With first-person racing and/or shooting games becoming the most popular genre, everybody is looking for that certain twist to distinguish their product. Essentially, these games are all the same: for instance Doom, Quake, Shadow Warrior, Duke Nukem 3D. Same with this set: Ridge Racer, Carmageddon, Twisted Metal, JetMoto. Run around a maze, a track or a path, either to kill things or beat a clock. Sometimes both.
With BugRiders, you've got a track, a gun and opponents. The twist is the bugs.
With pre-planned StarFox 64 gameplay, you hop aboard a giant race-trained insect and zip through various tracks seeking the crown to the kingdom. There are lots of different bugs, some you can play, some you can't, but all with various abilities and quirks.
The game manual makes a point that 'your bug is not a car,' so you can't just expect to hit the accelerator and zoom off down the track. Speed is gained by whipping your mount with your crop, just like exceptionally violent horse racing. Over-cropping your bug will anger it mightily, and results in cool insectine screeches and quick stops. Just like real insects (?), you can zig left and zag right in mid air with no loss in speed.
The backstory follows the time-honored New King in Town pattern. You and a hundred other worthy nobles of the land must race for the throne. The winner wins the kingdom and can rule in whatever new-fangled fashion he or she chooses. The competitors range from ousted knights and over-pretty princesses to mutated bug-boys and undead jesters. As the game's two-thumbs-up intro movie pretentiously states, "Everything is about to change."
The graphics are better than average for a 1997 game, considering that you can fly smack into most of the scenery for a closer look. Backgrounds and tracks have more cute medieval details, akin to most driving/flying games. (Gas clouds in the swamps, wrecked pirate ships by the reef, saurian bones jutting from desert cliffs, etc.) The bugs themselves are polygonal beasts, usually flying by too fast to get a good look at. The graphics suffer a bit in two player mode, when the split screen compresses everything out of proportion.
BugRiders could have been a heck of a lot worse. But it was released by the same people responsible for the PSX versions of Duke Nukem and Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee, so they do have a reputation to maintain. BugRiders is an otherwise average game spruced up with an action-figure concept and lots of window dressing - great movie intro, character personalities, detailed manual descriptions and illustrations. The complete picture of the "world" of the BugRiders adds a great deal to the game, giving you the impression that you are accomplishing more than just guiding a big housefly towards a finish line.