Escape from Bug Island

Escape from Bug Island Excels at Sickening Insect Encounters

Escape from Bug Island can be a clunky game. Swinging your Wii remote around to squash bugs and throw stuff at giant gorillas can be taxing. Walking the linear paths can feel a bit too straightforward. However, the game possesses a great power to unsettle the player with its insect enemies. The effects, look, and play of the game can be a bit rough, but playing a game where you have to physically beat down huge mantises and flies makes for an absurd journey that’s definitely memorable. And when those bugs crawl all over you, you’ll wish you could forget it.

You play as Ray. You’ve got a crush on Michelle, who’s into bugs. Maybe a bit too into them, seeing as she wants to camp on an island full of the things. Your buddy Mike came along, too. Mike is garbage in human form. Mike confesses that he loves Michelle just before you can, which throws a wrench in your plans and makes the group split up. On an island full of giant killer bugs. Guess you need to go look for them. Although I’d be inclined to let Mike stay lost. He’s always lugging around a shotgun (which makes him even MORE comfortable to hang around), after all. He can fend for himself.

Once you start exploring, it won’t be too long before Escape from Bug Island starts living up to its name. Huge bugs are creeping all over the island, and they’re aiming to pick a fight. Massive mantises will take swipes at you, and tend to attack in packs. Most of the enemies in this game come in groups, though. Big cockroaches will try to grab you. Ants will creep up on you and explode. Spiders will hop toward you, aiming to crawl all over your back.  

While big bugs are gross on their own, it was seeing them creep up and onto your body that made this game so stomach-churning to play. A lot of your foes like to clamber all over you, building up Panic in the player. If your Panic gets too high, you’re usually left in a dangerous state (if not killed outright). However, the in-game effect was the least of my concerns as I whipped the Wii controls around trying to get the bugs off of me. The idea of bugs skittering all over your body is just deeply unpleasant, and in this game, it happens often.

Escape from Bug Island may look a little rough, there’s a gross attention to detail on the bugs that crawl all over you. You can really take in the twitching legs and mandibles as they creep up and onto your back. As they clamber up your legs in little sickening groups. Watching a bunch of centipedes rushing up Ray’s legs as you flail with the controller to get them off creates this pure revulsion in me. Seeing more of the bugs pooling at Ray’s feet and creeping up, covering his legs in sickening insects, quickly became almost too much to bear.

The big bugs didn’t affect me much as I played it, but those various small bugs really set me off. Seeing hordes of spiders or crickets the size of a dog would just twist me up as I played this game. You can crush many of these insects with a few hits (or even just step on them), but after witnessing those bugs crawling up my character once, I never wanted to see it again. The animations as Ray swats them, but they still keep coming, dredge up this deep disgust in me. The game might not look amazing, visually, but the detail that went into being swarmed hit a nerve hard as I played this game.

Escape from Bug Island strengthens that disgust by tying it to motions on the Wii remote. You’re not just slamming a button to get the bugs off. You need to wildly swing the controllers to knock those creepy crawlies away. While the act of physically swinging your weapons can be a neat touch, using those physical motions to swat bugs off your body made these moments feel all-too vivid. Something about carrying out that exact physical motion made it feel a bit more real. And since it’s something that already threw me into a near-panic, those moments were made all the worse.

Bugs tend to burst in showers of fluid when you kill them in the game, too. Shaking off insects as they flit and leap around you is gross enough, but seeing the various liquid sprays when you squash them makes it all the worse. The game loves to do little close-ups when you kill things, showing great gouts of greenish goo flying through the air. After feeling an unsettling closeness to the game’s events after swatting bugs off of Ray, I found I couldn’t help but focus on those disgusting fluids. What would those smell like? Feel like against your skin?

Escape from Bug Island focuses on the unpleasantness of having insects crawling all over you, and physically knocking them off, which kicks the imagination into high gear. As I played, I found myself highly disgusted at everything that came my way. Every bug’s goopy death. Even when I could kill an enemy by walking over it, I couldn’t help but wonder what it would feel like to squash a bug the size of a dinner plate. The feel of its body giving way under my feet. It set my stomach to roiling each time.

Escape from Bug Island

The game goes off the rails into some silly territory a lot. You fight giant gorillas and dogs with human heads later on. Kinda makes it hard to take its combat seriously. The voice acting is pretty stiff. The story is unintentionally goofy. You even do a bit of silly time travel to save the day. It all adds up to a B-Movie feel that makes the game quite memorable and funny, even if it’s not trying to be.

But Escape from Bug Island can still hit that sense of disgust pretty hard when it wants to. Those bugs creeping up your back look a bit too real. Having to physically fight them off makes your imagination believe in things a little too much. When you’re imagination’s engaged by those things, all of the other interactions grow more sickening and unsettling. Sure, the game can be pretty hokey and silly. It can still create a chilling, gross experience when it wants to, though.