Author Topic: Ant-Soldiers (obscure Lemmings clone for obscure handheld) reviewed  (Read 4060 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Offline Prob Lem

  • Posts: 571
    • View Profile
As the title says, a review has surfaced of a very obscure Lemmings clone, for an equally obscure handheld games system. I just saw the video and figured that I'd post about it here.

The game is called Ant-Soldiers, and it was originally released for the Mega Duck handheld. This is a "Hong Kong Original" Game Boy-wannabe console which debuted in 1993, and it actually pre-dates the similarly-wackily-named Bandai WonderSwan by quite a number of years. I'd never heard of the game before now, though I did know of the Mega Duck console itself, as I'm quite fond of obscure handhelds. It's pretty much the only Lemmings clone I've seen that uses a fairly logical choice of species for its mascots, since ants happen to follow each other and all that.

It was reviewed in this part of this video.

Ant-Soldiers seems to be a decently-competent Lemmings clone, at least going by what's shown, though the music isn't great - it just sounds like the sort of generic bloopy nonsense that you tend to hear in bootleg NES games (though, there is a reason for that - see below). It gets extra points for having quite appealing promotional artwork on the cartridge label (which would have been the same on the packaging, too), as a lot of Lemmings wannabes seem to skip this part, even though the cuteness (of course, contrasted against the grim deaths) is kind of a part of the series' charm.



From what I can find, it seems that it was developed by Thin Chen Enterprise, who are probably better known as Sachen - a company that made a lot of unlicensed games for a variety of consoles, though they were most prolific on the Famicom/NES, and the Game Boy. Apparently, much of their Mega Duck output was ported to the Game Boy, and Ant-Soldiers was one of the games so ported, both as an unlicensed single-game cartridge, and as part of a later series of 4-in-1 compilations.

I don't know whether Ant-Soldiers apes Lemmings all the way through, or if it deviates into unique level designs later on. Aside from confirmation of its existence, there doesn't appear to be a huge amount of written information about it out there.

Anyway, there you have it. Ant-Soldiers. It's a mildly interesting little oddity, and yet another one for the big list of Lemmings knock-offs. :thumbsup:

Offline Clam

  • Posts: 2187
  • Smiley: :8():
    • View Profile
Re: Ant-Soldiers (obscure Lemmings clone for obscure handheld) reviewed
« Reply #1 on: February 17, 2014, 08:09:47 AM »
Cool find! Definitely curious as to what the later levels hold, though of course I wouldn't be inclined to actually play much beyond the tutorials with the controls it has.

I read the Wiki article and couldn't help but :D at the alternate name of the Mega Duck: "Cougar Boy". :D Also it mentions another handheld called the Supervision - you can see what they're going for, but... oops :P

Offline ccexplore

  • Administrator
  • Posts: 5311
    • View Profile
Re: Ant-Soldiers (obscure Lemmings clone for obscure handheld) reviewed
« Reply #2 on: February 17, 2014, 09:58:36 AM »
Intriguing.   If an emulator and downloadable copy of ROM exists somewhere out there I might give this a try (or at least put it on my "to play" list for whenever I actually have time for it).  If nothing else, the youtube video has a bit too much glare over the screen for me to clearly see whatever's on it. :XD:

Offline Ryemanni

  • Posts: 320
  • Indeed.
    • View Profile
Re: Ant-Soldiers (obscure Lemmings clone for obscure handheld) reviewed
« Reply #3 on: February 17, 2014, 05:08:48 PM »
I found a working rom and it is like a nightmare to play it. The controls are so bad. :XD:

Offline ccexplore

  • Administrator
  • Posts: 5311
    • View Profile
Re: Ant-Soldiers (obscure Lemmings clone for obscure handheld) reviewed
« Reply #4 on: February 17, 2014, 07:33:46 PM »
I found a working rom
Care to provide a URL?  Or is it easy enough to just Google?  And which emulator did you use?

Even if the controls are bad I'm still curious.

Offline Ryemanni

  • Posts: 320
  • Indeed.
    • View Profile
Re: Ant-Soldiers (obscure Lemmings clone for obscure handheld) reviewed
« Reply #5 on: February 17, 2014, 08:44:02 PM »
Of course, I downloaded it from this page:
http://www.web-emulation.com/rom-ant-soldiers-n4097.php
I'm also myself trying to get as far as possible and collect all of the level passwords.

Offline Prob Lem

  • Posts: 571
    • View Profile
Re: Ant-Soldiers (obscure Lemmings clone for obscure handheld) reviewed
« Reply #6 on: February 17, 2014, 10:22:21 PM »
You guys are crazier and braver than I - I seriously don't dare, myself! :D

I'm very interested in hearing more about it, and I'm not at all surprised that the controls are bad - that's another frequent issue with games made by companies like Sachen.

Offline Leo

  • Posts: 125
    • View Profile
Re: Ant-Soldiers (obscure Lemmings clone for obscure handheld) reviewed
« Reply #7 on: February 18, 2014, 05:12:26 AM »
Here is that game online:
http://www.fupa.com/play/Puzzles-free-games/ant-soldiers.html

After some commercials nagging you can play the game (and even configure control keys as you like).

Offline ccexplore

  • Administrator
  • Posts: 5311
    • View Profile
Re: Ant-Soldiers (obscure Lemmings clone for obscure handheld) reviewed
« Reply #8 on: March 10, 2014, 10:41:52 PM »
Finally got around to actually downloading and playing it today.  It's not bad for a cheap knock-off I guess. :-\  The controls obviously are never going to be as good as with a mouse, and in particular the controls for skill selection and release rate changes can definitely use some improvement, but overall it is tolerable.  Less tolerable for me is the music--I'm pretty sure I will have to mute it and play something else in the background if I am to remain sane trying to play through it. :XD:  So yeah, I think Prob Lem's assessment (decently competent with bad music) is right on.

I've gotten through 7 levels so far and it looks to be a lemmings clone through and through without anything particularly different gameplay-wise.  The levels do not mirror the ones from the official Lemmings game though (but then again, even some of the official Lemmings console ports don't necessarily copy much of the levels from the "original" releases on Amiga/PC/Atari anyway), if that's what you are asking.  I did find the difficulty curve rather out of whack especially compared with the official games--only maybe the first 2-3 levels can be considered tutorial, levels beyond that I'd say already quickly hit Tricky rating in terms of save requirements and skills given (ie. no 20-of-each save 50% for you!)  But not having finished the game, maybe there just aren't that many levels in the game.

Offline ccexplore

  • Administrator
  • Posts: 5311
    • View Profile
Re: music in Ant-Soldiers (obscure Lemmings clone for obscure handheld)
« Reply #9 on: March 12, 2014, 01:24:13 AM »
Less tolerable for me is the music--I'm pretty sure I will have to mute it and play something else in the background if I am to remain sane trying to play through it. :XD:

I reached level 8 and finally heard a piece of recognizable music, which turns out to be the Toreador song from the opera Carmen.  I also know the music from level 9 comes from somewhere but don't know exactly what.

So maybe I'm a little too harsh with the music.  Sure, it's bleeps and bloops but than again, technically all the GameBoy music are that.  It has gotten to a point where I'm not too bothered by the low quality of it anymore, and given that there hasn't been a repeat yet, it has at least more music than ONML already, which has to count for something. ;P  (I do have to mention though that the music always restarts from the beginning whenever you pause [which also pauses the music] and unpause, which still annoys me a little.)

I actually went back and replay the first 7 levels again just to make sure, but I'm unable to recognize any of their music, though it could be just me.  Anyway, just thought it's neat that even with a copycat game, they bothered to actually stick with the theme of borrowing well-known classical tunes, and moreover ones that haven't been used in the official Lemmings game (after all, with the whole point being to avoid copyright issues in the first place, the copycat could've also just used the same borrowed songs with no repercussions).

Anyway, I will update this post as I played through more levels to mention any other recognizable tunes.

update:  level 9 is Schubert's Military March No. 1, level 10 is Schubert's The Trout.
update: 11 and 12 might also be from classical music but I can't recognize them.  Afterwards the music repeats from 1.  So a cycle of 12.
update:  level 11 is Beethoven's Turkish March.  level 12 I sadly still can't identify but I'm quite convinced it is classical.

Offline Prob Lem

  • Posts: 571
    • View Profile
Re: Ant-Soldiers (obscure Lemmings clone for obscure handheld) reviewed
« Reply #10 on: March 12, 2014, 01:28:21 AM »
I did find the difficulty curve rather out of whack especially compared with the official games--only maybe the first 2-3 levels can be considered tutorial, levels beyond that I'd say already quickly hit Tricky rating in terms of save requirements and skills given (ie. no 20-of-each save 50% for you!)  But not having finished the game, maybe there just aren't that many levels in the game.
Those are two more traits common in Hong Kong Original titles (whether they're totally original, or are knocking off something else) - terrible issues with balance, and not much game. These two also go hand-in-hand with what are typically very abrupt endings, as well*.

*Some genres also have some genuinely bizarre Game Over screens (some compilations of such scenes from pirate-originals exist on YouTube), but I can't imagine anything in that vein being present in Ant-Soldiers, as that's something that typically rears its head more in knock-off games that use other companies' characters.

EDIT: Wow, I honestly didn't expect any recognisable tunes to be present in there! Good find. :thumbsup: I'd argue that not all Game Boy tunes are of the "bleeps-and-bloops" kind (as in, the generic noodling so common in Hong Kong Originals!), though - the good ones make good use of the chiptuney hardware as an instrument in its own right. ;)

Offline ccexplore

  • Administrator
  • Posts: 5311
    • View Profile
Re: Ant-Soldiers (obscure Lemmings clone for obscure handheld) reviewed
« Reply #11 on: March 12, 2014, 02:24:49 AM »
I should also mention that the pictures of ant soldiers featured in the opening credits are kinda funny, at least more interesting than the Lemmings ones (though to be fair I don't remember exactly how that one went).  Think blooper reel of them executing various skills.  When I have time I'll take some sceenshots and show them here.  I can also probably make MIDIs of all 12 music to see if anyone else recognize anything in there that I didn't.

*Some genres also have some genuinely bizarre Game Over screens (some compilations of such scenes from pirate-originals exist on YouTube), but I can't imagine anything in that vein being present in Ant-Soldiers, as that's something that typically rears its head more in knock-off games that use other companies' characters.

Yeah, I can confirm there's nothing interesting there for Ant-Soldiers.  When you lose it gives you a 10-second countdown whether to try again or not.  If you don't choose to try again then it just goes back to the opening sequence and then the title screen.

Offline ccexplore

  • Administrator
  • Posts: 5311
    • View Profile
Re: Ant-Soldiers (obscure Lemmings clone for obscure handheld) reviewed
« Reply #12 on: March 12, 2014, 01:16:46 PM »
I should also mention that the pictures of ant soldiers featured in the opening credits are kinda funny, at least more interesting than the Lemmings ones (though to be fair I don't remember exactly how that one went).  Think blooper reel of them executing various skills.  When I have time I'll take some sceenshots and show them here.

Here we go, one per skill.  Note that they are indeed presented as still pictures (ie. no animations or anything) in the game's opening sequence.

I have also attached MIDI transcription for level 9's music, that I said I recognized but can't place a name for it.  If anyone knows what the music is called, do tell!  (I repeated the tune in the MIDI, first time at the speed as heard in the game, second time at a speed that I think the original is played with.)









Offline ccexplore

  • Administrator
  • Posts: 5311
    • View Profile
Re: Ant-Soldiers (obscure Lemmings clone for obscure handheld) reviewed
« Reply #13 on: March 12, 2014, 10:50:55 PM »
I have also attached MIDI transcription for level 9's music, that I said I recognized but can't place a name for it.  If anyone knows what the music is called, do tell!

Okay, thanks to Musipedia which supports searching via music-based methods, I have finally identified the level 9 music as Schubert's Military marches No. 1.  Here's a version of it on Youtube (returned in musipedia's search results).

Armed with Musipedia, I'll try and see if I can identify any of the other music heard in the game, though granted that particular site only concerns classical music and therefore may not help with something more along the lines of "Ten Green Bottles".

[update: level 12 music remains unidentified but sounds very classical.  level 1-7 music unable to identify, do not sound classical, and may well be original tunes]

Also, a version of the level 8 music (Toreador song from the opera Carmen) on Youtube.

edit: and a version of the level 10 music (Schubert's The Trout).

edit: level 11 music identified (Beethoven's Turkish March)

Offline Prob Lem

  • Posts: 571
    • View Profile
Re: Ant-Soldiers (obscure Lemmings clone for obscure handheld) reviewed
« Reply #14 on: March 13, 2014, 01:23:01 AM »
I love those intro sequence pictures - they're really well-done. As far as Hong Kong Originals go, this one is really quite decently polished, actually. Heck, if my memory serves me correctly, the Game Boy version of Lemmings didn't actually even have an intro sequence at all, though as far as I remember, relatively few of them outside of the Amiga original (which had the lemmings disembarking from a hot-air balloon and then climbing over the Lemmings logo) did...

I'm still genuinely surprised by all the musical finds, too. HKOs often tend toward ear-splitting awfulness. :scared: