|System: X360, PC (TBA)||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Artech Studios||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Sierra Online||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: June 4, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-2; 2 Online||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
Speaking of challenges, Aces of the Galaxy is a very difficult game to beat! At least it is on Normal and Hard difficulty settings, but not so much on Easy. Regardless, in true arcade fashion, there is no saving and no mercy. If you die, you will have to return to the beginning of the level, and if you lose all your lives, you'll have to go to the title screen and try again. Sorry folks, that's how the Swamp Slug slithers! This may be disconcerting to many (even most players), but the boardwalk hardcore will appreciate the level of skill the game demands of its players. That said, I did find targeting enemies to be easy on any difficulty. So players of all skill levels should be able to leave their mark on the Skurgian menace before getting toasted.
Unfortunately, the varied paths players can choose at the menu screen don't apply to in-game level design. There is a way to open up secret sections by blasting special glowing enemies, but really the title has a rail-shooter feel while progressing through the levels and is definitely confining. The game does allow for some directional control (to pick up power-ups, avoid debris, dodge incoming fire, etc.), but players are more or less whisked along a straight path with guns blazing. It would have been nice to have a bit more control within the levels. Again, this is an arcade title; one shouldn't expect it to be an Ace Combat game. All the same, having everything in front of you does get repetitious after a while. Essentially, Aces of the Galaxy feels like a high-speed shooting gallery rather than a fighter pilot simulator.
The graphics in Aces do a great job of depicting chaos and even speed to some extent. I wouldn't say it's as masterful as it is in F-Zero GX, but it can be nearly as dizzying. The environments within which you are thrust are detailed and breathtaking. Also, the enemy ship designs are really cool, and the fluid way in which they attack is pleasing to the eye. My only gripe with the visuals is that the powered up weaponry should have had more dazzling effects. That's not to say the ships you destroy won't break apart satisfyingly, it's just that these animations could have been stunning and they're not. Finally, there is a ton of action on the screen that may be confusing to the eye, but I feel it's necessary to communicate the appropriate level of insane mayhem. Some players may be overwhelmed though.
The sound package is quite nice. The main theme between each level is a chill collection of electronic bits. Additionally, the sounds of the explosions and weaponry rapport are unique and interesting. However, with so much shooting going on it can be somewhat of a sensory overload.
The controls don't quite hit the mark. As mentioned, it is very easy to target enemies and deploy your Cluster Missiles and Torpedoes, but constantly having to tap the A button to fire the Chain Gun is an arduous task for your hands. In fact, those who quickly tire may never reach the end of the game unless they take long breaks between levels. Interestingly, I don't find the developers at fault. After all, rapid tapping is an arcade staple. However, the 360 controller is not well suited for this type of mechanic. This is the kind of game that screams for the controls of an old-school cabinet. If you've got the extra cash lying around, I would suggest picking up an arcade controller setup. The only caveat is the LT and RT buttons are perfect for barrel rolls. However, shooting proves to be far more desirable than evasion in Aces.
Finally, the game employs a cooperative offline and online mode. Co-op play is very amusing and does a good job of lightening the load. Moreover, it is a whole lot of fun arguing over who actually got the kill and who deserves to get the power-up; naturally, I do! That seems to be the general mentality and attitude, so stealing the glowing buffs from your partner is an art form. The only drawback to having two players is the already confusing visuals are muddled even further by the second craft. At times, it can even be difficult to know who's who.
When all is said and done, this is an XBLA title that is worth its weight in Gold Memberships. The frantic pace and satisfying gameplay will appeal to fans of space shooters. However, if you're not a particularly skilled gamer, or you've got carpal tunnel issues, I would suggest sticking to the surfeit of quality puzzlers on XBLA. If you think you're part of the gaming hardcore, give Aces of the Galaxy a spin. You won't regret the purchase.
CCC Editor / News Director