Monday, July 12, 2010

Game Review: Backyard Buzzing

A bit over a year ago, I reviewed (well, the title says profiled) a game called Swarm Assault. I noted there that it's pretty fun as games where you're trying to control bugs go (with all the difficulties of controlling bugs implied in that statement inherent in the game).

Backyard Buzzing is a superficially similar game where you have colonies and insects, and wage war with other insects.

There is an extensive ranking of which insect types are the strongest.

Don't worry about it-it's irrelevant.


Because the strongest strategy is ant spam. (Ant spam, ant spam, ant spam! ANT SPAM! *cough* Now imagine that to the tune of the old Batman theme song.)

Not just ant spam, but ant *tower* spam.

See, Backyard Buzzing has elements of being an RTS, but it's really a poorly designed tower defense game.

Poorly designed because there's no good balance, or cost vs. reward system for "teching up" to the stronger insect types. Or rather, there's no good reward. Sure, each new variety is a bit tougher than the last, with stronger attacks (oh, yeah, they all shoot instead of attack with insect attacks, but it's not as varied or interesting as Swarm Assault) and a bit more health, but it's not really worth the investment. Why?

Well, first, in order to reach the more advanced unit types, you need to shell out rather a lot for their colonies. If you review the list above, the "louse dome" costs five times what the ant one does, for something like twice the health. The "small beetles" themselves cost five times what the individual ants do... for a tiny bonus of perhaps 20% more health and damage. They have no other advantages at all. So you use ants, or you use far fewer guys.

It isn't any better for even the lowest possible upgrade, the Spider Dome, which actually costs 350, not 250, because you have to have an Ant Dome first and upgrade it into the Spider Dome. And the spiders have at most a 10% damage/toughness advantage over the ants, while costing almost three times as much.

Oh, yeah, and guess why turrets are better than mobile guys?

Because they cost maybe 40% more than the regular guys, but are something like three times as tough, with at least three times the firing rate. A cheap ant tower will kill on the order of five times its cost in lice/small beetles, while five cheap ant towers will kill many dozens of times their cost in anything. (This is particularly important because you make money by killing things.)

There are other odd bits, like a persistent recurring bug that keeps you from advancing and the fact that your units and structures can't be repaired, or the truly evil fact that you can sell a badly damaged unit/structure and then buy a fresh one, but the balance is atrocious enough already without going into it.

And oh, yeah, the bugs are morons that have a hard time finding their way out of paper bags.

I'd suggest that you can have fun with it two or three times, but more than that and it gets grating. Just remember, if you have trouble, ant spamming never fails.

-Signing off.

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