A.R.E.S.: Extinction Agenda ReviewAustin Godfrey
Pounding, electronic beats, deep colors, flashing, kinematic lighting; the only thing a Japanese side scrolling shooter needs to resemble an underground techno rave is a layer of foam and plethora of random pills. Indie developer Extend Studio's A.R.E.S.: Extinction Agenda is no exception to this game developing formula. A.R.E.S. takes aesthetics to the next level by bringing the look and feel of sidescrollers such as Megaman X and Metroid to the PC, but is the gameplay also on par with these classics as well?
The gameplay is pretty standard: run, jump, shoot, and collect. It can be played with a keyboard and mouse or an Xbox controller, but feels more natural on a controller. As the player progresses through the game they will unlock a new armor around the halfway point that adds a few new abilities, but even these feel pretty standard issue. Enemy variety is shallow, a majority of the level design is linear and under-challenging, and boss fights feel like direct ripoffs of ghosts from gaming's past. By the second level the player has pretty much reached the creativity crescendo. A few sections of the game are more puzzling, but this is only relative to the rest of the game's barren variety field.
A.R.E.S. includes a recycling system that does twist the flow of the game a touch. Enemies drop three kinds of material that can be turned into items like repair kits, grenades, and weapon upgrades on the fly. The weapon upgrades are nice because each level modifies your gun's appearance as well as its stats. The ability to use repair kits whenever softens a genre that historically puts gamers through hell, but the downside here is that boss fights degrade to spamming repair kits instead of working the bosses move patterns to avoid damage. The victory sensation of ending a level that a game in this genre needs just isn't there.
The story is feather-light and cliche; alien gas infects a space station of robots containing a secret weapon aimed at earth. This alien/robotic being claims to be the creator of humans and sees them as a mistake, but super robot A.R.E.S. is on a mission to save humanity. The few cutscenes play out through moving stills, and, like the rest of the game, these are all colorful, detailed, and generally amazing.
Extinction Agenda is the first episode in a series of A.R.E.S. games. Because the game is not designed as a full-release it is some-what excusable that there's a lack in content over time. Regardless, a few more additions at each level would have prevented such a deep gash on such a beautiful game. The game is fun, however, three hours later when the game ends the player has no idea what just happened and is kind of let down. The game only cost ten bucks, which is fairly reasonable considering the deep and detailed artwork; just don't expect deep and detailed gameplay to be paired with it.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.