A.R.E.S.: Extinction Agenda Review
Price: $9.99 USD ($9.87 AUD)
Few modern platforming games use traditional elements of platforming, with most trying to re-invent the genre with all sorts of gameplay twists. The A.R.E.S. series, an episodic side-scrolling platform adventure, looks to rectify this, borrowing inspiration from classic platformers while upping the ante in terms of presentation.
Episode one, subtitled Extinction Agenda, focuses on the accidental creation of a strange gas. This gas takes over robots, and sets the scene for a 'good versus bad' scenario. While the plot is abstract, there is lots of emphasis on it from the get-go, which should see the series safely through to its end.
Armed with a basic beam, the player takes control of A.R.E.S. - a robot resistant to the brainwashing gas. While there is some importance placed upon killing other robots, the actual platforming is just as significant. Many obstacles and elements are thrown in to trouble the player, resulting in a well-balanced platform/shooting experience.
The most interesting thing A.R.E.S. (the game) has going for it is its recycling system. Upon killing enemies, you'll be given different metals. These can then be crafted into one of numerous items, including grenades, health kits and weapon upgrades. The hardest part for the player is knowing when to upgrade weapons and when to get some extra health. When metal resources are limited, the doubt instilled in the player's mind really makes the experience - especially when winning - more fulfilling.
While all parts of the gameplay are as close to seamlessly integrated as you could want, the controls feel clunky at times. As one of the most important parts of a platforming game, it's disappointing the developers didn't get movement right, but this can be forgiven once you've gotten used to playing.
While this game is packed with sleek visuals and sci-fi sounds, there's certainly a retro feel about it all. For example, each boss requires the player to observe attack patterns and time their assault carefully, similar to bosses from early Metroid games. This atmosphere is complete with the addition of data cubes and power cubes, which present information on different characters and enemies, and even boost different attributes.
The difficulty of this game is questionable. While there are different levels of difficulty, none are particularly challenging. A lingering feeling of frustration should be present in all games in this genre, and yet it is one of few things so blatantly missing from A.R.E.S..
The game is presented nicely with a clean UI and some stunning 2.5D visuals. Images for characters and bosses are crisp, and visual effects here and there give the game some graphical pizazz. This is all complemented by some great sound work by Hyperduck.
The action in episode one takes place across five different stages, each introducing a new platforming aspect or enemy type. You'll also have some boss encounters - a must for any platformer, new or old. While the player will most likely have a few deaths, there's still only around an hour of gameplay to be had, which presents this question: should this episode (and future episodes) be more appropriately priced? By the time the adventure feels like a complete game, players could end up spending up to or beyond $60 - an outrageous price if you consider each of the next five episodes to be of similar length to Extinction Agenda.
A.R.E.S. has everything a platform/shooter should. It pays tribute to classic platformers while bringing in its own features. While the first chapter, Extinction Agenda, is quite short when the price is considered, the fun gameplay, sharp visuals and brilliant audio make it a game well worth buying.
By Harry Hughes
We say: GOOD BUY