It's been over two years since "Band of Bugs" brought its earthy take on turn-based tactics to Xbox Live Arcade. So why are we reviewing it now? Developer NinjaBee has done a great job supporting their game and like "Kingdom for Keflings", Band of Bugs now has Avatar support. They've also released a new expansion that adds characters from the space simulation title "Outpost Kaloki X" into the existing game play. While those who already own Band of Bugs will get the Avatar support for free, the downloadable add-on will cost you $3, so it seems like a good time to take a quick look at both of those new embellishments and re-introduce people to the game.
The core game of Band of Bugs is an easy to pick-up, turn-based strategy game set in a land of sentient insects. The game play is similar to games like "Final Fantasy Tactics" or "Advance Wars", where each stage starts with you commanding a small unit of bugs. You must then move your bug army around the grid in order to meet your objectives - usually consisting of wiping out the opponent bugs or getting your troops to a certain location on the map. The strategy comes in not only positioning your soldiers on the square-based grid, but in taking advantage of the different unit types and their abilities. You'll want to attack from afar with arrow shooting grasshoppers, get up close with warrior beetles, and sneak up on the enemy with the agile ninja bees: certainly familiar territory for veteran strategy gamers, but like the rest of NinjaBee's offerings, Band of Bugs caters to a little more casual audience.
Adding to this casual feel is the free Avatar support update which gives you the option of replacing the lead character of the game with your Avatar. While this really doesn't have any mechanical effects on the game, it does offer a certain amount of "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids'" charm. You can also use your likeness in the multiplayer modes, but I only played through the single player content for this review. In multiplayer mode, the game includes a nice level editor that allows you to share your levels with other players online, so the game doesn't lack for online features.
The "Tales of Kaloki" add-on will set you back 240 Microsoft Points, but it's a good value for the amount of new content. Not only does it contain ten new campaign levels, but the visuals and unit types are completely different from the original game. You won't find any bugs in this mode, other than the two humorous insects who are narrating these space conflicts. Instead, this is all about spaceships, asteroid fields, and the legendary Space Captain Gallo - a giant chicken who is tasked with saving the galaxy. More than just a simple asset swap, this expansion explores many new types of objectives ranging from escort missions to capturing enemy ships to breaking ally spacecraft out of enemy prisons. This variety in missions combined with learning all of the abilities of the new units really makes this a worthwhile addition to the game and fans of the quirky Outpost Kaloki universe will certainly appreciate the amusing writing.
Overall, Band of Bugs is another family-friendly game from NinjaBee, containing just the right amount of depth to be interesting to core gamers yet is not over-bearing for newcomers to the strategy genre. I enjoyed the added whimsy of playable avatars and the Tales of Kaloki expansion adds a substantial amount of extra high-quality content.
Outstanding | Very Good | Fair | Poor | Awful
Recommended Buy Price: $13.00
Current MSRP with Expansion: $13.00
"Band of Bugs" was provided for review by NinjaBee. The "Tales of Kaloki" expansion was purchased for $3.00 (240 MS Points). The original game's campaign was played to completion over the course of four hours and the expansion was finished in two hours.