Get ready to brutalize ants for the good of science!
Aside from SimAnt, there haven't been many ant simulation games. Konami's Ant Nation for WiiWare, with a version hitting DS later this summer, brings a new take on the genre that includes solid pointer controls, sadism, and repetitive gameplay.
Playing the role of a mad scientist, you start off with a small ant colony that grows as you progress through 100 missions of varying length and fun. All the missions lack variety, as they never evolve past "fight off this insect" or "carry this food back to the colony." Some of them are downright weird, as you wield a hammer to kill hidden red ants to an out-of-place, bouncy musical tune.
At the outset, you have three tools at your disposal: a magnifying glass, which allows you to zoom in and out of the world; a pipette, which allows you to pick up groups of ants and move them around easily; and a pointer, which allows you to select single ants. There are other tools that you unlock, but these three are the only ones you don't have to spend gold to use. The pipette is the most important, because it is the only way you can transport large groups of ants. It's easy to use, but gathering all the ants can be a pain as you have to shake them out of the anthill very often. Basically, in order to get the insects out of their home, you need to hold the A button and shake the Wii Remote until they decide to head on out.
On the whole, the controls are solid. Ant Nation makes use of the Wii Remote's pointer to select the ants and activate the game's various tools in conjunction with simple button presses. Outside of that, you control your view of the map with the D-pad, or you can attach a Nunchuk and use analog control, which is a marginal improvement, although it doesn't affect the experience too much.
Most of the gameplay involves tasking your growing ant army to carry food back to the colony or fight larger insects. In a sadistic turn, you can also train them by inflicting damage upon them. At the start, you can only squeeze the life out of the little things to raise their level (don't squeeze too hard or they might die), but as you progress through the game's missions, you earn new tools to level up the ants. These tools range from scientific tools such as a Bunsen burner to fictional weapons like a ray gun. It's all quite odd and cruel.
The ants can regain their health by carrying food back to the anthill, which in turns adds more ants to your colony. This is where the game hits a big snag; it takes way too long for ants to bring food back to anthill. In between missions, you could very easily buy some food, sic your ants to it, and then leave the room, make a sandwich, and eat said sandwich.
For each mission you complete, you get gold that is used to buy food and tools. However, this amount of gold is very finite and there is no reasonable way to get more ants or train the ones you have without it. There is no way to replay missions, so if you're ill-prepared, parts of the game are almost impossible. The only way to get gold outside of missions is to scout the entire area with your magnifying glass, and the only way to get more food is to wait for an insect to randomly show up and then defeat it before it leaves the environment.
There is also another mode that is even more sadistic than the normal game. In this mode, you go through 20 different missions where you are given access to one or more weapons and tasked with killing ants as quickly as you can. The whole experience feels more akin to genocide than a game. This mode is the only part of the game that actually has a speed other than slow.
The majority of Ant Nation is a slow-paced, disturbing affair with little variety. It controls well, but that's about the only good thing about it. Unless you're starved for ant simulation games, this should be left on the virtual shelf.