Friday, June 6, 2008

Aces of The Galaxy Impressions

This fun little "3d space shooter on-rails" hit the Xbox Live Marketplace this past Wednesday and Ive given it a couple of spins. Im not sure how many of you owned an N64, but if you did, you might remember a little game called Star Fox. Aces of The Galaxy clearly takes Star Fox as its main inspiration, for better or worse. All thats missing is Peppy constantly screaming in your headset to "Do A Barrel Roll!" And a barrel roll you will need to do.

The game constantly spawns enemies from all around you, and although its possible to slow down time, you cant slow down your ship or speed it up, you're on rails with no gas or brake, just dodging abilities. This makes for a very hectic experience. You will constantly be swimming right to left while you cycle through your weapons and dodge asteroids, mines, oncoming ships and missles. Sometimes, especially with 2 players on the screen (XBL coop supported), its just too much to keep track of and your ship is lost in the clutter of flashing lights and blurs.

Luckily, you have a health bar and your ship is pretty tough, it can take a head-on collision with an asteroid or a walk through a mine field without losing 50% of its total health. You have 3 weapons, but for the most part the chain gun will be your main squeeze. Oddly, Sierra not choose to include auto-fire for any of the weapons. Thats right, to keep your chain gun going, you will have to constantly tap the A button, which I find to be pretty annoying. Luckily for me, I own a lot of annoying games like this so Ive already invested in an anti-annoyance controller - a Mad Catz 360 Microcon with built in turbo. With turbo set on the A button flying through this game is a breeze, you could just tap A but the game takes long enough that it might draw blood if you dont switch between fingers.

Ryan Geddes in his IGN review of the game says he was surprised by the lack of chain gun auto fire, but that after a while he began cycling through the other weapons enough that it didnt bother him. Well, Im telling you right now there is no way to get a decent score in this game, or even make it to the later levels with all your lives, without spamming that A button. The missles and torpedoes just dont hit enough of the enemies on the screen, they are great against larger ships but most of the game consists of shooting down groups of small ships that spawn from the sides or top of the screen ala Space Invaders, Galaga or 1942.

IGN gave the game an 8.4 and asked the question if it was the best shooter on XBLA. Im here to say no, and its not even close. If Aces of the Galaxy is an 8.4 then Omega 5 and Assault Heroes 2 are 9.8s, and Ikaruga is a 19. While Aces of The Galaxy is fun, its nothing revolutionary and at times it feels cheap, lackluster, and repetitive. There are no boss battles, the level designs are very linear and uninspired, and the story can be summed up with the 3 words "human vs aliens". The main draw is the graphics, which are fantastic for a downloadable game. Ive never been a huge fan of on-rails 3d space shooters aside from Star Fox, and while Aces is probably worth the 800 points, especially if you like coop shooters, its not even close to the top of the pile on XBLA.

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