Indie Quickie: MilitAnt

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What is it and who made it? Play as a lone ant commando fighting for its colony in a civil war of the insect kingdom in this run-and-gun shooter/platformer by Xibalba Studios.

What platforms is it on and how much does it cost? Windows PC (via Steam or Humble Store) and PlayStation 4 (via PlayStation Store) for $9.99. The PS4 version also offers a limited time 20% discount just for PlayStation Plus subscribers. Currently there is no such launch week discount for the Steam release.

How much did we play? Playing on Steam, I completed the first four stages in two hours. (Based on the achievements it looks like there are eight stages in all.)

Any technical concerns, hardware requirements, or other details you should know about? A gamepad isn’t required, but it’s pretty clear once you start playing that a controller is the optimal input of choice. Save for the enemies that you blast to pieces, the game thus far seems to be clear of bug infestation. However, I have encountered some weird spawning imbalances on occasion where I’ll be running forward and have enemies suddenly spawn right on top of me, either causing the ant to be unfairly sandwiched between enemies or in some instances get caught standing directly on an enemy’s head. It’s not really a glitch, but rather it seems to be more an issue with the spacing and timing of spawn waypoint triggers.

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Why should you play it?

    • Four Arms are Better Than Two: MilitAnt‘s main distinguishing characteristic is its quad-wielding weapon swapping mechanic. Real ants have six legs, which for the purposes of an upright video game character translates to two legs for walking, and four arms for brandishing firearms. A loadout of four guns can be set from the armory between stages, each hand capable of holding a different weapon. (For example, my go-to loadout so far has been machine gun, shotgun, crossbow, and heat-seeking missile launcher.) Only two guns can be fired at a giving time, the left and right triggers mapped to the respective limbs. The secondary loadout can be pulled out on the fly at the push of a button, or the left and right bumpers can be tapped to cycle individual limbs. But this is not a game of mindless running and gunning, in which you’re able to hold down the triggers and spam the screen with bullets. Guns overheat as they are fired in rapid succession, each one synched to its own cool down bar. This forces you to choose your shots carefully and constantly switch between guns to suit the situation and prevent having to wait for overheated weapons to become shoot ready again. For times when you do get a little too trigger happy, though, knife melee attacks are deadly at close range and can even be used to deflect bullets back at the enemies that fired them.

    • Squashed Like a Bug: I hope you like games that are old school tough, because you can fully expect to be squished like a puny ant many times over as you wage war against termites, scorpions, wasps, and beetles for control over the precious resource called Crystalite. Enemy insects spawn in from all directions–above, below, to the sides, and even on multiple planes of the foreground and background–pelting you with projectiles in near bullet hell fashion. The bosses and mini-bosses can be especially nasty, whether you’re confronted with a gigantic Hercules beetle, a dive-bombing yellow jacket, or twin praying mantises that teleport around the screen and attack simultaneously from multiple angles. Most of the time the difficulty is fair, but the occasionally imprecise lock-on targeting and jumping response does cause a cheap death every now and again. The targeting is the trickiest element to master–flicking the right stick to select an enemy with a red laser sight and constantly adjusting aim to deal with targets on all fronts is a taxing challenge on the reflexes. Thankfully checkpoints are evenly spaced throughout the levels so dying and retrying doesn’t lead to having to replay extended sections of lost progress. Two modes of play–Ranked and Unranked–also cater to different levels of accessibility, with Unranked play offering unlimited lives while Ranked play limits the life pool to nine tries per level and ties in with global online leaderboards for high score tracking. Crystalite gems, the currency for unlocking new weapons, are hidden as collectibles throughout the levels. Skilled players are rewarded with score bonuses for pulling off kill combos (successive kills without taking damage or letting the combo timer run out, up to a 10x multiplier) as well as bonus gems for beating levels within a speedrun time limit, killing 100% of the enemies, or completing a perfect run with no lives lost. Getting better at the game means going back to previous levels to try for the bonus challenges, which should add some replay value for completionists.

    • An Antz Life: Playing through the game, I couldn’t help but find myself thinking back to the fall of 1998, a time when DreamWorks and Pixar got into a bit of a feud over their competing insect-based animated films Antz and A Bug’s Life. I don’t know if Xibalba took any direct influence from those movies, but it seems like this game’s visual style and themes are too reminiscent to be mere coincidence. I especially love how well the background environments put the insect warfare into proper scale.

Parting Thoughts: MilitAnt is loads of bug blasting fun, but it is no walk in the park. Between the unique quad-wielding weapon loadout system and the twitchy lock-on targeting, there is a lot of nuance to the controls that is tricky to use effectively, let alone master. The steady bombardment of enemies spawning out of thin air and attacking from multiple planes and vantage points is quite a challenge, perhaps overwhelmingly so for some players. Still, anyone with a fondness for classic run-and-gun side-scroll action games is sure to bug out over MilitAnt‘s successful marriage of traditional game design values and just the right notes of modernity. Free demos are available on both platforms, so there’s no excuse not to at least give it a try.

What is Indie Quickie? It takes a lot longer to fully review a game than it does to get a good sense of what a game is. Even with a full-time staff of writers it would be impossible to fully review the thousands of games that are released every year. Indie Quickie is our way to offer snap impressions of the countless indie titles small teams and one-man game studios are releasing literally every single day, and to help guide players to worthwhile games they may not have heard about before.

Disclosure: A Steam code for MilitAnt was provided to VGBlogger.com by the game’s developer.

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!