Many of us reading this will have been brought up on a healthy diet of classic side scrolling platform shooters, and those of us who are old enough to admit playing Cobra for the ZX Spectrum or Mega Man on various other consoles, will no doubt be able to recount stories of their former gaming habits and relive some fond memories from the bygone days of gaming. A.R.E.S. Extinction Agenda from indie developers Extend Studio, is a pleasant little platformer and it’s nice to see, in this day and age, that the retro art of running, jumping, rolling and shooting in glorious 2D isn’t dead yet.
The story starts late in the 21st Century. Poor old Earth isn’t looking too healthy with ink black rivers and seas, huge deserts, barren wastelands and most of the plant and animal life gone the way of the Dodo. Therefore, a global organisation called United Earth (UE) was set up with the task of trying to save the Earth. After a number of failed and expensive attempts, a scientist by the name of Dr. Julia Carson came up with the wonderful idea of constructing a giant space station that could store toxic waste and re-process it into organic matter using a variety of impressive and very long scientific acronyms. However, as is always the case in these situations, a strange crystal craft of some kind approached the space station and emitted a fluorescent gas.
After several hours the space station came back online but Earth couldn’t contact the humans on board, so in true governmental policy they created a task force to visit the space station and find out what’s going on. Lead by Dr. Carson herself, they reached the space station and found it relatively sound, but during a sample gathering expedition a robot turned on the good doctor and her team. The doctor managed to get a sample off together with her distress call, and in response the UE analysed the gas, which they called Zytron, and built a robot to rescue the doctor and her team.
Which is where you come in. You play A.R.E.S., a super-advanced robot, specially designed to be immune to the Zytron gas that has turned the machines against the humans. The mission is simple: go in, shoot lots of machines and other robots, find the doctor, shoot some more, then rescue the hostages, followed by some more shooting.
Although the story may leave a lot to be desired and the dialogue looks like it’s been translated direct from the Japanese Manga-style cartoon visuals, with more than one or two spelling mistakes, the game plays very well. You run, jump up over crates and onto platforms, roll under bulk-heads and travel up and down elevator shafts in the five stages of the game. Should you come across anything then shoot the nuts and bolts off it. When destroying an enemy it will drop off various bits and pieces. Collecting these parts make this otherwise normal platformer,a little more fun because you are able to recycle them into grenades, health packs (of which you will need plenty of) and weapon upgrades, all of which will aid you in the various Zytron controlled machines and the end of the level bosses you will come across. There are other collectables dotted around the levels, pick them up and they can give you some more background data on the characters or unlock secrets relevant to the story.
Luckily, you’re not alone in your mission. You have the help of Valkyl, a military support satellite who can provide you with mission updates, hints and tips and awesome destructive lasers that rain down from the sky and fry the paint off any Zytron infected machines that have the misfortune of getting in the way.
The graphics are a nice solid 3D background with 2D characters and look quite impressive. The controls are fairly responsive, but they can stutter now and then and cause a little frustration with either game pad or keyboard/mouse. The music is okay, but it can grate on you after a while so turning it down isn’t a bad idea; and as an extra note, I’m sure some of the music sounded the same as the 80’s Transformers animated movie. I kept catching bits of it, and maybe I’m wrong but it all sounds suitably sci-fi with nice laser gun, blasting and robot effects thrown in for good measure.
The game plays pretty well, a nice mix of retro styles and modern looking visuals. It’s very short, only taking a couple of hours, but according to the developers this is Episode 1. The classic retro platform feeling was nice to play again and although the game won’t win any awards it provides some light relief after a stressful day at the office, and for £6.99 from Steam you can’t really go wrong. I liked A.R.E.S. Extinction Agenda and despite the spelling errors on the dialogue and movement issues it is a fairly good game and one the kids can play quite happily.
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