Pangea Software seems to be in the process of porting its entire library of Mac games to the iPhone. Some of these titles, like Enigmo, fit the new platform’s touch and tilt controls very naturally; for others, like Bugdom 2, the transition is more than a little awkward. This game has what it takes to become the iPhone’s breakthrough 3D platformer, but it’s going to take more work on Pangea’s part to get it there.
Bugdom 2’s grasshopper hero, Skip McFly, has been victimized by the insect world’s equivalent of a purse-snatcher. He was bopping along through the front yard when a Bully Bee swept down and jacked him for his bindle. This petty criminal flaunts his prize at the beginning of each of the game’s ten stages and then buzzes away, probably thinking that Skip will never catch him.
He’s underestimating McFly’s mettle; his red cap, half-lidded eyes and dopey smile might make him look like a rube, but is one tough, versatile bug we’re dealing with here. He dashes all over the place, depending on how you tilt the iPhone. He can leap right over most obstacles with a tap of the screen, as well as fly around for a limited time with a double-tap. A swipe upwards delivers a swift soccer kick, useful for busting open power-up acorns or knocking enemies into next week. A swipe downwards picks up a nearby item, or drops whatever’s already being carried. Plus, he can pick up a limited number of ‘Buddy Bees’ that follow him around and act like homing missiles when activated. These are handy for taking out the game’s more powerful baddies.
In other words, Skip’s technically got everything he needs to make his way through Bugdom 2’s rich, miniaturized environments. The presentation is so good that it’s like playing through a hit animated feature, like Toy Story, A Bug’s Life, or Ratatouille. The themed levels all have their own textures and rendered objects to lend them additional personality, such as the ‘Waxola’ crayons lying around the Toy Room level. In addition, the creatures that inhabit each world ooze charm, like the cutesy mice you can rescue from traps for bonus points, and the hoodlum houseflies in leather jackets.
Bugdom 2’s level designs are very solid, too. Although running, jumping and flying is the game’s meat and potatoes, there are also combat missions, fetch quests, and several adrenaline-pumping race levels. Occasionally, you’ll have to balance on top of a rolling object and play a little Monkey Ball-esque minigame.
Ten stages of this stuff makes for a lengthy adventure’”but not a consistently fun one. That’s because Bugdom 2’s much too difficult at the moment. The basic tilt movement controls aren’t unworkable, but they’re certainly unwieldy, particularly when you’re trying to maneuver delicately around an enemy. You’ll often need to slow Skip down to a crawl to put him in the right spot. Meanwhile, the game’s saving scheme is simply cockeyed. There are no mid-level checkpoints at all, and once you run out of lives, that’s it; you’re starting all the way over. These are major design missteps on a mobile platform.
Bugdom 2 is a fantastic game’¦just not on the iPhone, at least not yet. If Pangea puts some additional work into the game’s controls (perhaps adding some kind of lock-on feature) and changes the game’s wrongheaded policy on saving and continues, you will see our ‘caution’ turn to ‘good’ in a hurry. But we suggest you wait until then.