It’s been a pretty grotty month all round for us here on AP. What with the news of the impending price rise imposed by our autocratic faceless bureaucratic owners, and having to do a CD as well as the coverdisks, and Steve having to revive that old lady on Walcot Street by performing an impromptu alfresco tracheotomy with a Bic&tm; biro sleeve, and the best game in the issue only running on an A4000, and JD being sued for tampering with the bone-marrow DNA of ex-astronaut and test pilot Chuck Yeager… Well, it’s been a hectic and sweaty and quite frankly unpleasant month.
And now Ants. Okay, so it might not be in the same league as Sue trying to send wedding anniversary flowers to her parents in Portugal and inadvertently phoning Inter-Hit, the Cosa Nostra’s 0891 direct debit murder hotline, but having to review Ants is a drag and a chore nonetheless. Even though it’s now no longer got the ‘z’ at the end of the name, I still hate it.
In a feeble attempt at humour, the ants say ‘funny’ phrases in little squeaky voices. Now, I can accept that some people might find this amusing the first time, but the repertoire is extremely small, and after less than ten minutes, IT GETS BLOODY ANNOYING. This is the first thing I hate about Ants.
You are the Antmaster, the game informs you, having power over ánt-like creatures’ or pixels to you and me. (I like being the Antmaster. - Ed) You gather them by waving the mouse pointer over them and pressing the right button, and tell them where to go by clicking the left. Unfortunately, due to the random wavering of each ant, there’s a good chance that even with your best intentions, ants will randomly walk into fatal objects. Invariably, it’s this randomness that prevents you from completing a level, and this is the second thing I hate about Ants.
The ants must eat the enemy faces by suicidally charging them, trading an ant for a pixel of the enemy. The only animation at all is a mass of jiggling pixels and the pointer. Even on a monitor, single ants are hard to spot and single enemy dots even harder, so goodness knows what it’ll be like on a TV. The game looks terrible – point three.
You are the Antmaster
You can only have 100 ants at any time. If an ant eats food, it’ll multiply, asexually we assume. Once they start eating and multiplying, you’ve got to frantically stop them before the population hits 100, because after that, all the food’s wasted. The only tactic for the game is therefore to send all but a couple of ants to their deaths, then feed the two up to 100, run them down to two, and so on. The same tactic for every level – I hate this more than Jonathan Nash hates the bickering vampire couple who claimed squatter’s rights in his tumble-dryer two weeks ago.
The ants have eaten all the food. You have 14 ants with which to eat 25 baddies. You can’t do it, yet the game won’t recognise this. You can’t win but you can’t escape, so you have to round up all your ants and kill them. Another good reason to hate Ants.
It’s an interesting coverdisk idea, an amusing PD game or a mildly clever school project. It’s certainly not a professional, mid-price-range, complete game, and I hate it even more than the ginger tom which mauled my pet ringtailed lemur last Thursday, forcing it to live out the rest of its tiny life in a mahogany sick-bed I’d carefully constructed for this eventuality. Playing Ants made me want to die.