People have good reasons to hate ants: In spite of their incredible strength, they’re amazingly stupid and incapable of multitasking. Ant Nation posits that they’d therefore make excellent workers and soldiers for a real-time strategy game. In theory, they could, but the game comes across as a charmless attempt at recreating Pikmin.
That starts with the story; according to a series of wordless still screens that launch the narrative, space insects are apparently coming to Earth and terrorizing everyone who might be crawling on the ground and capable of noticing a couple of wrong-colored bugs. Hey, you’d grab your pitchforks and torches if you saw a blue ladybug, right? Ant Nation puts you in charge of delegating simple movements to your troops, a cluster of ants. Of course, calling them “troops” is generous; your ants are literally black pixels, while your nefarious foes are the dastardly red ones. You constantly send troops off to battle, or plunk down flags to assign ants to mine resources from the random sugar cubes that crop up beneath suddenly appearing leaves. Your involvement goes no further than placing the flags and waiting, which removes almost all the strategy elements from what presumably was intended as a strategy game.
There is some thought involved in managing your ant colony, but not much. After finishing one of 100 simplistic missions ranging from “kill this beetle” to “eat this food,” you’ll be able to add another chamber to your ant colony, which is always visible on the DS’ other screen. But the only reason you’ll need to keep an eye on your colony is for the stray bits of liquid that must be swept away with the stylus. In fact, you don’t really need to keep an eye on anything in Ant Nation. Play only at red lights while driving home, or lie on the couch for hours devoting close attention to it, and you’ll have the same level of effect on the game. So the next time you see a latchkey punk taking out his aggressions on some ants on the sidewalk, leave him be. He’s doing the world a favor.