Side scrolling shooters have come in almost all shapes and sizes. Classic games like Mega Man, Contra, and Metroid set the bar for great side scrolling action. Almost everyone has taken their shot at making a good side scrolling shooter. Some have turned out great, some not so much. ARES: Extinction Agenda is one of the great ones.
Like mentioned before, ARES is a 2D side scrolling shooter that put player in the shoes of ARES, an android sent to investigate a space station that came under attack by an unknown life force. It is now up to ARES to stop the attackers, rescue hostages, and get out before the entire station goes up in flames.
The game utilizes the mouse and keyboard as well as the Xbox 360 controller. Both work exceptionally well, and as most people know, for me the controller is what I prefer. With the 360 controller, you can both fire your main weapon with a button press or using the right analog stick to fire, much like a twin stick shooter.
The gameplay is very similar to Contra. You unload massive amounts of bullets, lasers, and energy waves into incoming enemies. ARES has the ability to recycle parts and junk that you obtain from killing enemies into helpful items, weapon upgrades, and grenades. ARES also has the ability to call on a laser strike that will destroy all the enemies on screen as well as attack a boss for massive damage. It refills over time so you can’t spam it too much.
One of the really cool aspects of the game is the boss fights. Each stage may have up to three boss fights, each with their own unique style and abilities. The fights play out much like they would in a Castlevania or Metroid game where you have to figure out the patterns and attack at the right moment.
ARES will learn new abilities that will help him to defeat enemies as well as traverse the areas with ease. Much like a Metroid or late Castlevania game, there is an emphasis on returning to previous stages to obtain new items and stat bonuses as well as unlock back story profiles. There are two difficulties Normal and Hard. Normal will offer up a decent challenge in the boss fights, but you should have no problem with the game. Hard mode is where the game gets real. You are scored on how well you do on each stage through letter ranking. So there is always room for improvement.
The presentation, art style, and soundtrack make this game stand out among a sea of indie developed games. The action and small curt scenes are very stylized and fit well with the overall feel and tone with the game. The music is very reminiscent of new age Mega Man games with an “intergalactic” theme to the tracks. It gets you pumped to blast some alien robots. The entire package is very well done, especially for it being an indie game. You can tell there was a good amount of time spent on the development of the game.
The only problems I had with the game was the platforming was just not as responsive as I would have hoped for. It’s not bad by any means it’s just a little sluggish with the jumping. Sometimes you’ll fall into a pit due to a small delay. The other problem is the length of the game. On normal mode it took me around two and a half hours to finish. Granted, I was playing on what is essentially the easy mode, but with only 5 stages I was hoping for a little more since the game is that much fun. From what I understand ARES is going to be an episodic game so, maybe they are planning for more content in the next installment. I can only hope.
For an indie title, ARES is really impressive. For a full on downloadable title, this is impressive. ARES does so many things right, it’s hard not to want more. Even with its short story mode, there is always more to do in the game. The presentation and music is top notch that makes the game just that more enjoyable. It’s available on Steam for $9.99, and its well worth the money. I suggest everyone check it out.
Review copy provided by publisher.