Despite an occasionally anxious nature, I’m hardly a hypochondriac; in fact, I’m more likely to avoid a reason to go the doctor than worry over every tiny pain or glitch in the system. That said, I wouldn’t mind the premise of Bacto ($1.00) taking place in my body, doing the grunt work of a cleanup and battling infections for me. Of course, I’d have to be sick for this, and… you know what, let’s not talk about that.
Bacto is an Eat-Em-Up, starring a white blood cell1 on perpetual night watch, rooting out infections and killing off harmful bacteria. Lucky for him… er… it, that noble work takes the form of a very colorful game, complete with global high scores, powerups, and some ugly-looking beasties that are no doubt hell-bent on wrecking whatever body they inhabit. Levels task you with eliminating a preset number of enemies, with subsequent stages adding new, bigger bacteria, and roaming, impervious antibiotics you must avoid.
Said white blood cell attacks those enemies by expanding outward, swallowing and destroying foes within its reach. Oddly, those same enemies are deadly to the touch, depleting your life bar quickly should you make contact2. To counteract that serious deficiency, there are a few powerups to take advantage of. These include a shield item that allows you to plow through incoming threats without taking damage for a short time, and a ‘spread shot’ weapon type that will clear out some of the surrounding enemies, bailing you out of a potentially inescapable position.
Of course, you’ll have to work at it to get yourself boxed in; stages scroll endlessly in all directions, giving you plenty of space to work with. You can bank those powerups, too, opening up some strategic opportunities during the later, more crowded rounds. The problem is, it’s all just old hat. And a little boring.
You see, despite the generally bright visuals and simple setup, there’s nothing going on in Bacto that you haven’t seen done in other pseudo-shooters. Even the idea of fighting infections inside the body isn’t new, and the slight adjustments and modifiers here and there don’t do enough to make Bacto interesting over the long term. So there’s no rush in getting sick. Healthy is more fun.