Aces of the Galaxy

Battle fleets of aliens in a cutting-edge spaceship
 
Release: June 4, 2008 (PC, Xbox 360)
 
By Ian Coppock, Originally Published on July 1, 2013
 
Getting into games that came out years ago has helped me forget the ones that have come out recently, not that they needed much help. In total, I’ve played four games released this year that I thought were worth the attention of the gaming world, and I’ve already reviewed three of them. My assuredly smug-sounding assertion is based on a combination of subjective personal cynicism and the fact that game sales took a dip for the first time in history this spring. Hopefully, the mainstream gaming world will find a new creative oasis, but I’m today I’m sticking with older games.
.
So, yeah… Aces of the Galaxy 😀
.
The Gameplay
 .
Like a few other games I’ve reviewed recently, Aces has no true narrative. The reader who sent me the request asked me to consider the game from the same angle as Minecraft, in that it pulls off other aspects of gameplay so well that narrative becomes unnecessary. We’ll see if this game can pull that off.
 .
The game takes place in a space-age war between humanity and a group of aliens called the Skurgian Empire. You play a nameless human fighting against the Skurgians and their leader, Vrax.Aces has a tongue-in-cheek approach to such a conventional space setting, using ridiculous names and cliches to make its premise look all cool and post-modern.
 .
Supreme Overlord Vrax is the primary salivating amphibian of Aces.
 The game opens with you stealing a prototype Skurgian fighter from a military lab, and then making your escape from the alien fleet. Like the Star Fox games and more than a few arcade shoot-em-ups,Aces is a rail shooter. Your spaceship is guided along an invisible path in each level.
 .
En route, it’s your job to shoot into oblivion as many alien spacecraft as possible, both to rack up high scores and to avoid getting obliterated yourself. The aliens are pissed that you stole their precious spaceship, so they unleash all hell upon you as you make your escape.
 .
I wasn’t being disingenuous with that “all hell” example. The game’s dogfights are quite chaotic.
With Aces, you don’t have to be a hyper-reflexive fighter jockey in order to be good at it. I just flew my ship about wildly while firing nonstop and that pretty much did the job. The game requires no prior skills, really, other than the ability to move a joystick or mouse around in an anarchic manner. The game does only give you three lives, though, for all nine levels of mayhem.
 .
As you fly, the Skurgians will throw patterned fleets of alien spaceships at you. You have to manage dodging their fire while firing back. You have a variety of weapons at your disposal to make this happen, including laser cannons, torpedo launchers and cluster missiles.
 .
You have lots of weapon options in Aces, which comes in handy when the aliens pull out the big guns.
Aces is split into nine levels of spaceborne dogfighting that make for an hour or so of gameplay. What I found rather neato about this game is that after completing a couple of levels in one setting, you get to choose where the next few levels will take place. Granted, there’s only three choices (ice field, Earth’s orbit, and a star going supernova) but I thought that was a neat little feature. You can pick the same consecutive setting for the whole round or switch it up every chance you get.
.
In each level, you’ll also face off with a Skurgian boss flying an enhanced ship. The aforementioned Vrax is your first nemesis, but if you can shoot him down before the game is over, he’ll be replaced by another antagonist leading the aliens in his stead. That antagonist will be replaced upon his death, and so on and so forth. Each enemy will yell at you in a pre-level briefing filled with humorous cliches.
 .
The Skurgian Garbage-Smashers were some of my favorite antagonists. Aces deliberately fills the dialogue screens with cliches to make for humor and references.
Aces does a lot of things well. It encapsulates the best of old-school rail shooters and keeps the gameplay simple, not simplistic. The game does have a few flaws, some of which are just endemic to rail shooters. The first and most obvious is the lack of freedom. Rail shooters are fun but the inability to deviate from the pre-determined path took away my sense of freedom. I always prefer space shooters in which I can fly around a big map (any Rogue Squadron fans out there?) but this is an issue native to all rail shooters, not just Aces.
.
There are also a few control issues. The dodging mechanic is… well, dodgy, to be perfectly honest. The idea is to barrel-roll your way out of the path of fire, but sometimes my ship just barrel-rolled without moving anywhere. Unless my barrel-rolling is so badass that the lasers just explode upon touching me (it isn’t), the dodging was problematic. There’s also a mechanic for scanning invisible ships, but I only used it once, when the game prompted me to. I’m sure that there were some invisible ships in other levels but their threat to me was so minimal that I never needed the scanner.
 .
The Artwork
 .
Aces is the first game I’ve reviewed wherein I can safely say that the graphics are average. None of my fancy-dancy sub-mediocre or quasi-lacking-detail jargon, just average. Nothing great, nothing terrible. Yep. Don’t really feel like I need to expand on that.
 .
I will say that the game has a great framerate (60 fps), which is handy for when I’m being swarmed by three hundred vessels on the same damn screen.
 .
Aces does framerate well. Which is awesome, because I’m being teleported through a warp gate alongside an entire alien fleet.
Aces has no spoken dialogue outside of the clicky, raspy sounds of the Skurgians or the beep-boops of robots. The music combines old-school synths with a heroic, ‘MURICA-style orchestra that reminded me of old NASA footage. The disconnect between this two styles is evident but hardly a deal-breaker.
 .
The environments in this game are of a massive scale, but because you can’t go anywhere other than the rail path, the epicness is more about spectacle than substance. Indeed, much of this game is. You’ll soar past huge worlds, giant alien ships and through fields of asteroids, but it’s all nothing more than stage props.
 .
AWESOME! I wish I could actually visit! …
 Should I get it?
.
Aces does enough of what it’s going for well enough, so it’s not getting out of here without a recommendation. It doesn’t make any ballsy leaps, but rather, assimilates all the good about rail shooters and some of the inevitable bad. It takes about an hour to play through all the levels successfully, and the shifting settings equals replay value. For $5, that’s not bad.
Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s