I believe that most of us as children saw or at least heard of the animated film called ‘A Bug’s Life’. It was one of my favorite movies to watch and stayed like that until I saw the Godfather and Léon: The Professional. While that is all fine from ones perspective, it’s not what I want to talk about. On the same year the film was released, a game based on the movie soon followed. I remember my mom buying it for me a year later when it arrived in my country. I was so happy that I immediately installed it on my Windows 95 computer and started my adventure. It was so much fun killing enemies while crushing them with my butt. Ha Ha when i remember that part it ALWAYS makes me laugh.
I remember completing every level and collecting all the achievements, except for one…the final level… my gamble with Hopper. I tried so many times until I eventually gave up and moved on. Now, many years later I decided to clean up my room and by a stroke of luck, I found it again. I began to remember it all, the fun and the time spent on it. It was perhaps the reason I became a gamer, but never mind that. I also remembered the final level I couldn’t complete, a good reason why I should have tried it now. I decided to reinstall it on my computer, but an error popped up. The error in short words said that it would only run on Windows 95. I was so disappointed, that I even fell into temptation to go on YouTube and see the ending there.
As I was about to click ‘search’ an idea popped to mind, maybe somebody would sell an updated copy on the internet. I looked at a hundred online stores but with little to no success. I searched and searched until I came across a website called GameRom.no-name.net. It wasn’t very popular, but is seems to be still in business. It had no animations and it seemed to have been created with Dreamweaver. As I searched through the list, I couldn’t believe my eyes. The description said ‘in good condition and works on all PCs.’ I quickly took out my credit card and clicked on the ‘take it’ bottom. Afterwards, the unexpected happened. My browser closed in front of me, before I could buy it. I reopened it and returned to the site, it was gone. The game had literary disappeared from the search. Confused, I decided to go to bed, wondering what had happened. Since I didn’t give out my details, I had no reason to worry. My money was still in my possession and no purchase was done. Thinking that someone else bought it before me, I called it a night and went to sleep.
The next morning, I got up late. My dad entered my room and left me a package on my TV. He told me that a delivery man came this morning and said it was for me. I found it odd since I wasn’t expecting anything from anyone, so I opened it. My eyes were lit as gold when I realized what it was. The words ‘A Bug’s Life’ were written on the front of the cover and it was sealed in bubble wrap. I cut it clean with a knife and checked inside for the CD. It was there, but how was it here? I didn’t send them my address, so how did they deliver it? It was a tough question to answer, but since I had the game, I may as well give it a shot. I inserted it in the PC and the download screen appeared. I clicked next for all the requirements and it started the download. When it finished, it said “Download complete”. I wasn’t only excited that it had fully downloaded without errors, but that no ‘restart now’ option was suggested. There was only a bottom saying ‘Lunch’, so I clicked it and said to myself, let the nostalgia begin.
For being an updated version, little to nothing had changed. The same catchy tune was playing but it was a timy bit distorted i pressed on anyways. The training level was your suggested option to click. I clicked the ‘Enter’ Key to sharpen up my skills. Like the original, Mr.Soil was my guide throughout the entire level. The difference was that he looked shaken more than usual. Was he afraid of something? No enemies would be present until I get to the end, so why did he look like he didn’t want to be there? Another odd thing I noticed was that when you throw a berry, it leaves a red stain on the ground. This was an updated version, so I should have expected something different, but not as different as the next part. When I collected all the tokens and got to the upper platform with the mushroom and leaf, I discovered a new feature. Collect the grain and spelling my name was normal, but collecting stronger berry’s made me wonder.
When I fired a blue berry, the red puddle on the ground was larger and it was even larger when I used a green berry. When I got the gold one, I fired it at the enemies and with just a touch from the berry they exploded. Blood flew above Flik and some even landed on his face. The same thing happened when I tried to jump or squash them with my butt. This was surely a different version, but I couldn’t complain since I got to relive my childhood. At the end of each level, Flik would congratulate you if you completed all the achievements, but his usual sound files were gone and were replaced with different ones. The one for the grain originally said ‘Having too much grain’ but now it said ‘Later they’ll come in handy’. The one for your name which gave you an extra life usually said ‘F-L-I-K spells Flik, that’s me’ instead it said, ‘Another life, another opportunity.’ Finally, the gold achievement which is earned by killing all your enemies must have said ‘Well alright’ but now it said ‘Can we find more of these?’ To this point, I began asking myself if this was a hack of some sort. I exited the game and tried to go online to ask.
Unfortunately, the internet was down and with nothing better to occupy my day I decided to see what had changed. Level one was my only other option, so I entered. The level started out normally with Dot as my guide, she leads me to where I needed to go. Like I did in the past, I would usually ignore her and went exploring on my own. Looking around, I found Flik’s invention, I jumped in it. Since it collected grain and killed my enemies as if I had a gold berry, I said to myself, let’s to this! I wish I didn’t. The enemies didn’t just die, they were being sucked in. Some of them even tried to run as they saw their bodies being reduced to piles of separate parts. There was so much blood underneath Flik, that whenever he walked, he would leave red footprints in his path. Another thing that disturbed me a lot was that when you used a flying flower, you would spin endlessly and you could kill most of your enemies. However, they didn’t just spin and die.
They instead began to turn on themselves from both sides. The upper body turned left, while the lower part turned right. They would do this until they would split in two. It was gory but all seemed quiet for the next levels. The only other thing I notice was that Flik’s blue skin was turning whiter by each chapter. I thanked God that all remained the same for the next levels, but my luck soon ended.
When I arrived in the Clover Forest, all reality began to break apart. In this level I had to gather all the bird parts, but it wasn’t that simple to witness all the cut scenes. I remember the one where Manny would perform the trick that transforms his wife into one of the pieces you needed, but it didn’t end there this time. What would happen is that Gypsy would enter the box of noodles and from it a part would pop out. In this version, Gypsy would enter the box as usually but instead of her husband saying his famous words, Rosie came from above with a spike filled board. She descended and with one push, she shoved it inside the box. For a moment there was silence, blood came out from underneath the box and the bird’s part popped out, all coloured in red. Unfortunately for me, the cut scene didn’t end there. The screen then cut to black and reappeared soon after.
We see Rosie and Manny having a conversation. “Now we can be together forever.” He said. Rosie, than grabbed his face and they began to kiss. Soon after, the cut scene moved To Rosie’s feet and with one of her sharp legs, she then shoved it in his chest.
Manny couldn’t move and he looked like he was going to die at any second. “I don’t think so.” As he fell to the ground dead, she opened his belly and turned around.
With I foul yell, she laid her eggs in the body. The corpse was getting fatter and fatter and when it was full, she moved to the mouth. Flik just smiled menacingly at this point, as if he was the master and Rosie the apprentice. When I regained control of the ant, I went to the box to see if there was some life left in it. In the original, Gypsy would be calling Manny to get her out. But in this nightmare, no noise made itself present. I tried to regain my sanity by leaving the place as fast as I can.
I accidentally fell in a chasm and there is where I met Heimlich. Like the original he said “It’s ok, you can jump on my tummy!” maybe something remain normal after all.
As I jumped on him, the caterpillar exploded in a hundred pieces. I almost felt sick as I saw a brain hop in the distance. This was too much for anyone to take, seeing these characters all die made me uncomfortable. I went to see Francis and Slim, where the final part of the bird awaited me. As I expected, Francis uses Slim as a stick but hits the part to hard and slim breaks in two.
Then Francis said, “Is this good master?”
I grabbed the final part and ignored what followed. This game was so beautiful, what mad man cast this spell upon it. Curse my curiosity for choosing to continue. The next part involved getting the entire girl scouts to help me fly the bird. You would do this by climbing up a tree and finding them. I would always end up falling back to the bottom on this level. It start out normally at first, I began my ascension and reached the first scout. Here is where things got creepy again. Dim came down to pick up the scout, but instead of holding her until getting the top of the tree, he dropped her to the ground as soon as he reached the highest point in the sky.
I quickly rushed back down to see if the NPC was still alive. She was, but her voice was weak. “Why?” she asked. Then she stopped moving for good. Her eyes were open and endless tears begun to fall from her cheeks. There was nothing I could do, so I continued up the tree.
I came to the second scout and as the first, I approached her. Dim came down as well, but this time he didn’t drop her. Instead, he landed on her and crushed her into a hundred pieces.
“Was that good master?” he asked before flying back up. I found the third scout soon after, and Dim repeated his action with a different outcome. He came down from the sky and bit her body so hard that her severed head and legs fell to the bottom of the tree. He then munched whatever remained of the girl and looked at me with blood between his teeth.
“Master is right, children taste better than adults.” He said before leaving again.
I found and approach the penultimate one, but Dim didn’t come this time. In his place, Rosie used her web to cocoon her victim, “Sorry dear, but I need more space to lay...”
After covering her face, she grabbed her in her hands and took her away, never to be seen again. I came across the last one with a quick pace, I came close to her and Francis showed up. He looked at her with hatred, as if she’d ruined his life.
“Leave her my lord. She’s a useless waste of time.” The cut scene then gave a close up on her. Time appeared to be going faster until I noticed bones beginning to show on her skin.
In a moaning voice, she then said. “Feed….me….” Soon after, she bent slowly to the ground and closed her eyes. Time moved faster again and the skin decomposed until there was none left. She was nothing but bones. Then the little girl’s skeleton became ash and the wind blew it away.
I got to the top and climbed on the bird, only to encounter the final horror of the level. Dot’s head was impaled on a pike and Francis attached it on the bird’s head. There was also Rosie and Dim, just standing there, waiting only for my arrival. When I stepped forward, they all bowed and the level ended. That was so intense that my heart almost stopped beating. The next level only added to the nightmare, it was a boss fight. Molt was a straightforward boss, he would charge at you and when you change direction, he will slip and takes his time to follow you again. It would sound easy, but for the achievements, it would be tricky. This fight on the other hand was different.
The grasshopper didn’t follow me, but held his arms in front of his head. He said, “Please, don’t hurt me.” I almost felt sorry for him if he wasn’t the villain, but at this point, I began to wonder who was who. There was also another particular thing I noticed.
In this level, I didn’t have my berries, but I fought with my arms. There were no tokens and no other enemy in the level. It was just Molt and I, ready for a showdown. I approached him slowly, fearing it was a trap. It wasn’t. I punched him six times and after every punch, he begged me even more to stop. When he reached half his health, Flik punched him right in his eyes. Having his knuckles smaller than the grasshopper’s eyes, he punched him in both and they popped immediately. Green liquid came out and Molt fell to his knees. Holding his hands, he pleaded and prayed even more for mercy. Flik gave him none. When his health bar was empty, Flik punched him in the gut. It was so strong that it penetrated into the other side. The grasshopper fell to the ground broken, his tongue was licking the floor and Molt didn’t have the strength to pull it back in his mouth. He closed his eyelids and waited for the cold embrace of death to take him.
“Come, my disciples. And feed.” The ants from behind the leaves all came rushing to the corpse, eating whatever they could. Some even fought for certain parts and the others who kept their sanity looked in disgust. “I’m coming for you Hopper!”
I didn’t know what to think, Molt was defeated but I didn’t enjoy it. The internet was still down and I began to wonder if completing the last level was worth it. I continued on and begun level 13 or Ant Hill 2 as the zone was called. The level’s name would always be ‘Grasshoppers Leave’ and the objective was to recue ‘Atta from Hopper’, but it wasn’t. Instead, the name was ‘Grasshoppers Die’ and the objective was to ‘Rescue Your Victim’. As I started the level, it looked similar to the one I beat a long time ago, rescue Atta by using a berry shooter seed.
However, the level was strange. For instance, Tuck and Roll spoke normally and I understood every word, they were also coloured differently. They looked like mimes with their black and white features. Their eyes were empty and I felt as if they were looking at me where ever I walked. I knew at this point I was getting paranoid, but I arrived too far to quit now. I will defeat Hopper and I will finally win the game. I remember this level being hard since there was no gold berry, so you were stuck with your standard red berries and you had to grow a certain plant to destroy enemies for good.
This level was filled with grasshoppers and since there was no other berry, I couldn’t kill them with my red ones. In this version however, I didn’t have to. Every time I approached a grasshopper, they would tremble in fear, even if I couldn’t hurt them. One thing I almost forgot to mention was that Flik looked so pale in this level that it was almost blinding. Anyway, I collected all the tokens and rescued Atta. It wasn’t scary until the screen faded to black to return me to the ‘main menu’, but it didn’t. Instead, a cut scene played. I found it odd since I didn’t complete all the achievements for the level, but the words were there “Congratulations, Bonus Movie Clip earned”. I clicked the spacebar and waited for the show to begin.
It started off showing Flik rescue Atta and giving him a hug. The killer ant simply smiled and after a few seconds, he grabbed her by the arm and pushed her behind a rock. He left his grin present as he too disappeared behind the rock. “Flik, what are you doing?” she asked.
“Enjoying my prize, no?” he said before several screams of agony were heard. The screen faded to black and it reappeared with Atta in front of the screen. She too was now corrupted like Tuck and Roll, her skin was grey and her eyes were black.
Then Flik came from behind her, “What must I do master.” He petted her on the head and bit her antenna off. She didn’t scream for the pain inflicted, or react for that matter.
“I need you to fly me to the skies and fast. We need to finish what he has started.” he said. He, who was he referring to? I must have surely missed an important cut scene or something. I didn’t care at the moment and I wasn’t about to replay any of the levels, so I moved on.
I came to the level before the last one and entered. In this part, I had to fly in the sky with the help of Atta and lead Hopper to the bird’s nest. Everything looked the same except for the colour of the characters, but something gruesome would happen when I flew too high. When I got too close to the sky, Flik’s arms would detach from his body. As the rest of his body would fall to the ground, Atta would follow and pick him up from the legs. If you got to high again the legs would detach and she would then pick him up from the torso. And so on until only the head without antennas was left. Flik would swear hard every time it happened and sometimes he would even call the princess a strumpet. This part was a little hard since you had to worry about the bugs doing the same effect on you, but I progressed and finished the level with a head and one antenna left.
At long last we arrived at the moment of glory, while still in doubt of progressing, it was midnight and I could take whatever had to come. Like the one before the flight, the words of the title and the objective changed a little. Rather than ‘Eliminate Hopper and save your colony’, it simply said ‘Sacrifice Hopper and preserve the cult.’ I entered the level like the previous ones and I already felt wary when I saw Tuck and Roll. As I touched one of them, they both spoke the same sentence.
“You are fixed and the fires are ready.”
They were right, my entire body was back together or at least I think it was my body. Flik was back in his original blue colour, but his body didn’t match. One arm was bigger than the other and my feet didn’t look like that of an ant, but more of a caterpillar. I decided to ignore it and moved on.
What struck me odd about this level was that the enemies were nowhere to be found, aside from Hopper. Where they would usually be found was now replaced with green goo. The rain was also acting weird. Instead of coming from the sky, it came from the ground and went upwards. Flik didn’t care about these details as he kept repeating to himself. “We are almost there.” I took the blue berries and began to push Hopper ever closer to his end. He wouldn’t stop repeating, “Stay back you monster!”
I almost made it to the top of the hill with plenty of lives left to spare. After so long, I was finally going to close a chapter in my life for good, I kept attacking with my berries as Hopper kept trying to keep his distance. After getting him to the top, I spammed as fast as I could the ‘control’ button and fired berries at the Grasshopper without care. As his health went down, I couldn’t help but see his body becoming purple. I assumed he was being bruised. When his health bar was empty, a cut scene occurred. I was expecting the bird to come down and take him, but the bird never came. Hopper was on the ground dying and Flik stood there silent, but not for long. The ant grabbed a stick from nearby and shoved it through his mouth until it reached the other side. He then gave the impaled Hopper to two ants and they cooked him over a campfire I didn’t notice before.
As the camera turned around, I could see all of the ants and the remaining circus performers. Their skins looked like princess Atta’s, they didn’t move and they didn’t care of what was happening. Flik then bit Hopper in the head and cracked open his skull, “Come and take IT.” he yelled.
I expected the game to be over, but it wasn’t. After the black screen, Flik is seen sitting on a tree with Atta sleeping next to him. The camera then zoomed in on Flik. His eyes would be blank if it wasn’t for a round red circle running around the empty white. Our eyes were connected with one another. I couldn’t break the contact even if I wanted.
“Tell me…” he said. “Was this the ending you expected, I know you have many questions but first answer mine.”
I shook my head to give him a no. “No?”
My heart began to pump faster as I couldn’t believe he saw me do that. This is a videogame! He’s not supposed to know what I was thinking. I calmed myself and let him continue.
“What, you expected me to be seen as the hero? You of all people should know this Joseph. Did you really think I travelled to the city to find help? I went there to recruit, to help abandoned nobodies take the vengeance they never got. To overthrow the corrupted folks who left us for dead. Sure, some didn’t make it. But it’s not my problem they were having second thoughts. We cannot afford another dagger to the heart, can we? You and I are the orphans of society. Forgotten, but not lost. Unknown and unloved by all. You and I aren’t so different from one another. You try your best to help people in their everyday life, but all they want to do is take you down. You give them a hand and they bite it. You try your best to make a difference for their boon, but everyone pushes you away. No one wants to be your friend, even if you want them to see you as such. Our path is a lonely one Joseph, only together can we truly do great things. You will eventually become corrupted because of your love for others. It’s a fate you can’t avoid. I think it’s time you make a choice, join my cause or be banished by the army you helped me create. Give me your hand and let me enter your world.” Suddenly, Flik’s hand came out from the screen and was millimetres away from face.
I was grasping for air as I took all his words in. This ant was here in front of me asking for help, but what should I do? This must certainly have been a bad dream…No, it wasn’t. It was real and I had a choice to make. I lifted my hand and took out my index finger. I aimed it for the hard disk release button.
“What are you doing?” he asked. I swiftly clicked on it and I waited for it to open.
In anger, Flik grabbed my neck and began strangling me. As I tried to get up, his head came out of the screen and I was petrified by what I saw. Flik’s head was identical to an ant here on earth, with large mandibles and those red coloured eyes. His grip got tighter and at that point, everything began to fade.
“You have ruined everything! You…”
A sound I recognize was heard and Flik disappeared. The game exited automatically and my desktop was shown. I picked up the disk with the picture of him on the front. I turned the CD around to see if it was scratched and tried to make sense of all I witnessed. Another surprise awaited me, the ant and his crew were all there, he wasn’t dead yet. Aside from Flik, everyone else looked disappointed at me. Opening his arms, he tried to bargain with me.
Joseph, surely you can see who the villain is here, the world. You are destined to become like me, it is the only way you’ll survive. Now, put the CD back in the computer and let us out. DO IT!”
Out of pure instinct, I broke the CD in half. As soon as it cracked, loud screams were heard. They were so ear piercing, I was paralyzed as I held my ears for all the three seconds they lasted. Then something red of what I assumed to be blood began pouring out of the disk in large quantities. My neighbours were awakened by the sound and so I went to calm them down. When I returned, I cleaned the floor and soon after, I went online. I wanted to contact the website about this cruel joke, but my search engine gave me nothing. I tried searching from the URL and the result was the same, as if the website never existed. Since it was the last website I visited, I went to my browser’s history.
As I expected, there was nothing about it. According to my history, the last website I visited was YouTube, to search for the ending I didn’t see, I should have done that instead. I decided to ask online and ‘typed in’ if anyone knew about the website or this heck of ‘A Bug’s Life.’ In less than a minute, I had an answer. A woman by the name of Katie contacted me and ordered me to take down my post immediately. In exchange, she would provide me with answers I seek. I did as she asked and contacted her soon after.
“Is the game still in your hands?” she asked.
“I destroyed it and threw it in the trash can?” I responded.
“Thank God, you’re a lucky one.”
As the conversation went on, she told me that the website I bought it from was referred to as, ‘The Devil's Trolley’. It only appears once in every person’s life and disappears after seven minutes you leave or buy something. She went on to explain that no one knows who the owner of the website is or why he gives out these games for free.
I assume the price was supposed to be my life. Her next words would traumatize me forever. “You’re lucky it was just a game made for children, you got out easy. Others however… There was a man who bought a version of Amnesia: The Dark Descent from the site. When he started playing it, he stopped for a few minutes to blogged about it online for all his friends to know about it. He said how realistic it was and he was going to upload screenshots of the game after he was done playing. I saw the post in time and contacted him. I pleaded for him to destroy it, but he didn’t listen. The next morning, the police found him dead in front of his laptop. Four scissor marks were visible on his face, and his heart was missing. The police presumed it was cut out by some kind of saw. The man was my son.”
I gave her my sincere gratitude for the warning and my regards for the story she shared with me. Right after, I gave her my farewells. She sent me one final message.
“Share your experience with the world, how you found the game and your progress in it. Leave no details out. I want the world to know before more lives are taken. And for all of our sakes, never tell any soul the name of the website.”
That was the last time I ever heard from Katie, she never spoke to me again. I decided to fulfil her wish for I had nothing to lose and that is why you read this. Sometimes I wonder if Katie was actually the maker of the game and she only needed me for free publicity, but I digress. What perhaps scared me the most of this experience, was that I was always at Flik’s mercy. I still think deeply of his words, how I will eventually become him. He was right, I am exactly like him. I want to help others gain their wishes, but they all hate my presence. Maybe by destroying the disk, I saved the world. Or maybe I gave up on a once in a lifetime opportunity. Maybe, Flik felt sorry and may have even cared about me. After all, he did want me to join his cult. I’ll let you be the judge of that and I better like it.