Review: MilitAnt (PS4)

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Title: MilitAnt
Format: PlayStation Network Download (5.99 GB)
Release Date: July 12, 2016
Publisher: Xibalba Studios
Developer: Xibalba Studios
Original MSRP: $9.99
ESRB Rating: E10+
MilitAnt is also available on PC. PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita versions release date TBD.
The PlayStation 4 download version was used for this review.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Gameplay:
MilitAnt follows the story of an all out bug war between various species of insects as they battle it out for a rare resource. Gone are the truces that kept the insect world peaceful and now the ants are being attacked by termites, wasps and beetles.

Players take control of a nameless soldier ant as he tries his best to defend the colony. At the start he is equipped with four “pea” shooters which each have a cool down timer that needs to be monitored and switched on the fly.

You can shoot two weapons at a time using L2 and R2 and can switch those guns out using L1 and R1. In addition to holding four guns at a time the ant also carries two knives that come in very handy with the smaller enemies that need to be taken out in quick fashion.

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I absolutely loved the design choice of using all six legs of the ant to carry weapons and I thought it was a clever idea from a logical and gameplay standpoint.

After each level you’ll gain points that can be spent on new weapons like a shotgun, electric gun, or crossbow to name a few. Since you can carry four different guns at a time you can customize their loadout with a nice variety of weapons.

… The ability to carry four different weapons …
One thing I found curious was that the game does not allow doubling up on the purchasable weapons, meaning the ant can only carry one shotgun as opposed to two, three, or four. I really wanted to just get rid of the the four pea shooters and replace them with four machine guns, but I was not allowed to do that.

Having four different weapons does have advantages though because I sometimes found myself in a level facing an enemy type where I wished I had a specific weapon. The ability to carry four different weapons came in handy.

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The game is a 2.5D side-scrolling shooter and some of the shooting mechanics can be a little unreliable. In terms of shooting from left to right it’s fine, but the game also features enemies that are in the background which can cause some issues with the aiming mechanic.

Auto-aiming is available by flicking the right stick to lock onto enemies and here is where the mechanic becomes unreliable. I would often be stuck trying multiple times to get the auto-aim to lock onto the correct target, forcing me to cycle through multiple targets till the correct one was picked.

This would waste valuable time and health, plus the lock-on would break randomly throughout the level or whenever my character jumped which meant I had to flick the right stick again to find my target.

… some occasionally unresponsive controls …
Other issues include enemy bugs spawning under my character frequently and getting stuck on those enemies when we were too close to each other. That last combat issue was especially annoying because I would go in for a melee kill only for my character to get stuck to an enemy. They were then able to attack away and I had to take a few hits before I could jump back and try again.

The platforming was also a mixed bag and had its highs and lows. As for the highs, the game does a nice job providing diverse areas to platform though and while it sometimes felt like trial and error I commend it for switching things up.

As for the low, it comes from some occasionally unresponsive controls. Your soldier ant has a double jump, dash, and wall jump at his disposal and all three abilities are used frequently in each level and they can be somewhat problematic.

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There were many times where I felt that the double jump did not respond to my button presses or the wall jump failed to work properly. A consistent flow of enemies shooting at me while platforming meant that I often was frustrated.

Each level does end with a boss fight which oftens feels more like an endurance battle than a skill battle. The bosses all tend to be bullet sponges that involved relying on the targeting mechanic and the jumping mechanics which, as stated before, can be unreliable.

I am conflicted with MilitAnt because I wanted to like it. It has some cool ideas that are thwarted by various issues that stunt the game’s ability to be consistently fun.

… all cleverly designed …
Visuals:
If there is one standout feature it’s the visual design. From the levels to the bosses, the developers made an interesting world. The backgrounds in some levels show a epic war taking place between the various insects species.

There are levels that feel large in scale with the background showing bigger battles raging and levels that feel a little claustrophobic, like one against the termites which relies on finding light sources to survive.

As for the characters and bosses, they are all cleverly designed and made to look like soldiers or weapons in unique ways. I looked forward in each level to see what the species of bug I would face and how they will be built. This is extended to the boss characters as their designs were interesting, though once I actually had to fight a boss I appreciated them a little less.

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Audio:
I wish the story did more because there is not enough time spent on it. It starts with a nice set up video with narration akin to a war documentary. This narrator returns after each level, but only briefly. The main character does not speak so the story is all on the narrator’s shoulders and more would have been welcomed.

The soundtrack is pretty standard fare and doesn’t stand out much in my mind. The music falls under the typical orchestral style music associated with war themed games and it fits well without overshadowing the action.

Online/Multiplayer:
This is single player only with online leaderboards that ranks the score players accumulate through each level.

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Conclusion:
MilitAnt features some cool ideas that tend to get muffled by some questionable design choices and technical issues. The ideas behind the weapons are cool, but the targeting system feels sloppy. The platforming goes to interesting areas, but it’s unreliable to say the least and it borders on frustrating.

I wish there was more done with the story because outside of some trailers and the opening cinematic, the actual game does very little with its interesting premise. You play as a nameless and devoid of personality protagonist that is supposed to be part of grander war. There’s almost no character development, preventing me from caring.

The game is filled with positives and negatives and after playing for several hours I feel the positives and negatives combine to just make a rather mediocre game.

Score:
5.0

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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