Written by  :  kbmb (435)
Written on  :  Jan 07, 2003
Platform  :  DOS

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Simant is as addictive as it is educational.

The Good

Let's see...if this was released in 1991, then I was about seven or eight years old (geez, I hope my math skills are good enough to subtract the years right) when I played Sim Ant for the first time. It was on my old Tandy 386. SimAnt was about the third game I ever played for the computer (the first two were Sim City and some other game) and it's one of my favorite games of all time.

I remember getting the game, even. Maybe it was my birthday or something. My father brought me into the local Radio Shack and there it was: the shelf of computer games! Big boxes as opposed to those Nintendo boxes I was so used to. Ahh, but PC games held so much more than Nintendo could. The big boxes were a sign of power! Of might! Possibilities...

Intrigued by the ants in my back yard (my friends and I used to catch them and uh...well, try to keep them alive somehow - also learned ants from other colonies don't get along) I nudged my father and said, in that quiet, young, innocent manner, "Gimme that!"

When we got home and I installed it - not bothering to read the manual, of course - I went right into the game and was hooked right from the start. I really didn't know what to expect from Sim Ant. Having played Nintendo games for so long, I could have never expected something as glorious as this. I was an ant! And there were hundreds of other ants playing with me! Incredible!

I must have played that game for hours, until my parents booted me off (that stuff'll rot your brains!), and I went right back to it when they let me on again. Perhaps it was my youth - you know how kids are - but out of all the games I'd ever played, this surely kept me playing longer than any other game I've played.

I can't really compare this game to other games of its time, because I was too young to notice. Games were games to me, but SimAnt was special. Not because it had better graphics, not because it was a breakthrough game or any of that stuff. Just because it was fun. When you're young and ignorant, you can see things so much clearly sometimes. No nitpicking about gameplay flaws or clipping errors. No, it all comes down to what's fun and what's not fun. Reasons? Who cares. SimAnt was the funnest game I had, and that's all that mattered.

In SimAnt, you play an ant. Surprised? But in playing that ant, you lead your colony to victory against the evil red ants - I later found out from real life experience that red ants BITE - against impossible odds. While you are generally confined to the body of an ant - if you die you occupy another ant - the game still allows you to control your colony like all the other "Sim" games do. You can dig tunnels, get food, you can even play as the Queen herself (which can be one hell of a fighter!) But unlike all other Sim games, you're not stuck playing God and watching your little critters do what they do. Instead, you take part in the action. You can play as a worker ant, male ant, soldier ant, queen ant, or whatever other kinds of ants they are. Charge into battle against the Reds, break into their colony and kill their queen! Eat their eggs and take their food!

The Reds are your enemy, but they're not your ultimate goal. They're just an obstacle to keep your colony from what you truly desire - a house. Yes, a human's house. Breed males and those winged pre-queen guys (sheesh, I forget the name) and mate! Breed and grow! Fly to new areas in the yard and expand! And enter the human's house and drive him away! Conquer the yard, conquer the Reds, and conquer the house.

In the beginning, your colony is little. You are just a small hole in the ground in a patch of dirt somewhere in the yard. You leave the colony to find food, and you must avoid the evil spider and ant-lions. But as your colony grows, and you expand and journey to new areas, you'll be seeing more than just dirt and holes in the ground. You'll see grass, concrete, a carpet, even the kitchen sink! But indoors there are even more hazards than outdoors! Outdoors you were in danger of being eaten by a spider or an ant lion, getting mowed over by the human doing lawn-care, or having your colony flooded by rain. Indoors you'll have to avoid wall sockets, spiders, bug-spray and that evil human foot! Few things were as frustrating as leading your army to the Red's colony, only to see your entire force smushed in one quick step from the human!

As much fun as the game was, it was also very educational. I learned more from playing SimAnt than I ever did at school, and I would often tell my teachers about these wonderful little insects. Not only does SimAnt provide an educational lesson on the nature and behavior of ants on the fly, but there are also diagrams and other additional information provided in-game if you can pause the action for a bit to read it. Even at a young age with so little patience, I was so intrigued by the ants that I read through all the diagrams and information regarding ants and other insects in the game. And my mother told me playing the computer'd make me dumb. Bah!

SimAnt also has an option to turn dialogue on, which is hilarious. From the thoughts of the human as he went around his property doing chores or watching television, to the thoughts of the spider ("Man, sometimes I think I'm too cool for my own good.") or the battle cries of ants in fights ("Better dead than red!", "Your mother was a fly!"), SimAnt delivered great dialogue and kept me even more addicted.

The game even came with a construction kit so you could do your own sick little experiments without actually hurting real-life ants.

The Bad

I don't know. If this were released today, sure, it would probably stink. But this was released in '91, so what can you really complain about? I guess a better combat system could have been implimented. You generally won every battle as a soldier ant.

The Bottom Line

I miss my youth. I miss the ignorance, the care-free life. We have such few "firsts" in our lives. This was the first - and maybe only - game that was able to really "touch" me. I learned quite a bit from this game, more than I ever did in school (regarding ants, anyway), and there hasn't been a game like it since.

Well, "The Sims" comes kind of close. But human beings are so boring.