A.R.E.S. Extinction Agenda – Review

A.R.E.S. Extinction Agenda
by Extend Studio

A.R.E.S. is a side-scrolling action platformer with many similarties to classic 2D side scrollers of the past such as Mega Man, Contra, Turrican, and more particularly a classic PC game that was also a side-scrolling action platform shooter named Abuse.  The action is constant and anyone familiar with the aforementioned games will have an idea of how ARES plays, controls, and feels.  If you’ve been longing for a classic game formula that provides fast and frenetic fun, an up-to-date visual style, tight level design, and huge bosses to battle, you’ll definitely want to check out this title.  The game is fast paced and runs smoothly on my modern but modest system specs.

A.R.E.S. Extinction Agenda has a somewhat epic, though cliched, futuristic story.  The humans, being the gluttons that they are, have squandered Earth’s resources requiring our best and brightest to think of new ways to resuscitate the Earth’s failing environment.  The result: build a huge space station that can both handle and recycle all of the trash and garbage humanity has produced.  Things go well for a short while and the Earth begins the rejuvenation process only to be interrupted when a large crystalline asteroid smashes into the space station.  A science team is sent to the station to assess the damages.  Upon arriving, they find out that the station is not only in disarray but the robots working on the station have become infected by a strange gas that the science team has named “Zytron”.  Without the space station, Earth doesn’t stand a chance at regaining what it once lost. The team of scientists discover that some alloys cannot be infected by the strange Zytron gas and relay the information back to Earth where, in rather quick fashion, human researchers and engineers begin to build an armored robot capable of attacking, clearing out, and recycling these infected robot inhabitants of the space station.  They name this armored robot, ARES or A.R.E.S – aptly named after the biggest badass of Greek Mythology, the god of war.  (Don’t ask, I’m just summarizing the story as it was presented).

That’s the gist of it in a nutshell. It’s more filler than anything else but since the developers have stated that ARES is supposed to be an episodic series of games perhaps it’s better that the first story be this epic so as to lay the foundation for future episodes.

The story is laid out in anime / comic book cutscenes which occur before and after missions or before important encounters.  They look nice however they weren’t the most rewarding part of the game for me.  The rewarding part, I find, is in ARES’ gameplay.  The weapons and character abilities all work well, though a couple of the special dash moves which allow you to jump farther and higher might take a beginner a bit of getting used to.  Like I mentioned before, ARES is most akin to the classic PC game Abuse in its control scheme.  Players can move with the WASD or Arrow key setting, jump with the spacebar, and are able to shoot in 360 degrees around the character using the mouse.  Luckily, if you have an Xbox 360 controller hooked up to your PC you’ll be able to play the game quite comfortably using the dual analog control scheme which is the method I preferred.

There are four main weapons throughout the game and a few sub weapons.  They all feel and perform well but I find that the laser blaster was the most effective throughout most of the game since it provided a constant rate of rapid fire.  The more interesting aspect of the weapons system is the fact that you can upgrade each of them, using the left over scrap parts you collect from the infected robots you destroy.  You can even build repair kits which act as health packs when your health goes low.  The recycled parts are limited so you have to decide carefully where you’re going to spend them.  I really like this feature and the best part is it didn’t slow down the action too much and provides some much needed relief in the form of these repair kits which I found most necessary, especially during boss battles.

Graphics in-game are very sharp and even shine with a futuristic gleam to them.  A lot of polish has been put into the look and feel of the characters and environments.  There are a lot of details in the characters, especially the main character; even the backgrounds, foregrounds, and particularly the bosses look very sharp.  I would have liked a little more variety in enemies but the real stars of this show are its main character ARES, and the bosses you encounter.

The Sound FX are standard fare but the music is decent and it doesn’t distract from the gameplay.  I don’t find the sound track particularly memorable but it seems to fit the stages and overall theme of the game.

ARES took me roughly 3 hours and a bit on my first playthru on hard difficulty.  Unfortunately, I only finished the game with a rank of “C”.  The best rank in the game is “SS” which can only be attained if you play and perform well enough to avoid taking too much damage and locate all of the tricky secrets.  Being the hardcore mofo that I am I had to give it a shot; needless to say, I need more practice, but I had a lot of fun playing through the game.  I actually didn’t want to stop until I reached the end; which is rare these days. The levels are actually bigger than they first appear and some have multiple pathways which break up the straightforward nature common in action side scrollers such as this.  The secrets such as hidden datacubes are plentiful, and these provide extra background info on enemies, characters and bosses.  You’ll need to find all of them if you want to achieve the coveted “SS” Rank.  This is the type of action game that is worth multiple playthrus.  You’ll need to use all of ARES’ abilities in order to find those hidden items, hard to reach secrets, and the best pathways.

A.R.E.S. Extinction Agenda is great fun in a small package.  It’s a short game but it’s one of those games that beckons to be played thru multiple times.  You’re getting a lot of bang for your buck and at just under $10 dollars there’s little excuse to miss out on this one.  If you enjoy side scrolling action games like I do, you’ll love ARES for it’s classic side scroller style, great graphics and fun gameplay.