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Bug!

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Released: 1995

Genre: Platformer

Format reviewed: Sega Saturn

Publisher: Sega

Developer: Realtime Associates

Submitted by: Robert Frazer

Sonic's cameo in the background of a bonus stage in Bug! seems almost like an apology.

We've often speculated why a Sonic title wasn’t released with the Saturn. Perhaps Sega wanted to broaden its brand identity beyond an over-reliance on core franchises; maybe a release was intended, but Sonic Xtreme's struggling development caused the window to be missed; or, as Bug! suggests (and bearing in mind that this game came a year before the release of Mario 64), it's simply because no-one was quite yet sure how to realise a 3D platformer.

Bug!’s story was perfectly perfunctory. The eponymous hero must traverse traditionally themed terrain – forest, ice, desert, volcano and so on – to rescue his family, who have been abducted by an evil spider.

The game itself can't disguise that uncertainty about design mentioned earlier. It shouldn't be described as a “2.5D” game like Pandaemonium! (or more recently Sonic Rivals), where the 3D world is window dressing for a traditional sidescrolling experience, but rather as a 2D platformer wearing 3D clothes, and looking distinctly uncomfortable in them. The hero Bug walks left to right, jumping on enemies, and occasionally walks into and out of the screen to continue on a different plane. He inhabits not so much a 3D world, though, as a bizarre abstracted scaffolding of narrow gantries suspended above a void. Unfortunately, it's this world which contributes to most of Bug!'s stern difficulty – invisible walls stop Bug from jumping off most platforms, but on occasions where these are taken away the perspective makes it incredibly hard to judge distances and more often than not you'll plummet to your doom and a Bubsy-esque 'wacky' dialogue.

Except for its single sequel there's never been anything quite like Bug! – although that should serve as a warning! It's a curious title that has historical value in demonstrating the bewildering and destabilising transition to 3D gaming that the Playstation suddenly flung us all into. As interesting as it may be as a cultural artefact, though, Bug! is a clumsy, inarticulate game that can't be recommended on its own merits.