Bug Hunt On Menelaus

by Larry Horsfield profile

Episode 5 of The Intrepid Space Adventures of Mike Erlin
Science Fiction

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Victory!, September 22, 2023
by Mike Russo (Los Angeles)
Related reviews: ParserComp 2023

Folks, I am too excited to bury the lead on this one – after trying and failing with seven or eight of them, I’ve finally won a Larry Horsfield game! True, it took an excessive amount of save-scumming and UNDO abuse, and it’s clear that the difficulty on this one is pitched way more towards beginners than is typical for his work (modulo one punishing design decision that’s thankfully pretty easy to work around). But I am still going to take my victory lap while I can.

Bug Hunt has one of the oldest video game premises there is – you’re a space marine, there are aliens, go shoot them and win. Much like Xenon-Xevious Resurgence*, it’s part of a larger series of games, though the grounded sense of place I noted in that one didn’t come through as strongly for me here; it really does feel like generic military sci-fi. There are a couple twists in the setup, though, viz: a) instead of playing one space marine, you actually swap between members of a squad, each with a slight difference in skillset or role, and b) rather than terrifying acid-blooded xenomorphs, per the cover art you’re hunting down overgrown but still-cute tardigrades.

After a brief bit of context-setting, the game quickly establishes its structure: the team splits up to explore each corner of a besieged colony, and you need to guide them in turn as they find, and hopefully best, an alien. The vignettes are all quite brief – the longest might take fifteen minutes or so – and all involve classic puzzles, but with a little bit of variety; one involves getting an elevator to work so you can explore an abandoned building, another finding an alien who’s hiding among others in a zoo. And again, none are too challenging on their own – sure, I got jumped a couple times, but some judicious UNDOing was usually enough for me to turn the tables on the beasties. The one wrinkle adding to the difficulty is that there’s a tight 80-turn timer, and some of the larger scenarios can easily eat up 50 or 60 of those to fully explore. Good thing the party separates, so the timer resets every time you swap characters!

Except, er, no, it doesn’t. I assume there’s some technical reason in ADRIFT behind this implementation decision – it’s similarly kind of annoying that you can only save and load the game as the initial protagonist – but as a result, the timer just keeps on clicking linearly as you hop from character to character, as though when the commander said “let’s split up!” and left, everyone shuffled around aimlessly waiting until he radioed back to say he’d killed a bug, at which point one more person left and the whole process repeated itself. Given this constraint, the 80 turn limit goes from tight to ludicrous – I’d imagine a reasonably-efficient playthrough that explored the full play area and checked out every bit of scenery, while solving the puzzles expeditiously, would still easily reach 250 turns or so (that abandoned office building is big – I confess I checked the walkthrough to avoid having to check out a dozenish empty, nondescript locations).

Fortunately it wasn’t too hard for me to savescum my way around the issue: every time I wasted an alien, I restored an earlier save, typed in the optimized path, then saved again. As a result the timer did little more than add a pleasant frisson of challenge, making my victory all the sweeter. Horsfield has written better games, I think – as mentioned, while this one is technically solid and has fair, well-clued puzzles, it doesn’t have as much of the immersive detail I’ve enjoyed in other, harder games – but Bug Hunt is still recognizably of a piece with that larger oeuvre, and so I feel quite satisfied in finally taking the W.

* I know, I know, this isn’t actually its name, but without looking, do you remember what the game’s called?

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- Denk, August 17, 2023

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Short and sweet ADRIFT game about hunting bugs, July 10, 2023
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This is a fairly short ADRIFT game in which you command six different soldiers, switching between their viewpoints to find aliens to kill.

Each soldier has their own mini puzzle. Some of these are pretty short, requiring little effort, while others are fairly complex and may need some repeat tries.

I found the writing enjoyable and many of the interactions were clever and well thought-out.

I found a few small bugs. Ducking if nothing is around acts as if something is there; most interactions were bug free, though, and two things I was going to bring up as second examples were actually caused by own error (I kept typing 'pulse rifle' instead of 'laser rifle', for instance), so I guess there really weren't a lot of bugs (except the six you kill haha). I do wish that saving and UNDOing worked even if you had switched your player character though.

The interactions were generally pretty simple, but there is an (optional) hour long timer and a (non optional) 80 turn timer that significantly complicates things. I had to restart several times to figure out a good strategy. But I was invested to do so several times, ask for hints online and switch the version of Adrift I was using because I did want to finish the game.

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