I prefer Molehills
Overall Rating: 4/ 10
This game was so mind- numbing that I really couldn't even motivate myself to come up with a catchier title. I usually enjoy simulation games but this one did not live up to its hype at all. You play the role of a yellow ant who is the 'general' of a black ant colony. Your goal is to gather food, beat the red ants, breed enough ants to move onward, and eventually conquer the yard and the doghouse and the human house. I've always enjoyed building up a population and managing a society, but usually games like this also have a lot more to offer. I found myself struggling to keep my head up and eyes open as I performed monotonous task after monotonous task. The worst part about this game is that nothing hardly ever changes. The bad guys are the same, the food is the same, the 'random events' are the same, the background images are the same...... It just starts to all blur together much like a swarm of ... well, ants. The lines between reality and slumber really start to blur until it's impossible to distinguish one feature from another.
Now don't get me wrong. Had the game say.... been faster, I might have enjoyed it JUST a little more. I'm usually a pretty patient person, but when you have to deal with repetitive graphics, repetitive play, AND slow progress.... too much is just too much. For a time when simulation games weren't very popular, I'm sure there was a reason it attracted attention from the younger kids. Even when I first started the game, I was humored and amused by several aspects of it. It wasn't until my third of fourth victory of a yard spot that I just couldn't take it any more and the game lost all its charm.
There are three modes of game play: the tutorial, a sandbox mode called "Full Game", and a "Scenario" mode which consists of 8 battles.
GRAPHICS: 4/ 10
It's hard to think that this game was being played over 20 years ago, and for that reason I feel only slightly guilty about the low rating here. However, after only a few seconds of thought, I decided to stick with the 4 out of 10. You see, I enjoyed the bright colors and the cute little ants for a little while, but it didn't take very long for them to get annoying. I was kind of hoping some variety would pop up as I continued playing, and majorly disappointed when none took place.
You're first introduced to the game through a cut- scene that describes the life cycle of an ant colony and how they have mating flights before expanding to new territory. It'd pretty.... odd for a game to start off with a narrative on the mating ritual of ants, but.... I suppose it's not as bad a start as it could have been. However, this introduction makes it pretty clear that you aren't going to be playing a game with impressive graphics. The cartoon is very choppy and pixelated and allow you to reminisce what it was like to play games on an Amiga (if you ever owned one). Hoping for a bit of nostalgic play, it doesn't take too long to forget the memories.
First of all, the backdrop for the game is severely limited. There's a tuft of grass, a large rock, a small rock, a golf ball, and a soda can that make up most of the turf you play on. Each image is exactly alike and simply copy pasted over the entire map. Even the grains of dirt have about a 20 pixel by 20 pixel lifespan before they are also repeated.
The sprites themselves are all clones. There are about two images per working class of ants: a view from the side and a view from the top. From what I could tell, the legs didn't even move when they walked (thought it was difficult to discern since the legs blended in with the dirt pretty well). How many working class of ants are there? Four, if you count the queen which doesn't move much and you cant play. While I understand that there's no much to give ants individuality, I feel like there was a lot of potential wasted on other critters to interact with on the surface. There's ONE large spider per yard patch, one or two long caterpillars, and maybe ten pill bugs. There's also the red ant colony, but the graphics match your own colony in everything but color. What gives? Couldn't the artists at least given players a different spider and caterpillar per yard patch?
Then there's also the food. After going through the tutorial and playing the sandbox mode, I kind of hoped that after gathering the green pea- like objects I'd get a new type of food to gather. I was a bit crushed by the fact that ALL food in EVERY yard square is the same pea- like substance. What's worse is that the caterpillar looks like a string of peas....
So if the art wasn't bad enough, let's talk about the animations. As I mentioned earlier, there's the fact that the ant legs don't appear to work. That in itself is not a big deal, but the stop and go motion is almost enough to make me car sick. Instead of creatures moving smoothly forwards, every critter jerks forward bit by bit until it reaches its goal. The thing is, I KNOW the game designers could have done a better job because the cut scene at the beginning was smoother than the actual game play. The player doesn't even get any short animated fight scenes: if two ants battle it out, a cloud dust pops up and says "Fight!" just like a loony toon show.
Ants won't even find a path when you direct them. If you try to get an ant inside the colony to make its way out, you literally have to click it through every turn in the tunnels so that it will find the exit. Otherwise, it will just bump into the walls repetitively, facing the direction that the exit is in.
MUSIC: 3/ 10
It didn't take very long at all for the music in this game to give me a terrible headache. Like the graphics, my first impression was good because I noticed almost immediately that there were different tunes going into different aspects of the game. The music had a very annoying 'beachy' quality, but I was nonetheless happy that it had variety. How quickly my expectations were let down! Within minutes of play, you discover that there are only two songs: one for regular play, and one for entering the enemy anthill. Like the cloned graphics, the music stays the same across every yard patch, too. I was beyond relieved that I could turn the music off, but even some hours later, I STILL have the headache it gave me. It was just awful!
Other than music, there weren't many sounds in the game. My favorite was the sound of rain drops falling on the ground, which made short little 'pip' noises. Oddly enough, the rain never gets heavy though, so that's about all that is required. The ant made little chattering squeaky noises as it moved about, but those seemed almost random. Also, you can hear a dog barking whether you are above ground or below.
There really was no other noise aside from the lawnmower. The lawnmower sound is JUST as annoying as the music. When I first heard it and could find no explanation in the events, I thought the game's sound was glitching or broken. It sounds like incessant static and lasts FOREVER. The only reason I discovered that the noise belonged to a lawnmower was because I came to the surface and was immediately killed with a message that said I got killed by the horrible machine.
ADDICTIVENESS: 3/ 10
As I mentioned, the game gives a ton of good first impressions. I love simulations and was eager to explore what this one had to offer, so I went through the tutorial and read some of the 'ant information' which is listed in the main menu. I thought it was neat that the gamers wrote in some basic facts for younger children, and I was impressed that there was a strategy area which offered hints on how to play more effectively. Reading through the end, I chuckled when the narrative ended with a warning to kids: Ants are bad pets and will not guard your house from thieves or do chores.... If you bring them into the house, your mom will probably get mad. (paraphrased)
I've also always loved simulation games. However, I could not stomach this game, and I can't EVER imagine forcing myself to play it again. I can see it appealing to very, VERY young children because they're more easily amused, but that's about it.
STORY: 3/ 10
When you're playing an ant simulation game, there's not much you can expect in the terms of plot: you must feed your ants, you must expand your territory, and you must kill the bad guys. Avoid death. That's about it.
I was excited at first when I thought there would be random events. A message popped up which said rain was on its way and that the nest would flood and the ant trails would be washed away. I was desperate to find a way to save myself and my colony! However, rain began to drip... drip.. and drip, and nothing happened. the 'storm' was over in a matter of seconds. Holding my breath and thinking maybe this storm simply passed by, I eagerly awaited any other random events. There are only two others: A human might come through the yard, or someone might mow the lawn. Nothing else ever happens, and all these require is for you to go inside your ant hill to hide out for a few moments.
The ONLY thing that I found even remotely amusing about the story is that your ultimate goal is to drive the humans out of their home. I found this a little humorous but couldn't even make myself get that far in the game.
DEPTH: 6/ 10
My sole reason for this rating is that the map is surprisingly large. I can't remember how many yard maps there were to conquer, but picturing the game map in my head, I'd have to say there are somewhere between 20 and 30 squares to defeat. Since each square takes between 30 minutes and an hour, you're in for some serious gaming if you want to finish the game. I personally don't view the game as worth playing that long, but to each his own. The sheer monotony of this game is sure to kill many, many brain cells.
As for depth in thought however, there really isn't much. The game tells you the best strategy in the 'ant information' section off the main menu, and that strategy pretty much never changes. Hog the food, concentrate on workers, defeat the red ants and THEN start producing breeders. It's a no-brain game for the most part.
DIFFICULTY: 5/ 10
This game isn't so much difficult as it is time consuming and frustrating. I already mentioned the fact that your ant won't find it's way to a pre- determined spot, but ants are extremely slow to do as you ask. I first noticed this in the tutorial when the next step would take absolute ages to appear after I completed an objective. It also took me quite some time to figure out what the little bars at the bottom meant, since they were never explained or labeled Basically, they let you know how sufficient your stock of food is.
The game takes FOREVER to beat is extremely difficult to have patience through. ;)
There were only two aspects of the game play that I could say I liked and made the game a little more bearable. Whenever your ant died, you are re- born and can choose which of the three ant types you want to be: worker, soldier, or breeder. Being a breeder was pretty pointless, but choosing to play as a soldier ant was helpful in completing the goal of killing all red ants.
The other feature of the game which impressed me was the fact that there is an 'auto' option for determining what ants are focusing on and what types of ants are being bred. This means that whatever you need most at the moment, the game will produce. Since I see it a lot in modern simulation games, I found it surprising in a simulation game over two decades old.
Overall, let me keep this short: Don't let your brain cells fry by trying this one out. I can't believe I even found so much to say about it, to be honest. Go play with real ants. They're far more interesting.
Graphics 4 Sound 3 Addictive 3 Depth 6 Story 3 Difficulty 5
Sim Ant Description: SimAnt explores the detail of the lives of ants, as you take full control of an ant colony. Build up your colony to conquer the other colonies in the yard. Foes include spiders and humans - make their lives a misery by invading their homes. A Quick Game option focuses on battles with other groups of ants, and a full Tutorial mode is provided. Biological detail of real ants is provided, to help make the package more educational.
Loose Value: (beta)
Complete Value: (beta)
New Value: (beta)