Aces Wild: Manic Brawling Action – Review

Aces Wild

developed by (Tyler Doak) Culture Attack Studio

I’ve got a confession to make.  I love videogames!  There I said.  Well, maybe I should elaborate a little.  Aces Wild is the type of game that could make you fall in love with videogames.  This is a gamers game and it’s the type of game that gamers my age grew up with during the first console war (SNES vs Genesis – you remember).  It’s an all out 2D side-scrolling action-brawler-beat’em-up embracing a no-holds-barred attitude and flair that you don’t often see these days.  It’s fast-paced, requires excellent gamer reflexes, looks fantastic, and packs one hell of an awesome punch, with it’s punishing but highly addictive gameplay.  Aces Wild represents the kind of game you’d watch in awe as a kid, just wishing you could do all of those fancy fighting moves in real life!  Rip that bad-guy ninja a new rectum?  Yes please!

Let’s start off with the story shall we?
A group of Ninja.  A huge tournament.  Lots of fighting.  Whoever wins obtains title of Grand Master Badass.  Winner also earns deed to Ninja clan land and legacy.  You’re a true heir to the clan.  You must win.  Honor.  Yadda-yadda-yadda.  Alright, now lets go perforate some bad guys!  Yes, it’s the nonsensical fluff-filled kind of story you’d expect from an Action / Beat’em up.  This beat’em up however, is anything but mindless and it’s a ton of frickin fun!

If you can’t already tell, Aces Wild is all about putting the big hurt on the bad guys and doing it as quickly and powerfully as possible.  It sounds simple enough, but Aces Wild adopts the oldschool style of gameplay where quickly learning the controls and grasping the core mechanics, combined with a bit of trial and error, are requisite to gameplay progression.  Aces Wild is challenging in all of the right ways and punishing to those who mistake it for a simple button-masher.  If you’re able to pick up the nuances behind the fighting and action, then you’ll find that Aces Wild is a very rewarding experience.  This is the type of game that will either leave you feeling like you’re an awesome gamer with exceptional skills, or feeling like perhaps you should’ve stuck with those simple match-3 or solitaire style games.

When starting a new game, players may choose one of three characters: Ace Wilder, Gene Drift, and Eagle Morris.  Each character has their own attacks and fighting style.  Ace utilizes a flurry of rapid punches and kicks that can lead to large combos while pressuring the enemy.  Gene wields a long sword that can hit a bunch of enemies around him from a number of angles.  Eagle uses a mix of get in – get out tactics that allow him to quickly rush through his enemies while using his short sword.

Although each of these characters have a unique fighting style, they also share some common movements and traits.  Each character can hit with a light attack, a hard attack, and a charged power attack.  More importantly, these characters can also dash and dodge.  Attacking is simple enough and is done by approaching an enemy, or a handful of enemies, and then launching a frenzy of quick attacks mixed with hard attacks and the occasional finisher.  What might at first seem like simple action is offset by the challenge that comes from dodging the enemies attack or counterattacks.  In order to keep the combos going at a fast and furious pace, players must learn to utilize the dash and dodge mechanics if they want to keep the fluidity of combat going and prevent the enemy from taking advantage of any openings.

Combat isn’t only about hitting the enemy though.  As players press forward and perform combos, their power meter goes up.  This power meter gives the player a damage multiplier and also allows for more powerful combos, hard attacks, and the ability to unleash their quick finisher or power move.  These finishers themselves aren’t the life saver you might think they are, but they can create some distance between you and the enemy.  However, unleashing this finishing power move will replenish some of your health.  It’s very important that players learn to use this tactic in regaining some of their health back at the right time as it becomes a strategic and defensive maneuver, more so than the damage and space given by the finisher itself.

Of course, like all good things, it must come to an end.  Once you use this finisher move, your power meter depletes and you’ll need to quickly rack up more combos in order to refill said meter.  There’s definitely a mix of ying-and-yang gameplay going on here, and players will quickly find themselves pressured and overwhelmed if they aren’t able to achieve the kind of kung-fu-ballet that one needs to perform in order to proceed through each new stage and subsequent level.  If you’re willing to learn the combo/dodge/dash sequence of movements you’ll quickly find yourself engaged in some of the best action this side of the old arcade beat’em ups.

Learning how to play the game is only one aspect though.  Next you’ll need to learn how the enemy attacks.  The enemies are varied and numerous.  Most of them attack in patterns that aren’t difficult to learn, but do become increasingly tough to master the further you get in the game.  Thankfully, each enemy in the game has a “tell” that alerts the player to an incoming attack, giving them just enough time to tap the dodge button or key, allowing them to continue the beating and follow up with a combo or quickly dash to safety.  Things become more complicated as you encounter more and more powerful enemies though.  You’ll encounter mid-boss type characters along the way, and if you think they test your skills and reflexes, just wait till you face the real bosses located at the end of each level.  The bosses are the true test of everything you’ve learned and I had a lot of fun trying to fight and figure out their patterns.

There’s a lot of debate as to whether or not computer games should be played with a keyboard and mouse, or gamepad.  In the case of Aces Wild, I’d say that the gamepad is hands down the winner.  You absolutely should play Aces Wild with a gamepad.  It plays and feels like a classic console game, but definitely deserves the respect of hardcore PC gamers as well.  The keyboard works just fine, and the controls are very responsive no matter which method of game control you decide to use, but I found that Aces Wild was at its best while I was using my Xbox 360 controller.

There are various difficulty levels for players to choose from.  I chose to play through using the default “sassy!” difficulty level.  The campaign takes place across 7 varied levels made up of about half a dozen stages each.  It isn’t an extremely long game, but there are plenty of reasons for multiple playthrus.  Speed runs, boss rush mode, local co-op, completing the campaign with all 3 characters, beating your own score, and just playing the game again because it’s so damn fun are just some of the reasons why Aces Wild has a lot of replay value.

Graphics and Sound:
Aces Wild is one slick looking game.  The character graphics, enemies, and backgrounds look great, but it’s when everything is moving and the action starts that Aces Wild looks truly impressive.  The character animation and stylish combos catch the eye in the type of way that attracts even those gamers who aren’t very good at this type of game.  Even if the anime art style isn’t your thing, this is the type of game you watch and can’t help but want to try it out based on how good the action looks.  Aces Wild is much like a Dragon Ball Z Fanboy spectacle, everything goes over 9000!!!

If I have any slight criticisms it’s that Aces Wild has so much action that, at times, it’s easy to lose track of your character amidst the blur of combat, but it’s still not so bad that I couldn’t complete the game.  The only other thing that might stand out a bit is that some of the stage backgrounds come off as a bit dull, but this is only noticeable when you’re not engaged in a frenzied melee, and that happens very rarely.

The audio is quite good as well.  The playable characters are fully voiced, and even some of the bosses have some great voice work added for extra flair.  The soundtrack is also fast paced and intense.  It’s a pumping soundtrack that encourages the sort of knuckles-to-face kind of gameplay.  Luckily, the music avoids being annoying or distracting, which often becomes the case in action games and brawlers of this type.

It’s been a long, long time since I’ve played an action beat’em up that was so much frenetic fun.  I’d go so far as to say that Aces Wild is as good as other modern beat’em ups such as Castle Crashers, and Scott Pilgrim vs The World.  If you can imagine those games, merged with a 2D version of the more recent Ninja Gaiden or Devil May Cry series, you’d have a pretty good idea of how Aces Wild plays.  Culture Attack Studio has done an awesome job with Aces Wild by flaunting everything we love about the somewhat familiar gameplay while keeping the game engaging and challenging without having to sacrifice the fun factor.  Games like this are demanding in that they require fast reflexes, they also have highly addictive gameplay, and every so often, you come across an action brawler of this type which is also unique.  This best describes Aces Wild and my experience with it in a nutshell.

With it’s precise controls, challenging yet rewarding gameplay, stylish graphics and sound, Aces Wild is a game that is easy to recommend to gamers.  It’ll test your mettle, even if you’re an experienced gamer, but Aces Wild is a memorable experience that will keep you coming back for more, even as you fail, time and time again.

Only available on PC at the moment, you can buy Aces Wild right now for just $9.99 through the Aces Wild website via the Humble Store.  I’d also recommend that you up-vote Aces Wild over on the Steam Greenlight page!  Go now, your inner badass awaits!

[   9   /   10   ]


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