Here's a question for you. Which species on this planet is stupid enough to wage war on its own kind, use chemical weapons, live in a fascist social hierarchy, use children as labourers and capture enemies to use as slaves?
Well, OK, it's a trick question. There's actually two species who do all of those things. One of them's us. The others are ants. What a lot of silly billies, eh? Mind you, even the ants don't have Simon Bates. Only we could be that stupid.
So, ants aren't quite the harmless little chappies you thought they were. And this game could show you exactly why. In it you'll take the role of a whole nestful of ants, and you'll have to waddle about being generally ant-like.
If you play a quick game then the objective is just to build up a nice big nest and kick seven bells out of the poncey red ants. In a full game you've got to take over a back garden, move into the house, drive the people out and take over the entire world. Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!
Or, if you fancy a bit of Open University-
Sounds a bit deep, doesn't it? Well, it is written by the same rock 'n' roll rebels who gave us Sim City and Sim Earth. Options and choices all over the place basically.
Whichever game type you're playing, the basic controls are the same. You're initially controlling one ant, who appears in yellow rather than the drab Goth black outfits of his pals.
You use this ant to carry out more direct actions, such as exploring and digging tunnels. But by using the menus, you can set all the ants not under your direct control to do other stuff like fetching food or looking after eggs.
If you click on your yellow friend, you get a sub-menu that allows you to recruit other ants who will then follow you around - handy for attacking red ants' nests - or switch direct control to another ant.
Your priorities are to keep your nest stocked with food, with plenty of room for all the other ants, and to keep the Queen ant alive, 'cos without her there won't be any more baby ants.
You can also leave pheromone scent trails for other ants to follow, so you can lead them home, lead them to food or tell them which bits of your territory to guard.
However, ants being what they are, things don't go easy. Despite your best efforts, attacks from predators are bound to occur. Great big spiders scuttle about and eat all the poor little ants.
Horrible lion ants hide in fake nest entrances and eat all the poor little ants. Plus, you get stupid people lawnmowering you to death, or spraying you with chemical insecticide. What a cheery life, eh?
Given a bit of luck and a lot of planning, you should eventually be able to get all your soldier ants to follow you into a do-or-
Charge into the enemy nest, find the red Queen and kill her and you've beaten the gits. If you're playing a quick game then that's it - if you're playing the full game, then you move on to a new patch of garden. And you keep doing this until you've achieved total suburban ant bliss.
Well, that's the bare bones of the game. But just how exciting can a game about ants be? Unfortunately, the answer is 'not very'. It's an incredibly brave and original idea, but I found it very hard to actually get involved in it.
It's great fun to wander about the game for an hour or so, discovering all the little quirks of ant life (hey! It's educational, kids!) but as an actual game it gets fairly repetitive. Dig nest, get food, reproduce, raise army, attack red ants. And so on.
The graphics are great, with all the different types of ant looking suitably, erm, different and the predators look really nasty, especially the gargantuan spider.
Even the sound is good, despite the fact that ants aren't known for their musical tastes. So you get bouncy tunes, including a fanfare if you take on the role of Queen, with some functional FX.
There's also a brilliant 'silly' mode, where all the ants, eggs, and predators keep talking in speech bubbles. So the spider walks around telling everyone how cool he is, while the eggs wonder why it's so dark. And in battles, all the ants call each other names. It's totally pointless, and of course, totally excellent.
This "silly" approach is mirrored in the stonking manual, which covers not only how to play the game, but also gives you a fairly detailed run down on ants in general, illustrated by cartoons and text book diagrams with silly speech bubbles.
This makes the 176-page tome a lot easier to consume, and gives the game a more approachable feel. And if after reading the manual you still feel stuck, then there's a step-by-
It's just a pity that the actual game is so uninspiring. Hardcore insect fans, or slightly eccentric strategy fans, will probably take it to their hearts, but I couldn't help feeling slightly disappointed.
At £35, rather than being bowled over by the ins and outs of insect life, I found that ants eat, have babies, have fights and then die. Just like us. Maybe that's the whole problem. A nice idea, but it just doesn't quite make it.