Your name is Buzz Lincoln, and you live in an average - for the Twilight Zone - sleepy little town named Loveland, that used to engage in atomic bomb experiments daily. That is until one day, when due to "bad feed," or so said the government. For years, Dr. Pangbourne (you know him as Doc) used to head the experiments, until they went above ground with the testing. Doc tried to convince the townspeople there was serious radiation leakage, but no one would listen until now. Alas, the government managed to run Doc's good name through the wringer, and he came out looking like a crackpot.
Unfortunately, you work for him, and everyone thinks you're as big of a crackpot as he is. When the vandalism and theft go up, everyone naturally thinks it' you. After all, you do drive that 1950s Harley, so what else are they to think? However, your life doesn't hit critical mass until the day o the accident, all of which is naturally blamed on you. Yet, you're more concerned with the horrifying secret that's about to take Loveland by the throat, or should I say - antenna!
In It Came From the Desert, you play the main character, Buzz Lincoln. After a truck carrying nuclear waste turns over and loses its cargo, you're sent out to reactivate the radiation sensors that Doc had set up years ago when the above-ground testing was in full swing. What Buzz finds in the desert is Doc's worst nightmare: giant ants the size of Buicks - they want to send pairs of mating ants to all parts of the world and slowly take back control of the planet. The problem is, Buzz will have to get the information needed for Doc to convince everyone that the threat is real. Buzz has eight days to do this before an atomic bomb (redesigned by the lead ant, Antmind) blows up, sending the town sky-high.
Each day is broken into three parts: morning, afternoon and evening. At each time of the day, you have to choose two locations in town, out of four, where you'll need to go in order to either gather information or shut down the advance of the ants. Once you have the information or evidence, you'll need to return to Doc's lab so he can prove to the rest of the town and the government that the ants are serious.
Obviously, due to the time and use of the CD medium, the graphics are low-quality full-motion video. It uses live actors and has less hesitation than Sherlock Holmes. As is the problem with all TurboGrafx-CD games, it's hard to recreate convincing live action when you only have a few colors to work with and a single speed CD-ROM drive. The arcade scenes of the game - where you fight the ants - are a strange mix of bad and very bad. Some of the side scrolling stuff looks like it could have been a first generation NES game, while others are a bit more detailed (but still pretty bad). The one good thing you'll notice is that Buzz moves very smoothly. This is because the makers videotaped a gymnast walking, doing flips and other moves, then applied this to the action of the characters on the screen. Obviously this game doesn't hold a candle to what has been done on the PlayStation 2 or Xbox 360, but you don't see a lot of these full-motion video games any more (for better or worse).
The sound and music are nothing short of incredible. The music was composed and performed by professional musicians, which the CD captures perfectly. There are more than twenty different CD-quality audio tracks and 500 voice-overs. While the graphics and game play may seem a bit dated by today's standards, the audio could be used in just about any modern day adventure game. Obviously the voice acting is corny, but what else do you expect from a game about radioactive ants?
Let's talk about the game play. You already know that you have to gather information to defeat the ants, but you must also know whom to trust and when to trust them. It seems the ants also have the ability to take over the human mind. Once they have control over you, they'll force you to build the atomic bomb, and they'll send antdroids to take your place in the town. So there's more to the game than a lot of action scenes followed by a short intermission - not with one hour of video, anyway.
As you might imagine the game play takes a back seat to the full-motion video and silly story. But then again, can you really judge this game by traditional video game standards? It's not like if this was a movie it would have been given good grades, these days most critics would have scoffed at the very idea of watching a movie about giant radioactive ants who can infiltrate people's minds. This is a game that you can enjoy because of its crazy over-the-top acting and completely implausible storyline. After you've seen the first little bit of the game you may not need to see the rest (or ever come back to it), but there are more than a few people that will totally get into the strange 1950s horror movie theme.
You don't see this type of game made any more. Forget the whole full-motion video thing for a moment; you rarely see a video game that plays on the silly nature of 1950s movies (especially the bad ones). Sure the graphics and game play are completely dated, but that's almost fitting when talking about a game like this. If you were to toss in The Blob or Invasion of the Body Snatchers you wouldn't expect top of the line special effects, so why should we expect great graphics in It Came From the Desert? There's just something about this game's camp appeal that worked on me, even if it's not a great game. Maybe it's just me, but there's something kind of endearing about this property. Don't go into this expecting a great game, but I guarantee that you'll have a fun time.