Turn-based strategy games haven’t made a very strong showing on the 360, and Band of Bugs is there to fill that gap in the library. There are no levels, no stat points, no party selection, and no random encounters. Everything is scripted, and by God you’ll play that level with three bugs whether you like it or not.
Each of the game’s 20 storyline missions is scripted in this manner, and most begin and end with a few lines of dialog to explain what’s going on, what’s significant, and – if applicable – what that new unit type does and why it’s useful. This is a wonderful change from the standard TBS that inundates the player with options and move sets and mission selection. In Band of Bugs, it’s genuinely possible to start up the game, play a mission, and be done in ten minutes. Final Fantasy Tactics it’s not, and that’s okay because it isn’t trying to be.
Fans of the TBS genre will enjoy Band of Bugs. It’s got varied units, interesting missions with a difficulty that ramps up appropriately, and online multiplayer. Most tactics games are a single-player affair because they’re built to stack the odds against you and force you to come up with a crafty plan and take out six skeletons and six bombs with Ramza, two squires, and a chemist. Band of Bugs, however, by taking character progression out of the player’s control manages to create a challenging single-player campaign and competent multiplayer at the same time. There’s no attachment to your favorite squad here because you didn’t have to invest any time getting them just right. The game did it for you, and the multiplayer does it for you, too. It doesn’t seem like a good fit to take control away from the player in a tactics game, but it works beautifully. And honestly, it’s nice to know that the current mission is winnable with the squad I’ve got. There’s no way I equipped my archer wrong because I wasn’t the one that outfitted him. People that do this for a living figured out the balance between character abilities and player fun.
Band of Bugs certainly isn’t going to unseat Disgaea, Final Fantasy Tactics, or Front Mission 3 from their places at the top of the tactics genre, but it’s got a lot going for it. It’s fun, it’s fast, it’s entertaining, and defeating giant warrior bugs by pushing them off the edge of the world is always good for a laugh. Ninja Bee knows how to make a good casual game, and Band of Bugs is no exception. They’ve managed to marry the strategic thinking of the tactics game type with the quick shot of entertainment of the arcade game. If you enjoy tactics games and have an extra 800 MS points, then Band of Bugs won’t disappoint.