First there were bazooka toting worms, then came angry snails, and now we have Slug Wars. Unlike the first two which are clearly Scorched Earth clones, however, Slug Wars takes a simpler approach to the strategy genre. Unfortunately, while the game looks good and has some interesting unit types, it’s ultimately a bit too slow paced for me. And yes, I do realize they’re slugs, but still…
Slug Wars is one of those games where you start at one side of the screen, the opponent starts at the other, and the goal is to get a certain number of troops over to your opponent’s side of the screen. In this case the magic number is three. It doesn’t seem like a very daunting task, except for the fact that it seems to be one of those deals where it’s not going to happen unless you get that one line that’s configured in just the right order to keep the opponent at bay. Then, it seems like there’s no stopping it. There doesn’t appear to be a middle ground where you get 1 guy in over here and another guy in over there. And when you’re on the receiving end of that attack where the opponents are so close together you can’t squeeze a troop in between attackers, you pretty much just sit back and watch your team lose. At least with most strategy games you can crank troops out until the bitter end, even though some of them might not actually make it out onto the field before you’ve been conquered.
So how do you place troops into battle? It’s simple: you just press the row where you want the troop to go. Assuming you have enough money the troop will be placed and start slithering its way towards the opponent’s side. There have been a couple of times where I’ve been unable to place a troop for no apparent reason, but there’s nothing to indicate that you can only have a certain number of troops out at once. In fact, the help is quite basic. It simply explains how to place a troop and what you need in order to win. It doesn’t elaborate on the different troop types or on the different game play modes. When a slug is killed a flower appears in its place. Your slugs have to eat the flowers in order to gain money to buy more slugs. It’s like some weird form of recycling. Basically you just keep placing troops on the tracks until you run out of either space or money, then wait for some fighting to commence, then repeat. It’s kind of fun for a while, but then it just gets monotonous, especially with the lack of a fast forward button.
There are three different modes: campaign, skirmish and slug-it-out. Slug-it-out is two humans on the same device, which means picking someone you’re not afraid of being close to, since this is a real time game. Skirmish mode was pretty much senseless, because you start off with way too much money and after a while it doesn’t feel like it’s ever possible for there to be a winner. Campaign mode offers a series of small levels, at least in the sense that they take less time than Skirmish mode. The problem here is that other than a label saying “Level X” for whatever level you’re on, there’s really nothing tying the levels together. A story with some cut scenes would be nice. Of course, it would also be nice if there were some point to the levels besides just “get to the other side”. The one nice thing about Campaign mode is this is where you can unlock additional troop types, since you only start out with two.
The game starts out with a basic “foot” soldier and a bazooka soldier. The grunts are cheap and fast, but they have to be right up against the enemy to do any damage. The bazooka soldier is slower, but can shoot the enemies from somewhat of a distance. So far I’ve managed to unlock the Kamikaze slug, which destroys itself and its opponent in one fell swoop by pouring salt on both of them. As an added bonus it leaves a pile of salt that blocks both sides until it has disappeared. Unfortunately I haven’t seen the other unit types yet, because it seems they’ve been pretty creative with design of the units. The game just hasn’t held my interest enough to keep pursing it.
Slug Wars is aesthetically pleasing. Each unit has its own personality visually, and the units have a distinct cry when you unleash them on the playing field. The actual combat noises are pretty standard, though it is kind of amusing hearing a salt shaker when the Kamikaze attacks. The slugs also make a weird squishy / watery noise when they bite the bullet. It almost sounds like they are dissolving into a pile of goop. Sadly, there is no music playing in the background during combat.
I think Slug Wars has a lot of potential. It was nice to see a strategy game centering around creepy crawling creatures that wasn’t a Scorched Earth clone. Plus, the unit types were interesting (while there were a couple that I didn’t get the chance to use yet, they looked cool). As the game stands right now, though, it just isn’t that interesting. The campaign mode somehow needs some variety. I think a fast forward button might help a bit as well, though that could ultimately interfere with the game play. Slug Wars just needs something to pick up the pace a bit.