Indie Game Review: A.R.E.S. Extinction Agenda

Indie Game Review: A.R.E.S. Extinction Agenda
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Platforms:

Windows PC

Game Name:

A.R.E.S. Extinction Agenda

Publisher(s):

ORiGO GAMES

Developer(s):

Extend Studio

Genre(s):

2D Side-scrolling platform

Release Date:

January 19, 2011

ESRB Rating:

NA

Developer Summary:

A.R.E.S.: Extinction Agenda is the first chapter in a full featured episodic hardcore action packed side scrolling platformer, in the traditions of retro classics, where you play as Ares, a combat robot created for the sole purpose of saving humanity. Can you live up to the task or will you be reduced to nuts and bolts?

Key Features

  • You are the ultimate weapon with the ultimate sidekick – Collect the secret items and get power up to become a perfect weapon.
  • Come face to face with colossal opponents, learn their patterns to defeat them in battle.
  • Destroy enemies, collect their parts, and then recycle them to make incredible items, including health packs, ammo, and weapon upgrades.

What We Think:

It’s the future. Humanity has used the earth as it’s own personal toilet for too long and everything is dying. A giant recycling plant is built in space. Aliens come, infect man-made technology, and declare war on the human race for not being eco-friendly. You are Ares (named after the god of war apparently – I’m not sure why it’s an acronym in the title of the game) a brand new battle-bot, built with an experimental immunity to the alien control gas.

Now you must battle your way through the recycling plant, save the hostages, and stop the aliens from blowing up the planet…because they want to save it…or something like that. To hell with the plot! It’s a 2D platform game! Let’s start shooting robots!

A.R.E.S. on Steam screenshot

If I had to use one word to describe the first episode of the A.R.E.S. series of games it would be slick. While it certainly pays homage to the classics that inspired it, there is a modern level of quality that you rarely see in an indie title. Time to break it down to its elements.

Visual

For the most part, A.R.E.S. is visually amazing. The in-game graphics are incredibly well done. Smooth parallax scrolling on very heavily animated and deep backgrounds. Great future-industrial feel. It could probably do with more than the one environment, but that’s what sequels are for, right? Crisp character and enemy animations, though the breathing animation on Ares seems a little awkward (why is the robot breathing anyway?). Even the anime-style pop-up communications are well done.

The out-of-game stuff, on the other hand, suffers a bit in quality. The cut scenes are more crudely drawn than the in-game stuff, and suffers from the “I don’t know anything about animation, but I can get an object to move from point A to point B” style of animating that reminds me of the shareware titles of yesteryear. Perhaps it’s intentional, but it stands out when compared to the quality work you see while playing.

A.R.E.S. Extinction Agenda screenshot

Audio

Sound effects are your typically stock blasts, bleeps, and metallic noises that, while they wont be inspiring anyone to go out and become a sound engineer, work perfectly in this game. They’re enough to remind you of classic games without being so crude that it reminds you how annoying the sounds in those classics really were.

The same can be said for the music. It’s a just-above-chip-tunes quality electronic hard rock affair that will keep your energy level up while playing, but won’t distract you while shooting robots in the face.

Gameplay

More side-scrolling platform staples, done well. Expect small and easy puzzles, locked and/or secret rooms, lockdown rooms full of wave after wave of enemies, and crazy (if not taxing) boss fights.

Level design is very nice, with about as much vertical movement as horizontal. Enemies may only come in a limited variety, but they each use very distinct tactics to keep you on your toes.

Ares’ arsenal is pretty broad, including multiple main weapon types, grenades and special abilities.

If there’s one complaint to be made, it would be the default control schemes. The keyboard works just fine, but aiming with the mouse is problematic. While it’s great for precision, quickly swinging from one side of Ares to the other becomes a lesson in frustration. It’s like trying to play a lightgun game with a mouse. The gamepad, using the second analog stick as your directional fire, is great at getting your laser blasts where you want them, but leaves you with your left thumb off the other vital action buttons. You can easily switch those actions to the shoulder and trigger buttons, but it’s a little annoying to have a default setup that makes the old jump-and-shoot nearly impossible to perform.

Conclusion

The illegitimate love child of Samus and Megaman, A.R.E.S. is a 2D platformer that stands out in the increasingly crowded market. While it’s gameplay doesn’t display any out of the box thinking, it is done with enough skill to keep even the most hardened gamer happy. Well worth the price of admission.

Get A.R.E.S. Extinction Agenda on Steam

Visit the official A.R.E.S. site and try out a free demo

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Patrick Bartholomew

Patrick is a freelance multimedia developer specializing in Flash development and animation. He has been programming and making games as a hobby since the age of 7 and has been an avid pen and paper role-player for at least as long.

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