How Metroidvania is it? Perfect Fit. The world is open, full of secrets, and there are plenty of ability upgrades to help you find all of them - with many of them being optional
Primary Challenge: Exploration Focus
Time to beat: ~5 hours
Review Info: The Steam review code for Insect Adventure was provided by the developer
Buy Insect Adventure if you like…
- Open Exploration
- Fast Action Combat
- Powering Up
- Optional Collectables
▼ Review continues below ▼
Insect Adventure is a bit of a jankfest, but it has its strengths that might make up for that. The action happens way to fast to allow for any kind of strategy that isn’t “beat the enemy’s face in”, and the game’s physics had me clipping through walls several times throughout my playthrough. In some ways though the lack of polish is part of Insect Adventure’s charm. It has a childish playfulness to it, and while the gameplay might not be terribly complex, it also doesn’t feel like it’s padded or like its trying to waste your time. Most importantly it nails that “Metroid-like” exploration that so many “metroidvania” games fail to capture even if they ostensibly check all the other boxes that put them in the genre. The exploration is unpolished like everything else, but it’s also where the polish matters the least. Insect Adventure might be too fast to parse at times, but that may be exactly why it can feel so exhilarating to play.
Like many other games, Insect Adventure starts with a dude and his girlfriend out on a hike when suddenly the girl gets kidnapped and the guy has to do something about it. In this case you play as a cockroach named Bugsy, and the kidnapper is a big lizard rattling on about sacrificing your friend “Mayo” to his gods. The simplicity of this story is something that I think veteran players have come to expect, but it doesn’t stay on this plot for very long. You rescue Mayo fairly early on and from there things escalate dramatically some unexpected ways. That “childish playfulness” I mentioned previously still applies to every aspect of the story, but it’s the kind of story you would hear from a very creative child. You probably couldn’t guess what’s going to happen next, and even if you shouldn’t take any of it too seriously, the surprises can still be tremendously entertaining. The story ultimately still all boils down to “some bad guys need some beating”, and while looking for Mayo, you’ll find a giant hammer to do exactly that.
Nothing feels deliberate about any of the game’s attack animations. You push the button and Bugsy’s hammer is on the screen for a single digit number of frames. There isn’t any major risk for most of the attacks you do, that is, there is no end lag to account for or animation locks to prevent you from moving out of the way of enemy attacks. Likewise the enemy’s attacks are incredibly fast, and unless you just know from trial and error where the attacks are going to target, if it isn’t a projectile you’re just going to be hit. You do have a dodge move, but something like that is really only relevant if the telegraphing is there. To be fair though for most bosses the main attack is their bullets, and bullets are easy enough to predict and track. For most of combat though you’ll just be figuring out what parts of your enemies take damage, and then just whacking away at that weakpoint until the thing dies, worrying little about your own well being. Most of the smaller enemies get stunlocked by your hammer anyway, so bosses are really the only part where you have to change this approach. Even with the bosses though the game is forgiving enough that strategy is merely an option assuming you’re playing on the normal difficulty and you’re doing enough exploration. You can carry healing items with you, and about halfway through the game, you have nothing to do with your money except buy more healing items. Thus at the final boss I effectively had 9 health bars to get through the boss’ one.
The combat may have come off as pretty easy to me, but if I was just rushing through the game, it would have been a lot harder. This is because Insect Adventure handsomely rewards you for exploring everywhere. The staple upgrades are both health increases and damage increases, and of course those are the two key elements for a face-tanking strategy. Collect them all and you’ll barely need healing items to mow down a boss’ hit points like they were blades of grass begging for mercy. It gets even better though because aside from those two upgrades there are also abilities you can equip with ability points that make you even stronger. Even beyond that Insect Adventure includes an optional “golden bee” hunt which are reminiscent of the Skulltulas in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. There are 100 bees to collect in total, and In increments of 10 these bees award you with some of Insect Adventure’s most game breaking rewards. I won’t spoil what the specific rewards are, but let’s just say they were key to letting me just smash face in combat. Most of the equippable abilities don’t directly affect combat, but they do make exploring easier, and exploration rewards are what make you more powerful – thus exploration is the key feature that Insect Adventure has to offer.
Insect Adventure includes a plethora of movement upgrades with many of them either obsoleting previous upgrades or working in tandem to sort of break the entire game world. The more movement upgrades you get, the more free the exploration feels, and even just finding golden bees can be extremely addictive. Those golden bees are invisible until you get close to them, so you’re rewarded for checking every nook and cranny and those rewards come often. Like Super Metroid or Rabi-Ribi, Insect Adventure also includes a couple of “Secret Techniques” that even let you subvert the need for some upgrades to access new areas. This makes sequence breaking totally possible, and indeed, there are two achievements on Steam for doing just that. I actually beat the game while missing two movement upgrades, and with one of them I kept expecting it to just drop on me during the critical path, but that never happened. I only knew I was missing this upgrade based on some breakable blocks I hadn’t yet been able to smash, and because a lot of Bugsy’s upgrades are basically taken straight from Super Metroid. I think it’s great that some powers can be completely skipped, and that kind of design would assuredly increase replay value even if you stuck to the same difficulty mode every time. Breaking down Insect Adventure’s world and coming up with new ways to traverse it is the best part of the game.
Insect Adventure only loosely follows the “critical path” concept anyway, since most of the game I wandered off “just to explore” only to find a movement upgrade I would have eventually needed anyway if I just kept going the way the game was leading me. This kind of level design can be a bit of a double edged sword though, because there were some points in the game where I was a bit frustrated just wondering where it was I could go. The root cause for this frustration is poor conveyance. There are some rooms in the game that can’t be passed unless you kill all the enemies in the room. This is fine for smaller rooms where you’re locked into the makeshift arena, but for larger rooms it’d have been nice if the wall for which the enemies were bearing the load was marked in some way so I knew that was what I was supposed to be doing. The progression point that caught me the hardest was I had pressed a button that opened a door in the opposite side of the room, but thanks to the camera I didn’t see that particular pathway open, and since the room already had two exits anyway, I didn’t have as much reason to be suspicious there might be more to it. A little chime or better camera work might have prevented a good half-hour of extra unnecessary wandering – although I did find some extra goodies during that wandering.
Adding to the joy of exploring Insect Adventure’s world is its general sense of style. The music is always upbeat and will keep you pumped even if the combat isn’t otherwise all that engaging. In fact the music saves the experience in some ways, especially when I had to repeat sections of the game just because I got stuck in a wall and had to reset. You eventually get the ability to just teleport out to the last save point you sat on, but that is a band-aid fix to something that makes the game just feel a bit inconsistent at times. I never felt so frustrated that I didn’t want to keep coming back though, even if it was just taste the candy-flavored exploration some more. In regards to the game’s mindless combat, there are multiple difficulties to choose from, but I feel like tuning up the enemy’s damage values or HP would just make things unnecessarily frustrating rather than make it an interesting challenge. Maybe on multiple playthoughs it might be worth trying out what it’d be like if you couldn’t just bore into your enemies like a pneumatic drill, but what Insect Adventure does best is Metroidvania exploration and combat is merely tertiary to that focus.
Lack of polish in general keeps Insect Adventure from achieving greatness, but what’s here is absolute goodness. Running up walls and buzzing down corridors never ceases to entertain, and the frequency of rewards will keep you hooked if you’re susceptible to the impulses of Metroidvania exploration. The combat can be mindless, but part of that is because the exploration is so rewarding. There are points in the level design where what you’re supposed to do could be better conveyed, but there are also points where you sort of write your own rules and as a result you can skip chunks of the game entirely – if you want. Lack of polish might put Insect Adventure below some of its competitors, but what it offers in terms of free-form exploration is also rare enough that it shouldn’t be ignored.
It's a bit mindless but inoffensive. The action keeps the flow moving so it never feels tedious - at least on normal difficulty
Some of the jank physics make any of the platforming challenges that Insect Adventure does have more about trial and error rather than a challenge
The game's main draw, it's fun to keep powering up by finding things, and observation skills are always rewarded - albeit sometimes things are hidden in obtuse ways
No real puzzles in this game
There's a surprising amount of depth to the story for what starts out as a simple damsel in distress game. It doesn't hit any profound payoffs, but there's some substance to enjoy here
The animations can be a bit jank and there are some conveyance issues with what you have to do to progress through some rooms
The soundtrack is great and really helps to set a playful mood for this game
There are multiple difficulty modes to enjoy and a lot of intentional ways the game can be sequence broken, as well as a few unintentional ways.
Want a second opinion? See what other reviews say: