remotely apply to the game’s five bosses, which range from pretty easy to “What were they thinking?” easy. Combining simple, easy-to-read patterns with a pathetically small amount of firepower, these boss fights likely will be the easiest part of each level. Look at the fourth level’s giant spider. Sure, he looks menacing, but he might as well be a helpless kitten trapped in an oversized web. The beast’s primary attack is an easily-dodged three-way spread shot. It backs up that lame attack by crapping out baby spiders, which turn into easily destroyed (i.e. non-threatening) missiles.
I don’t claim to be some sort of shooter guru, but after conditioning myself to remain cool, calm and collected during the artillery-heavy boss encounters in Gynoug (Wings of Wor), this game’s bosses pose no challenge whatsoever. All you need to do is find one of the many holes in their attack pattern, settle in and blast the crap out of them, only occasionally moving slightly to compensate for their motion.
To add one more comparison between this game and the far superior Gynoug, look at the general graphic style of Insector X. The combination of a large number of small, non-descript enemies and a wide range of somewhat drab backgrounds really reminded me of Gynoug — except it was far more effective in that game. Set in an apocalyptic world under siege from hellish forces, the dull settings of Gynoug fit the dark mood of that quest. Considering that (robotic or not), you’re fighting beasts of nature in Insector X, I was expecting a whole lot more than bland jungles, boring caves and an absolutely horrid city. And with the slow scrolling pace this game has, you’ll have plenty of time to notice just how poor this game looks at times.
Just look at this game’s jungle level. You start out flying in front of large, generic trees, each looking the same as the ones you just passed. After a few minutes of this (which takes place over land and water), you enter a non-descript cave which leads to the boss. Now compare that to the jungle level of Bio-Hazard Battle, another Genesis shooter featuring insects and other creepy critters. Without going into too much detail, let me simply say that Bio-Hazard Battle gives the player a lush, exotic mass of vegetation that all melds together to provide a eerily beautiful backdrop to the intense action the game provides. In Insector X, the background (here and in other levels) just appears to be a collection of quickly-assembled pieces of scenery repeated constantly throughout the level, leaving you with ugly artwork that does nothing to give the game any sort of atmosphere.
And that’s essentially what you’re left with — an ugly game with a character that’s too large to effectively maneuver through the waves of enemy attacks. Maybe a rockin’ soundtrack would alleviate some of the misery, but you’ll never find that out with Insector X. Remember that menacing little title screen ditty I talked about earlier? That’s the highpoint of the game right there. Throughout the five levels of the game, you’ll have some light-hearted shooter music that would be more at home on the NES combined with a few quiet, subdued tunes that really seem to clash with the frenetic action.
Really, if not for a first level that at least has some degree of originality, this game would have no redeeming factors. Named “Desert Area”, this stage takes you across an Egyptian desert, through an oasis and into a tomb to fight the first boss, a gigantic hornet. Even though the mediocre graphics and shoddy music did detract from things, you really get the idea the programmers wanted to create something special. That they wanted to deliver you into a vast and atmospheric world ruled by insects — a world that would envelop you, refusing to let go until you’d seen all its majestic sights.
Well, all I can do is implore you not to fall victim to that tantalizing Siren song like I did. Beneath the intriguing concept of Insector X is a game that utterly fails to be worth even a small percentage of the time it will take to struggle through its quintet of unforgiving, but dull levels. Usually, I’d consider a shooter with only five levels to be too brief to truly deserve a high rating — with Insector X, I’d had more than enough after the third stage....and never wanted to touch it again after the conclusion.
Community review by overdrive (June 24, 2004)
Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.
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