Lady Bug is a Maze game in the style of Pac-Man in which players control the titular character, who must devour all of the dots on each stage in order to move forward to the next. In pursuit of Lady Bug are the nefarious Bugs, who give relentless chase and will kill Lady Bug if they catch up. However, Lady Bug has the ability to alter the maze with various turnstiles that can be pushed to block off old pass ageways and create new ones, offering escape routes from the oncoming Bugs.
The border of the screen will change color at a set rate, and when the entire border has shifted color, a signal will alert the player that a new Bug is about to be released from the center chamber. This process continues until four Bugs are in the maze, at which point the stage's Bonus Vegetable will be present in the center chamber. Eating the Bonus Chamber will score Lady Bug a large quantity of points, as well as having the side effect of freezing all enemy Bugs on screen for a brief period of time.
The turnstiles are what make Lady Bug unique as a game. Each turnstile can be moved into a horizontal or vertical position, changing the layout of the maze. Bugs cannot change turnstiles, making it the player's only feasible advantage over the enemy. The game's maze is designed in such a way that it is impossible to completely block off any section of the maze, so the player must always remain agile and moving to avoid new threats. That said, arranging these turnstiles in particular patterns can confuse the Bug AI and make dot collection much easier.
Ultimately, getting high scores on Lady Bug starts with eating three blue hearts as quickly as possible in order to jack up the multiplier to five. Additionally, collecting at least one (if not more) Bonus Vegetables in each stage will pad score as well. Collecting letters at their correct colors is also key. The most difficult part of Lady Bug is avoiding the pursuers, however using turnstiles in select patterns can often confuse the computer's AI enough to protect the player for long stretches of time.
Building a "home base" to hole up in works pretty well, especially if bugs need to turn multiple times to reach the player. Additionally, creating two-block reservoirs tends to trap Bugs indefinitely. Combining these two techniques can put the bugs in predictable locations, making an easy pathway to the bonus vegetable. The key to this strategy is to clear out the lower half of the screen first, since this is where Bugs tend to collect most often. Stay still in the base and wait for the bugs to settle into static positions, and then go for the kill.
Scattered across each maze are six bonus items: Three Hearts, and three letters. These icons also shift color in cycles from a long blue period, to a fast red period, and a middle-grade yellow period. Collecting these items at specific colors is one of the keys to scoring big points in Lady Bug and can greatly increase survivability.
Hearts and Multiplier
Hearts are linked to each stage's Score Multiplier, and should always be collected BLUE. The first blue heart collected will increase all points gained in that stage by double. the second blue heart will then triple all scoring, and the third blue heart multiples all scoring by five. Any hearts collected at other color will not affect the multiplier at all. Luckily, since the bonus items are blue the longest, these are relatively easy to collect.
Collecting the letters in the word "SPECIAL" during their short red phase is a primary goal of Lady Bug. Doing so will net a special bonus depending on the version of the game. In Arcade Lady Bug, collecting the SPECIAL bonus will give players credit for a free game. In the Colecovision version, collecting the SPECIAL bonus will send Lady Bug to a "Vegetable Harvest" stage with no enemies and many high value vegetables to eat. The Intellivision version has no SPECIAL bonus.
After completing the SPECIAL bonus, players move onto the next stage.
Collecting the letters in the word "EXTRA" during their middle-grade yellow phase with net the player a bonus life in all versions of the game. In addition, players are automatically skipped to the next stage. As the word EXTRA has only three unique letter instead of SPECIAL's five, it is much easier to complete this bonus.
Collecting any letter outside of its affiliated color will net points, however will not go toward spelling its word. For instance, collecting a red letter "X" in ineffective towards the EXTRA bonus. However, the player scores more points for red letters versus yellow, and yellow versus blue, so collecting red letters that are extraneous can still help pad the score. Also, vowels like "E" and "A" can be collected either red or yellow depending on which bonus word the player intends to spell.
Each of the first 18 stages is assigned a Bonus Vegetable that increases in point value by 500 points. This vegetable appears in the center chamber after the fourth Bug has been released. By eating the Bonus Vegetable, the player gains a ton of points and the Bugs freeze in their tracks for a handful of seconds. While Lady Bug cannot kill the Bugs even while they are frozen, this can be used to great tactical advantage when attempting to collect dots in difficult places. In many situations, it is possible to collect more than one Bonus Vegetable in each stage (see below).
It's also worth noting that some of the vegetables are particularly strange and somewhat out of place.
There are eight variations of Bugs that appear sequentially from stages one through eight. These bugs look different, however they all act the same with rudimentary AI. Bugs cannot be killed directly by the Lady Bug in any way. Even a Bug frozen by eating the Bonus Vegetable is still deadly to the touch. Bugs can however kill themselves by running into Skulls (see below).
In the Colecovision version of Lady Bug, the Bugs double in traveling speed starting in stage 9. This makes the task of avoiding Bugs exponentially more difficult. They also begin to appear on a rotational basis, with Bugs 1 through 4 inhabiting stage 9, 2 through 5 in stage 10, and so on.
Each stage contains a set number of Skull objects randomly placed in the maze. Skulls cannot be eaten by Lady Bug, and will cause instant death. Likewise, the enemy Bugs cannot eat skulls either, or they will perish and return to the center chamber. The upside to this is that any Bug that enters an empty center chamber will regenerate a new Bonus Vegetable when it is released. By doing so it is possible to collect many vegetables in one stage.
Stage 1 starts with two skulls, and progressively more are added until stage 10, where there are five skulls indefinitely moving forward.