Band of Bugs (formerly known as Bugs of War) is a turn-based tactics video game developed by NinjaBee. The game includes a level editor, leaderboards, Xbox Live Vision camera support, and multiplayer gameplay. It was released on Xbox Live Arcade on June 20, 2007 for 800 Microsoft Points.
The game is focused on turn-based tactical battles between groups of anthropomorphic bugs, with each player controlling a number of individual bugs. The game includes a variety of different bug types (as units), each serving in a different combat role (e.g., heavy infantry, archer, support, etc.). As the title is intended to appeal to casual gamers (among others), turns are relatively quick and combats are small in scale.
In contrast to many turn-based games where either an entire side moves at once or individuals move according to some initiative value, units in Band of Bugs take turns. When sides have an equal number of units, each side moves a single unit at a time before ceding control to the other side. When one side has more units than the other, that side takes a proportionally greater number of moves at a time, e.g. two moves to every one of the opposition when one side has twice as many units as the other. The same unit may not be moved more than once per full turn, with a full turn ending after all units have acted. This system helps ensure that players do not spend an excessive amount of time waiting for their opponents to act.
Units vary in their statistics and capabilities, with most units having at least one special ability which can be used instead of a standard attack. Some bug types have multiple weapons or attack types (e.g., one ranged and one mêlée weapon) which can be switched between at the cost of an action. Lastly, some bugs can make use of magic, with various spells which can be cast a limited number of times per battle.
While there are a limited number of items which can be picked up and used at a later point in time, Band of Bugs features no significant resource management elements above and beyond troop management.
The single-player campaign consists of 20 levels, which each level being unlocked after the previous level has been completed. Unlike traditional campaigns in strategy games, levels are completely disjoint from one another, with no "carry over" from one level to the next. Instead, for each level, the player is provided with a fixed set of units (at a certain experience level) and items. The levels are tied together by a brief (but humorous) story which revolves around Maal, the protagonist, and his quest to discover the true nature of the threat to his homeland.
Level objectives range from defeating all foes, to destroying a certain key enemy or enemy object, to simply escaping the area with one or more units. Some battles feature more than two sides, with a third side hostile to one or both of the other two sides.
After a level is completed, the player is awarded a medal based on his or her performance. The performance score is calculated based on friendly loses, enemy loses, and the total amount of clock time taken (encouraging quick play). Players can replay any previous level at any time in order to attempt to earn a better medal.
One of the highlights of the title is that it includes a full-featured level editor. In fact, the very same level editor was used to create all of the campaign levels in the game. Additionally, Band of Bugs is the first Xbox Live Arcade game to allow players to share user created maps. After playing a game against an opponent on a unique map, a "Save Map" option is presented which allows the map to be stored for later use. Each map is stamped with the Gamertag of the user who first created it, so that the original author can always be identified.
At their most basic, maps consist of squares of different terrain positioned at different heights. Some terrain types slow unit movement, while other terrain squares damage those who enter them. Water tiles are also available, which, while having no effect on flying units, will cause ground units to drown.
As with many recent Xbox Live Arcade games, Band of Bugs supports expansion through downloadable content. Several pictures packs and a dashboard theme based on the game have also been released on the Xbox Live Marketplace.
On July 25, 2007, two map packs were released. Each included 5 new maps for multiplayer games and stand alone missions. While "Map Pack #2" was free for download, "Map Pack #1" was priced at 150 Microsoft Points.
On August 8, 2007, a content package entitled "Red Kingdom" was released for a price of 250 Microsoft Points. This collection includes a new map tile set, a new campaign with 10 new levels, and 2 new unit types.
On October 10, 2007, a content package entitled "Ninja Sticks of Fury" was released for a price of 250 Microsoft points. This collection includes a new map tile set (snowy), an all-new campaign with 10 new levels and new characters, and 1 new unit type.
NinjaBee are set to release Avatar support for the game on July 8, 2009 via a free patch. Also a new DLC campaign pack titled "Tales of Kaloki" based on Outpost Kaloki offering a new story, new units, new unit types, a new map tile, weapons and abilities. This will cost 240 Microsoft Points and will also release on July 8, 2009 along with a Band of Bugs Premium Dashboard Theme.
Band of Bugs received a favorable early review from the Official Xbox Magazine, which awarded it a score of 8/10. However, many later reviews were more critical, criticizing glitches and a general lack of strategic depth. IGN graded the game as "passable", with a score of 6.2/10, remarking that while the title has all the necessary basic elements, it lacks gameplay depth and the ability to customize units. GameSpot similarly gave the title a 6.3/10, noting that it was "too simplistic to be addictive and too frustrating for players looking for a casual strategy fix." Overall, the enjoyment of the colorful graphics and the map editor were tempered by concerns about the game's longevity for genre fans.
The team working on Band of Bugs varied from three to four individuals at the start, up to around a dozen individuals (some of whom were part-time) at its peak. The development of the game required roughly 10 months, which was partially due to the fact that the engine was based on the Outpost Kaloki X engine.
During an interview, the development team emphasized their commitment to Xbox Live Arcade and focusing on gameplay over graphics or cutscenes. As such, the title uses under 50 MB of storage space, despite Microsoft raising the limit for later Xbox Live Arcade titles to 150 MB.
Band of Bugs was a finalist in the 2007 Independent Games Festival in the Technical Excellence category.
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- Marketplace Content for July 25, 2007. MajorNelson.com. Retrieved on 2007-08-08
- Marketplace Roundup for August 8, 2007. MajorNelson.com. Retrieved on 2007-08-08
- Marketplace Roundup for October 10, 2007. MajorNelson.com. Retrieved on 2007-10-23
- Brudvig, Eric (2007-06-22). IGN: Band of Bugs Review. IGN.
- VanOrd, Kevin (2007-06-22). Band of Bugs for Xbox 360 Review. GameSpot.
- An Interview With Ninja Bee: Band of Bugs. The Xbox Domain (2007-02-09).
- Mitchell, Richard (2007-02-09). X360F interview: NinjaBee's Band of Bugs. Xbox 360 Fanboy.
- Graziani, Gabe (2007-03-07). GameSpy: Xbox Live Arcade in 2007. GameSpy.