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Windows Phone Xbox Live Review: Bug Village

Bug Village Lead

For the longest time, microtransactions were prohibited in Windows Phone games. Microsoft’s Beards & Beaks dabbled in offering PDLC (premium downloadable content) last July. But no third party games offered PDLC until Gravity Guy’s January update. Before you can buy extra stuff for those games, you’ll first need to purchase the game itself. Bug Village, on the other hand, is the only freemium Xbox Live title so far. The game itself is completely free; developer Glu Mobile makes its profits from the title’s optional content purchases. While this style of game won’t be for everybody, you can color me excited for the potential of future freemium Live titles.

If you build it, they will come

Bug Village Title

Bug Village, like Smurfs’ Village and several other freemium titles, is a town-building game. Your bugs will be constructing their homestead in a human’s back yard. The yard is divided into two halves by a stream, over which someone has kindly constructed a bridge for the insects. The left side of the village is dedicated exclusively to bug homes and decorations, while resource mining takes place on the right side. The village itself never expands beyond its initial borders, but you’ll certainly pack the allotted space with objects and insects as time goes on.

At the start of the game, you’re given a single ant. The object of the game is to rise through the experience level ranks by completing tasks. Chief among the tasks is gathering acorns. Acorns are the primary resource of the game, used to build new insect homes, decorations, piles, flowers, and purchase food. Ants gather acorns from piles. Starting from level 5, you’ll recruit bees, who gather acorns from flowers for some reason. Maybe they’re trading the pollen and nectar for acorns behind the scenes – who knows? Completing tasks also awards you with XP, which in turn leads to leveling up and increasing the number of bugs, piles, and flowers you can have at one time.

Watch the clock

The process of gathering acorns (as well as building or upgrading bug houses) takes real-world time. Whenever you select a pile or flower (and have the appropriate number of free bugs to mine it), you’re given the choice of three task durations. These start out in relatively small increments: 15 minutes, two hours, and six hours from a small pile. But the larger, higher paying piles and flowers can take anywhere from one hour to two days to mine. Lengthier tasks pay larger amounts of acorns and XP, but shorter tasks actually pay better per minute.

The idea isn’t that you sit at your phone with the game running for an hour while a task completes. Instead, you play Bug Village in small spurts throughout the day. Check in, start or complete whatever tasks you can, and then check back later. Some gamers won’t see the point of this play style or get much fun out of it. Others like me will enjoy playing the game over the long term in tiny increments. It’s designed to be addictive, and it certainly can be, if it fits your lifestyle and you give it a chance.

Food for thought

Gathering resources isn’t the only thing for players to do in Bug Village. For one, you’ll need to feed your little workers regularly. Food costs acorns, but as long as you’re completing tasks you’ll be taking in much more than you spend on nutrition. Keeping the food meter in the green (nearly full) when completing tasks results in a fair acorn and XP bonus, so it’s worth doing. Besides, if you let the meter run empty (which takes about 33 hours), your bugs will fall asleep, cancelling all ongoing tasks.

Quests

Bug Village Choose a Task

Once every experience level or so, the game presents a new optional quest. These include building a certain number of objects, completing specific tasks, and more. Quests pay big and provide something else to focus on other than the normal grind. Then again, at level 21 the new task is to reach level 22, which you’d already want to do anyway – not very creative.

Visitors

Games like this benefit from a little randomization – something beyond your control that necessitates a reaction. And so three different visitor bugs pop up at random intervals: ladybugs, stinkbugs, and antlions. Tapping the ladybug (who has fallen over) once sends her on her merry way. It takes three hits to eliminate a stinkbug, and he teleports to a different location after each hit. But if let him live too long, he’ll stink up the village with gas clouds, obscuring the screen. Antlions supposedly scare your ants but don’t actually seem to harrow them in any way; multiple taps knocks them back into the ground.

While I like the idea of the visitor bugs, their implementation leaves much to be desired. For one thing, they really should make sound effects to alert the player when they appear. Instead, the only sound effect any of them plays is when you rescue a ladybug. Worse, all three bugs have major hit detection issues. They often appear right next to flowers and other objects. The game prioritizes everything else over these bugs, so you’ll end up selecting a pile when you really wanted to hit an insect. Also, the stinkbug in particular has a ridiculously small hitbox. Even when he’s not obscured, it sometimes takes me ten or more taps to register a hit. Double tapping the screen zooms in and out for some reason (ugh), and naturally the game tends to zoom instead of hitting him too. The developers have told me these issues may be fixed in a future update.

Handful of coins

We’ve come all this way and I haven’t even touched on the PDLC yet! Bug Village’s second currency is coins, which cost Microsoft Points (i.e. real-world money) to buy. Coins can get you exclusive bug houses, decorations, piles, and flowers. They can also be used to instantly complete tasks rather than waiting for a timer.

All players start with 10 coins in the tutorial, but it also forces you to spend them. Other versions of Bug Village refund the coins after the tutorial ends, but not this one. Hopefully this gets fixed in a future update. At any rate, coins purchases are entirely optional, so you needn’t buy them if you don’t want to. For more information, see our premium content analysis.

Buggy village

Bug Village

Bug Village is something of a flagship title on Windows Phone, but it’s not perfect. For starters, every time you launch the game, it plays a loud and annoying jingle when the Glu Mobile logo pops up. Turning off the sound in-game does nothing to kill the logo sound, which can be disruptive when you’re booting up the game around other people. There’s a reason not one other mobile Xbox Live title plays a sound during the startup logo screens…

Also, Bug Village is a lengthy game by design. If you play without cheating, it will take about two months to ‘complete’ (i.e. get all the Achievements). The game drip-feeds new content like bees and antlions as players progress through the early levels. But after level 12 or so, the new content stops coming and it essentially turns into a grind. Glu Mobile would have been wise to include new mechanics and more meaningful content in order to retain player interest at higher levels.

Finally, the game launched with a few annoying bugs that were quickly patched out. A few problems still linger though. The one that keeps popping up for me is the display sometimes turns black for brief periods of time as I scroll around the village. This appears to result from placing a large number of objects in the village and is pretty much unavoidable. It definitely makes the game less enjoyable as time goes on. A few other gamers have reported that their visitor bugs stopped spawning, but it hasn’t happened to me.

Achievements

Bug Village’s scant 7 Achievements were almost worth only 100 GamerScore, but thankfully Microsoft decided to allow free mobile games to offer the full 200. None of the Achievements require the purchase of coins to earn – just a significant time investment. Reaching level 25 and earning 300,000 acorns will take 6-8 weeks of dedicated playing. If that seems like too much trouble or you just don’t like this style of game, cheating by playing with the phone’s clock works too. See this Achievement Guide for the how-to.

Overall Impression

Microsoft was wise to open the platform up to freemium titles, which do big business on other mobile platforms, PC, and Facebook. Bug Village works great on Windows Phone since you can play it whenever you have a few minutes to spare and then not worry about it again for hours. The content is a bit light for the time investment, but the game remains addictive. Now that Glu Mobile has shifted their business to freemium games, I look forward to more free stuff from them in the future.

Aspiring entomologists/architects can find Bug Village here on the Marketplace.

QR: Bug Village

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Comments

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Great review.  The game gets 200 gamerscore btw, you have it at 100.  Also the reason why the screen turns black is because of how may decorations you have.  Remove them and you will notice an increase.  And yes this game is addictive.  Good review again.

hauz_20 says:

No, he writes that there are 200 gamerscore points to garner. And, yes, removing decorations fixed the black screen for me as well. In a game like this, though, players shouldn't be arbitrarily limited to a certain amount of decorations.

Misinterpretted the words.  My mistake there.

stevethenerd says:

I have been enjoying this game... except most of the time my screen blacks out and I can't play. I mean there is nothing I can do. So I'll have to delete it until the is a fix :(

Very disappointed :/

tigermcm says:

um I beg to differ with the statement,"developer Glu Mobile makes its profits from the title’s optional content purchases" You cannot continue playing the game without buying more content, for that reason I deleted this game

Paul Acevedo says:

That's not correct. You don't have to purchase more content at all.

MastrMeatWad says:

@tigermcm-
"It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt."- Mark Twain

humboldt1 says:

This game should be REMOVED from being an Xbox live title ASAP!!!!!!
You cannot get the 100 stinkbugs removed since they quit appearing along with the lady bugs around level 16/17 im on 21 and haven't seen one since 16.
Screen has turned black numerous times and I only have bought 7 decorations.
As noted in review bad controls when tapping ant lions caused me to use my coins "hurrying" a nearby task when I didn't want to.
GLU hasn't responded,the reviews on the marketplace all say the same thing and according to this article they "might" fix these issues.
THIS GAME IS GARBAGE AT THIS POINT UNTIL THEY FIX THE REAL BUGS

MastrMeatWad says:

The only issue I ran into is the stinkbugs/ladybugs do not appear since I hit level 16.  That is my only complaint and wish this would get fixed asap. 

QuiCkz Ninja says:

I have 200g but i not have buyed contents

AriesDog says:

@humboldt1 The stink bugs continue to appear. Every now and then they hide behind object that make it difficult to see them. Like behind poker chips. Until you find him, he won't generate in a new place.

MastrMeatWad says:

This is common for people once level 15-17 is reached.  They hide behind things, yes, but unless the bugs become 'invisible' they are on hiatus for many.

AriesDog says:

Since the game is free and the DLC is paid for using Microsoft points, I fully support games. I wish we could pay for more games with MS points. My only complaint is it's too easy to accidentally spend coins. More than once I hurried up a task when I didn't mean to.

glenc says:

I was never "forced" to spend coins although you can accidently spend them "hurrying". They NEED to add a confirm event, instead of making all-too-easy to spend coins when you don't want.
Enjoyable game nevertheless

Paul Acevedo says:

Agreed - confirmation would be nice.

pressstart says:

Yea, I accidentally hit the hurry button once and will not be able to complete the umbrella task :( oh well

phendrena says:

I was enjoyable until I was forced to actually spend money to complete one of the quests - place some unbrellas - these can only be bought with coins. I have no problem with freemium games however you should not be forced to spend money - that annoys me.

Curtieson says:

You are given 10 coins in the game.  2 are spent in the beginning tutorial...and the quest later to buy uMbrellas (not unbrellas) will cost you 8 coins.  They give you everything you need to complete the quest, but most people (like me) spend them for other situations.  I am half way through level 24 and on my last achievement and although I want to support the game it has done nothing to earn my money.  I have played the Smirf game and it is 10x better than this...Bug Village is SUCH a grind, if it didn't have achievements it would have gotten maybe 1 hour of my time.

humboldt1 says:

@Aries moving items has been discussed on the marketplace review section,doesn't work that easy. Even if it did the game is poorly made and does not deserve Xbox live status with lame glitches like that.
I have 9 ant houses and bee hives I shouldn't be required to move them around to play game,even though makers don't imply this anywhere,won't respond to emails.
Obviously this game has many issues from no bugs appearing to people Accidently wasting coins due to poor game design as well as the black screen issues.

just to confirm moved everything and NO STINKBUGS OR LADY BUGS SINCE UPDATE SORRY TO PROVE YOU WRONG ARIES.

Paul Acevedo says:

Stop yelling already. :P

athix says:

Great example of a PDLC game FAIL!  I guess it was a decent try, it just came up way short.  I wanted to like this game but you can't get anywhere without paying money in game.  This would be a great regular paid game, or even if you could do more without paying in game, but it's ruined by the fact that you HAVE to spend money in game just to get things you need to keep playing it.  I submitted a poor rating and deleted the game.  I seriously hope Glue Mobile and other dev shops learn their lesson on this game about PDLC.

Curtieson says:

This whole post is just a lie.  I have played for 8 weeks, will get lvl 25 and 200 GS sometime tomorrow and haven't paid 1 cent.

Good review. Too bad I have a dogmatic aversion to "freemium" concept, as well as a strong dislike for the phonetically ugly word.
I like to pay for my stuff, not tricked into giving money by shady ways.

gearhead05 says:

Has anyone else experienced a glitch where they can't build more houses?  Specifically, I leveled up yesterday and it popped up and said "+1 to house limit" so I immediately went to build and new house and it said I couldn't because my house limit had been reached.  This has happened to me MANY times.

Paul Acevedo says:

That's because the increased house limit was either for ants or bees - not both. Try building the other kind.

AriesDog says:

What a coincidence. I actually unlocked the Air Freshener achievement today for the stink bugs. AND I DIDN'T HAVE TO YELL TO MAKE MY POINT.

Mooncow27 says:

Screen does go black. Made it unplayable. I had to remove all my plants to stop it. Glu Mobile seems too greedy with home upgrade cost (in coins). I did get my level 25 achievement at level 21. Nice. But stinkbugs will now cause my game to reset. If you are going to buy it, don't invest too heavily.

nortonweb says:

Don't get me wrong I like the game but its some of the worst coding I've seen... the glitches and bugs are everywhere (no pun).
First Ladybugs stopped appearing, then Ant Lions now I don't even get the so so annoying to tap Stink Bugs. I have no idea how the internal counter/clock for these is implemented but its dodgy as all heck. When the Lady bugs left for more sure footed pastures the stink bugs came in force appearing at least once every 45 minutes and for weeks now not even they have visited my wonderful lands... and before you ask I'm almost lvl 24 have already passed the 300K mark and am grinding my way to lvl 25... oh and for those "you must spend real money" people I haven't dropped a coin on this and until they fix the stink bug and lady bug issue I don't plan to...
Happy harvesting...

humboldt1 says:

Glu probably mad that the coins weren't tied into the achievements so they don't care that their game is a p.o.s. On wp7. Regardless of Aries BS,according to him the game's fine,no problems,only person to say so anyone else find that to be a funny(plug your eyes) COINCIDENCE

DavidinCT says:

This game should BE BANNED from the marketplace.
Read the reviews. Everyone who gets up over level 15-20 ends up with the black screen (appears to be based on how many items you have in your villiage). After you get the black screen for a while, it will just stop loading totaly.
I got this game, then all of a sudden (around level 18) started getting black screens part of the time, Now, when I attempt to open it, it goes black for 2 seconds then closes.
Just read the first page of reviews, about 75% of them are something about the black screen issue, and NO FIX for it.
Screw this game, it should be banned, Microsoft ?

humboldt1 says:

It works perfect according to ariesdog so the rest of us are making this stuff up,I believe he works for flu though from his posts on here.