MilitAnt from Xibalba Studios is a run-and-gun side-scrolling platformer in the vein of Contra, but instead of playing as musclebound commandos, players take control of a dual-wielding ant. As the nameless dual-wielding soldier ant, players do battle with various other insects as part of a war for a precious resource called crystalite, bringing to mind films like Antz and A Bug’s Life. Unfortunately, MilitAnt‘s interesting premise isn’t enough to save it from its many problems.
As a run-and-gun platformer, players are asked to shoot just about everything they see in MilitAnt, and after just a few minutes of blasting away at enemy insects, its first major issue becomes apparent: the targeting system almost never works properly. Players are asked to target one enemy at a time by flicking the right stick in their direction, but when more than a couple of enemies are on-screen at once, locking on to the intended enemy can be a hassle.
Enemy insects are also able to appear in the background, which adds an interesting wrinkle to the combat, yet also confuses the targeting system even more. If that weren’t enough, the wonky targeting system also makes the game’s boss battles last a lot longer than they should.
Wrestling with the targeting system quickly becomes a headache, to the point where killing enemies is really more trouble than it’s worth. Luckily, it’s possible to skip almost every fight in the game (except boss battles) by jumping and dashing over all the enemies, though doing so means missing out on most of the precious crystalite, which is awarded for racking up combos.
Crystalite is used to purchase new weapons to add to the player’s four-weapon arsenal. However, only two guns can be used simultaneously, but the game does recommend players switch between their weapon pairs to avoid overheating. Instead of making players manually switch when their guns overheat, it seems the process could have been streamlined simply by doubling the size of the heating meter, so while the idea of allowing four weapons to be equipped is neat on paper, the way it is executed in MilitAnt makes it a pointless feature.
Besides shooting, the nameless soldier ant also has some melee attacks at his disposal. Since players don’t have to worry about the unreliable targeting system when using melee attacks, battling foes in this manner is far less frustrating than trying to shoot everything, but it also comes with its own problems. For example, the soldier ant has a tendency to stop moving for no reason at all when using melee attacks on large groups of enemies, leaving the player exposed to taking damage from enemies.
Overall, the gameplay in MilitAnt is mediocre at its best, and broken at its worst. Unfortunately, other aspects of the game aren’t much better. Beyond its basic premise, the story is practically non-existent, and the graphics are a mixed bag. Some of the levels have impressive backgrounds and the character designs are well done, but for the most part the visuals are nothing special, failing to take advantage of the graphical capabilities of the PlayStation 4 or modern PCs.
MilitAnt‘s visuals are largely unimpressive and the gameplay is usually more frustrating than it is fun. On the plus side, the premise is unique for a video game, and when the targeting system is working as it should, the game can be reminiscent of the classic 2D run-and-gun shooters that inspired it. However, those looking for a fun, and functional, run-and-gun side-scroller are probably better off waiting for Super C on the NES Classic than picking up MilitAnt.
MilitAnt is available for PC and PS4. Game Rant was provided a PS4 code for this review.