Combat of Giants: Mutant Insects Review

By Nelson on March 24, 2011

Combat of Giants a series of games developed by Ubisoft, which sees huge titans duking it out. The first title featured Dinosaurs, the second was then about Dragons and now it's the turn of Insects or rather Mutant Insects. So far, all of the titles have appeared on the Nintendo DS and they have generally been aimed at the younger generation. There is also an adaption of the game presented in form of card collecting/battling, which helps to increase the appeal of the title.

The game actually features four types of mutated insect: spiders, scorpions, praying mantises and flying ants. However, the biologists amongst us will have probably noticed that two of those are actually arachnids, not insects. It's a pretty fundamental error, but perhaps the developers wanted to steer clear from making a killer woodlouse and decided that spiders and scorpions were much more stereotypical with regards to the perception of the general populous. In order for the insects to become mutated, there has to have been some kind of crazed experiment or a catastrophic natural disaster and Combat of Giants doesn't disappoint. An asteroid has apparently hit a planet and laid waste to the world. Only insects survived and they were able to evolve into huge atrocities.

Players are encouraged to choose an insect from the get go, with three initially available. Players can change their mind whenever they like and switch to a different insect whenever they choose, but for all intensive purposes all the insects are identical aside from appearance. Each insect can be developed in precisely the same way by upgrading four different body parts. Players can also change the colour of their insect from a rather large palette, as well as choose from six powers, which are triggered during special attacks. All of these mutations can be purchased through gems, which can be obtained during the various missions. There is a limited amount to be obtained though, so some optimal idea of what a player wants, needs to be thought out in advance.

Combat of Giants: Mutant Insects

As is becoming the norm with DS titles, the game makes use entirely of the touchscreen, and never uses any of the face buttons. Walking/Running is done by touching the screen in the direction the player wants their insect to move, while tapping the screen next to a switch or destructible object allows the insect to slash it with their claws/pincers/legs etc. Dragging across the insect in a direction allows them to throw a projectile of some description across the map, but this is only used to activate switches out of range. The final control is to draw a continuous circle on a patch of ground that can be burrowed into to enter a new area. It's a fairly simple control scheme, and most of the time it works just fine. However, at times it can be quite awkward to position or move with precision.

Combat controls are much the same and quite frankly, they can be a bit annoying at times. Essentially, each combatant has a health bar which depletes when hit. To actually finish an opponent though, a special move must be performed and these are triggered by a second set of bars on the upper screen. This is where things start to deviant from the generic though, as each combatant has three indicators that light up depending on how many hits they have taken. When the player or enemy gains a two hit or three hit advantage they then open themselves up for a special attack. Normal attacks are made by dragging the stylus along a body part on the insect in a forward motion toward the opponent. Left and right drags cause the insect the dodge in the respective direction and dragging back causes the insect to block. Ironically not blocking and not dodging actually works to the player's advantage as by simply spamming a single attack constantly they will get multiple hits in quickly and effectively. It actually defeats the point of dodging and blocking, showing that the combat doesn't really have much depth. If a player manages to get two hits a row, they can draw a spiral on the floor of the enemy and then do a special attack. This is where things get bewildering, as players must join together dots on the screen using the stylus to maximise their damage, the amount of points to connect changes as players upgrade their insects parts, however, the location of the points stays identical. The resulting damage is fairly large and can often mean that a fight ends before its even properly begun. Defending against this attack is slightly different, as players must use the stylus to erase the lines instead.

Combat of Giants: Mutant Insects Mantis Scorpion

The battle system makes the game extremely repetitive and the same tactics work for every single opponent in the game. Couple this with the fact that even though there are four distinct zones in the game, the objectives and interactive parts of each zone are identical with only the layouts being changed. None of the layouts actually involve any real thought and mostly involve running from A to B hitting a switch and repeating 5 or 6 times to complete a level. Later on this is slightly changed by adding rather annoying hazards in the form of intoxicating mushrooms and timed switches, but even these changes don't really distract from the sense that it all feels extremely familiar.

Despite flaws with the battle system and monotonous worlds, the game actually looks pretty decent. The insects are represented well and the environments, while stale, do at least fit the locales. However, it's the sound, or rather lack of it, that lets it down. Each location, and the various noises that are heard, are almost indistinguishable and there is next to no music in the game. It's actually quite disappointing, as outside of battles, the only time music is ever really heard is usually in the form of an alert. The battle music is also uninspired which is a real shame.

It's also a shame that there weren't more insects featured in the game, especially since they basically all behave in the same way. This is quite an impressive feat considering the flying ant is actually a flying type, and it would have been nice if they not only had their own unique feel, but if there were more types featured in the game. There also isn't really much incentive to play through the campaign more than once, as it's essentially the same each time. One thing the game does have though, are unlockables, which can be obtained by fighting in special encounters during the game. These are against formidable foes such as a giant fly swatter, or a dragon. There is also local multiplayer, for up to four people, but the poor combat doesn't really improve the experience, even when playing against humans.

Final Thoughts

Unfortunately, it's very difficult to see the real draws of Combat of Giants: Mutant Insects, as the game slips into a monotonous scenario far too quickly. The combat is very shallow, and despite there being four different insects, they basically all feel the same. The only saving grace for the game is it does something a bit different, but even that is now becoming stale since it's already been done before with Dinosaurs and Dragons. The game does come with a starter pack of cards relating to the series, some of which have unlock codes for stuff in the game. Ironically it's sad to say that the combat in the card game might just have more depth than the combat in the game itself.

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