If you think this is one of those isometric mobile ports to the Switch featuring arachnids, monarchs or armadillidiidae (yeah I looked that last one up) in a university setting, think again. Bug Academy is essentially a drone-like removal company physics game that will ensure your cows and fridges are delivered on time.
Before you dismiss Bug Academy as a novelty game, you need to see it in action and, ideally, play it. While the graphics aren’t going to have you crowding around the water cooler discussing anti-aliasing and dynamic resolution scaling, they’re fun, cute and suit the very playful theme of the game. Bug Academy is like a LittleBigPlanet-lite type game when it comes to level design, but more on that in a moment. What’s the game about?
Taking command of a squadron of bugs, your job is to recruit them on the fly (get it?) and have them join you in carrying various objects – both animate and inanimate across a series of levels and to drop them off within the time limit. The initial stages include dropping cows back into a pen, and within a few levels, you’ll soon be delivering home electricals such as fridge-freezers. Bug Academy is very much focused on physics, and that’s the selling point of the game. The more bugs you enlist, the easier the load, but as you fly over obstacles or even crash into them, the items you carry will flip, and you’ll find your legion crushed underneath. This means for a lot of the time you have to iron out landings so that you can move on to the next task.
Due to the focus on physics in environments that are timed, you’d think that Bug Academy is stressful; dashing back and forth on fetch quests and avoiding hazards. Fortunately, that’s not the case as you can plough through almost everything you see. Need to drop off an object on the fourth floor but only have 20 seconds to complete the stage? Simply crash your way through the walls and floors. Cut out the middleman. Or is that ground? Buildings look robust and immovable, but as you crash through them, you realise that the environment is made almost entirely out of cardboard boxes. It’s difficult to explain and do it justice with static screenshots, but it’s a buzz crashing through the scenery like a monster truck of bugs, demolishing everything in sight.
The controls on this part are very intuitive; using the left stick to move your squadron, holding down the A button to pick up objects with appendages that are seemingly made of goo, then flying as quickly as you can to the drop off point. One thing worth mentioning is the speed of your characters as you dash from one side of the screen to the other so swiftly, that it makes perfect sense to have the environment around you fall at the drop of the hat or the gameplay would be unbearable.
Bug Academy is a puzzle game without a doubt. Though there are limited options other than completing each level as fast as possible, i.e. within the set times (it doesn’t matter if you go over). There are a lot of different objectives, albeit, they’re the same mechanics of picking up items and manipulating them. In one game you are operating a vacuum hose to suck up ghosts, much like Luigi’s Mansion, and in another firing projectiles into the sky. The backgrounds and obstacles in Bug Academy are great, and as briefly mentioned, they have this LittleBigPlanet charm to them almost as if they’re handmade environments. Alas, there are no custom editing modes in this game, but it’s still plenty of fun.
Though the presentation is quite charming, the music is on the annoying side. There’s this same theme music that was heard in the trailers of bugs supposedly humming. For a trailer, it’s ok, but throughout the game, it gets a little irritating. It’s not always the same track, but it does stand out like a sore thumb. Also, the level selection is a bit backward as after you complete a level, you return to a hub-like area and manually fly to the next one, pulling a switch of sorts to enter the next location. It’s certainly not game-breaking, but it would have been better to start at the last position and work your way forward.
Another downside to Bug Academy is longevity. There are about four different bugs to play, but the levels are pretty short and aside from the mad objectives often featuring cows, the game is limited in variety. If inclined to, you could probably complete this in one sitting, which is a shame as Bug Academy is a lot of fun. Different bugs bring different perks like the bees which can be used as projectiles, but they more or less handle the same as the flies, and you have the same task of finishing the level as promptly as you can, earning a total of three stars in the process.
It’s worth mentioning that unlike LittleBigPlanet, Bug Academy is strictly a one-player game without any online function either. I had to double-check on the menu for any other features as this would have been a fantastic party game, though I do understand that the logistics of it all may be a little problematic: do you each control a swarm on the same screen or is it a split-screen effect? Even if you’re like me and prefer local play, it would have been nice to see a few more features other than adjusting the audio, switching the HD rumble on and off or changing the language. Not really feature-rich, but the gameplay makes up for that.
I have to stress that despite the flaws of only being a single-player, having practically zero options and criminally short, Bug Academy is a heap of fun. Even after finishing the puzzles (granted, not unlocking all three stars for each level), I’ve still been playing on repeat as the bugs handle so well. The objects in a physics-type game must feel true to their real-life counterparts, that assets aren’t too floaty and have a real weight about them. Bug Academy does not disappoint here, and even as I struggle to finish a mission by a few seconds, I still hammer the ZR button (to increase speed), and steamroll through building after building like a maniac. On that basis alone, Bug Academy is excellent.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo Switch code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to email@example.com.
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Bug Academy Review
Gameplay - 9/10
Graphics - 8/10
Sound - 7/10
Replay Value - 8/10
A simple, yet wacky concept, Bug Academy is the most fun you can have with a swarm of flies, bees, mosquitoes and pink elephants. The last one’s a lie. The physics are great, the presentation is charming, and it’s just simply an enjoyable game. I just wish there was a two-player option and a few more features to choose from, but more importantly – a longer game.
Fantastic use of physics.
Innovative and wacky challenges.
Far too short.
Lack of features: solo play only, no online options and no other game modes.