The folks at Maxis must be very creative, every game beginning with the letters 's-i-m' is a testament to that, especially the incredibly innovative Sim Ant.
The person(s) who thought up an action/rpg/sim where you live the life of an ant deserves to be commended. Not only is this an interesting idea, it makes for one fun game!
The idea of simant is as follows: You start out as the Queen ant, wander around the field for a while looking for a suitable place to dig a little nest and lay a little egg, that little egg is who the character control switches to next. Yes, you control a lowly ant, either worker or soldier class. From this point you bring food back to the nest that you'll be required to dig, sounds easy, simple and it could get old quick right? Not when you realize that there's another ant group doing the same thing you are: The evil 'red ants'. You're at war little soldier. They get your Queen and it's over. You get theirs and victory is at hand for your ant army!
Your long term goal is to win control over the entire yard and even the house (game takes place in a persons back yard) for the blue ants.
Along the way you'll face your share of difficulties, such as attacks from Spiders, which take an entire legion of ants to bring down, and rain fall, lawnmowers, and even human feet! Yup, everyone's out to get you.
What grabbed me right away is the 'Ant Encyclopedia' included within the game. Besides being very educational and dare I say, fun to read, this little encyclopedia will probably be necessary reading material if you hope to achieve any sort of Sim-Ant success.
The level of control over your colony is astonishing, calling for back up is a simple task, navigating through menus that let you control what your colony does, how effeciently it does it, what type of ants are needed most and so forth is as easy as one-two-three.
The game does a great job at making you feel like an ant ^_^, through mondo-cute stills and some really funny animations, like when your ants' head gets huge and the facial expression is like that of a cartoon.
The music is mostly standard fare, nothing stands out much as being particularly good or bad, except the uplifting little theme that plays when some of your ants take flight to start new colonies, aside from this, the music is average. What gives Sim Ant a high score in the aural department is the o so cute sound effects. Your ants make little grunts, the rainfall sounds good, the lawnmower sounds menacing, and the 'crunch crunch' sound gets points for weirdness.
Graphically speaking, Sim Ant is above and beyond average. While the view underground isn't all that great, it's forgiveable considering the above ground view, the great looking ants and their environments, and the very cool an-t-imations ^_^.
Another strong point graphically is the variation of landscapes, from carpet to cans, dirt to.. dirt, and indoors to outside, everything's different and it all looks good.
The only big weakness of Sim Ant is the too-low difficulty level. While this isn't going to be a problem for everyone, it may be for experienced gamers, as it was for me. It's just a tad too easy to beat the red ants, especially toward the beginning of the game, although it can be quite a task to keep all your colonies alive once your anty-army really starts to dominate all regions of the map.
My advice for making the low difficulty level less of a problem is to set up goals for your colonies, such as aiming for - # of ants per colony, or to control every square on the map, this should remedy the problem.
Another more understandable weakness is the limitations to what your ants can take over, once you take over the entire house and yard, you can't conquer anymore, it would've been a great addition to be able to take over a whole neighborhood! That's probably the side of me bent on world domination, but there's no denying it would have been a great addition.
Control wise Sim Ant plays very well, making good use of the 'snes mouse'. Something most games don't even attempt. The mouse is not, however, necessary to enjoy Sim Ant, I played through it a number of times both using the mouse and with the control pad, hardly noticing a difference in ease of use, this is to say that Sim Ant plays well any way you slice it.
By now, you may be asking: '86%?! Geez, that's a little much isn't it?!'
I say, not for a game as innovative and just plain as fun to play as Sim Ant, tack on the educational value, and you have a winner.
-your friendly neighborhood ff
p.s.- Big thanks to Slade for Sim Ant screens.