PAX07: Hands on the many legs of Insecticide DS

A bug-filled game that might actually be worth playing

PAX07: Hands on the many legs of Insecticide DS
| Insecticide

You may want to rethink crushing those insignificant little ants under the sole of your shoes or swiping away a roving spider with the back of your hand.

One day, they could do the same to you.

At least, that's the premise behind Insecticide, a game depicting a world in which the vast majority of people have died from toxic pollen released into the atmosphere. With humanity essentially bumped from the top of nature's totem pole, insects have evolved into a sentient race capable of building its own societies.

It's into this bizarre world that you step as detective Chrys Liszt, a four-legged insect-human hybrid attempting to solve a mysterious murder at the Nectarola soft drink headquarters. Through the course of her investigation, you're joined by partner Roachy Caruthers, a rather dumpy cockroach who provides more comic relief than investigative aid.

Chrys' investigation translates into a mix of action- and traditional adventure-based gameplay. Insecticide switches between full on sequences in which you fight enemies and chase down suspects, and a detective mode that has you interrogating characters and uncovering evidence.

We started off our hands-on controlling Chrys in an action sequence, slaughtering bugs with an arsenal of unique weapons. First up was the pollenator, a pistol capable of drawing toxic pollen from the air and shooting it out as high-speed projectiles. Another gun, the nectar blaster, used globules of nectar as its way of damaging enemies.

Our favourite gun, though, was the amberizer – a firearm that launches sticky sap to freeze opponents like a piece of amber. Once a baddie had been amberized, we were able to rush up and shatter them for a kill. When in close range of an enemy, Chrys switches to melee attacks, such as the four-legged roundhouse kick we used to smash up our amberized foes.

Switching between available weapons was carried out via the touchscreen, with a quick tap on a weapon's icon with the stylus equipping the firearm. Alternately, you can hit the Y button to cycle through your arsenal. Firing is done with the L button. Unfortunately, it was a little cumbersome since the control of the camera requires you to hold the stylus at all times.

After getting our fill of shooting, we had a chance to check out the detective mode. The game, which is being developed by Crackpot Entertainment – a team with solid experience of making adventure games given its time spent as employees of LucasArts – modernises the traditional point-and-click adventure mechanics by making good use of the touchscreen. We interrogated a few individuals by simply tapping dialogue choices with the stylus. Additionally, we were able to find clues using the stylus to examine objects within the crime scene.

Talking to the developer, it told us the game will regularly switch between action and detective sections as the story develops. And while Insecticide doesn't necessarily offer anything novel in terms of either the action or adventure genres, it does show off a consistent level of creativity in its unique weapon designs and artsy presentation. We certainly hope the noir-influenced plot and characters will bring something new to a DS market that's increasingly being dominated by casual experiences and realism-based action and strategy games.

Expect to hear more about Insecticide as the game nears its autumn 2008 release date.