Video gaming
Get more with myNEWS
A personalised news feed of stories that matter to you
Learn more
The visuals of the game are also interesting although the UI can be overwhelming and obscure at times. (Picture: Dragon Whisper Game)

Virus-fighting game is an unpolished gem

Bacterium is all about fighting viruses in a nanobot inside human bodies

Video gaming
This article originally appeared on ABACUS

Forget about taking down the Terminator. What if the future is about nanobots fighting viruses?

In Bacterium, an action game on Steam from Dragon Whisper Game, you are a nanobot pilot in a dystopian future where bacteria and viruses have become the dominant living things on Earth.
The human race is fighting against extinction. You were born into this war and have been tasked with treating infected humans by gunning down pandemic-spreading organisms in their bodies.

Sounds daunting... but weirdly exciting, right?

It absolutely is for me. I burst into laughter the moment I saw this game, not because I found it ridiculous or inconceivable, but because I was amused by how off-the-charts wild and creative this idea is.

And when we actually got around to playing the game, I wasn't let down. You are essentially controlling your nanobot as if it’s an X-wing, firing beams at lymph cells, shattering the protein shield around a tumor with ultrasound waves and restoring broken membranes.

The mission designs and the environments that you get to fight in are also very cool. Sometimes you have to squeeze through two throbbing cells that could potentially crush you. Sometimes you get to travel through a semipermeable membrane. There are also red blood cells that travel in the vessels.

The visuals of the game are also interesting although the UI can be overwhelming and obscure at times. (Picture: Dragon Whisper Game)

The game also pushes you to interact with the environment. In order to defeat the corona viruses, you will have to collect proteins from fibrous tissues nearby. You also have to shepherd the white cells around so that they can clean up the viruses that you can’t destroy.

While I can’t testify to how accurate the game is in terms of cytology or human anatomy, I love that it makes biology sound so much more fun than how it’s depicted in traditional textbooks. There were so many of those oh-I-remember-this moments.

Although the objective of each mission is always about defeating a virus baddie, there are very distinct ways you can go about doing that. Also, Bacterium is good at keeping the game challenging. For example, you don’t get to have advanced weapons like guns right out of the box.

The game can also be played in single-player as well as co-op, with the latter featuring up to four players at a time. Its co-op mode is a lot of fun but it also becomes a little harder.

Apart from that, there's also a battle mode where you can fight another player. It’s a series of one-shot-kill matches in a best-of-seven kind of format. It’s essentially a sniping match while you can also get to stun the other nanobot with a grenade.

Right, that's the meat of the game. Here's where it gets a bit weird. When your character isn't piloting the nanobot, he's in his room. The room essentially functions as the lobby of the game, where you use a computer to get upgrades and see your achievements in the bathroom. Bathroom? Yup. You even access battle mode on the toilet.

The room also offers a bit of insight into the game’s backstory, which already feels like there's a twist coming during the two hours that we played.

You work for the good guys in this war, Green Medical. But Green Medical feels more sinister than, say, Osborn Industries. For example, you were born into this war and you don’t even have a name. You are simply No.4100 at Green Medical. On top of that, No.4100 has also never been allowed outside of his room.

(Yup, this is just the sort of story I dig.)

I gotta admit though, despite praising the game for most of this story, I also have to say that Bacterium isn't very polished.

In fact, you might get immediately frustrated with it if you don’t read Chinese. While the game is available in English, it's in Chinese by default. And there is no way for you to know how to switch it back to English without looking for tutorials online.

The localization is also extremely poor as the game is littered with typos. One of the most common loading scenes literally has “red boold cells” in a big fat font, smack in the middle of the screen.

The UI also feels extremely cluttered. I was quickly overwhelmed by all the things going on in front of me, so I just had to roll with it.

If you want to see more from Bacterium, you can check out our full stream right here!

Just half a season in, anime hit Cells at Work! snatches 56 million views in China

For more insights into China tech, sign up for our tech newsletters, subscribe to our Inside China Tech podcast, and download the comprehensive 2019 China Internet Report. Also roam China Tech City, an award-winning interactive digital map at our sister site Abacus.