MilitAnt is designed to frustrate. From bullet sponge bosses to difficult-to-make jumps and maliciously placed checkpoints, it seems to delight in making you do the same thing over and over again - no doubt partly due to the fact it only contains a handful of levels.
MilitAnt is set in a world in which ants, termites and wasps are locked in civil war. You take control of a lone soldier ant who must defend his colony against these invading armies by running and gunning through several 2.5D stages full of deadly traps and hordes of enemies. Each level contains a boss battle or two. Some of these can be expedited by finding a weak spot, but most go on for several minutes while you slowly chip away at a massive health bar in what feels more like a test of patience than skill.
Before getting to each boss, you generally have to deal with a long string of their minions. While regular enemies are much more easily dispatched than their overlords, their spawning frequencies and large numbers soon makes fighting them equally as monotonous. In fact, it's often a better strategy just to run past as many of them as you can, partly because it's easier to stay alive that way, and partly because it gets the level over with faster.
Most of the frustration from playing MilitAnt comes from issues with its controls and level design. It can be awkward to get your character to shoot at the correct targets, especially in the 2.5D combat sections when enemies are firing projectiles at you from the background. The wall-jumping also feels very hit and miss. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. And when it doesn't, you usually fall into a pit of spikes or into the abyss and get sent back to the last checkpoint. The most grating part of MilitAnt that I experienced, however, was a level in which you constantly have to run from a swarm of stinging insects. In this stage, you have to dodge past grasshoppers that are stationed throughout the area, but even when you dodge them, they are almost always teleported onto you and grab you anyway, pinning you to the ground for a few seconds while you lose more valuable health.
MilitAnt becomes a bit less of a slog once you unlock some of its better weapons, but you're not allowed to change them once you start a level, meaning that if you reach a boss and feel that your current loadout isn't going to do the trick, you have to quit and start back at the beginning again. There are also some fairly long loading times for a game with less than cutting-edge graphics, even when you're going from the main menu to equip weapons in the armory screen.
One thing I can say in MilitAnt's favour is that it does offer some good variation in its level and boss design. While the first two stages are mindless run-and-gun affairs, the third is akin to a side-scrolling shoot 'em up, which is actually much more enjoyable than the rest of the game. Later sections focus more on platforming than combat, though their sadistic nature makes them the most maddening of all.
Any torture platformer will unavoidably frustrate, but a good example of the genre will keep the player hooked through responsive and addictive gameplay and a desire to improve. Sadly, that's not the case here. Rather than giving you a sense of accomplishment for beating a level, MilitAnt just makes you feel relieved that you'll never have to play it again.
- + Good variation in boss and level design
- - Frustrating to play / monotonous combat
- - Some awkward controls; e.g., wall jumping
- - Bullet sponge bosses make battles feel more like tests of endurance than skill