There are games you plan to purchase weeks before they come out and anxiously await their arrival. And there are others, those less ambitious titles you see on the Xbox Live Marketplace or elsewhere like Steam when you’re bored that look like a decent weekend play for a few bucks and not much else. A.R.E.S: Extinction Agenda is one of those, a mildly entertaining side-scroller that doesn’t exactly dazzle, but still offers a few good hours’ worth of robot-killing, 2D platforming mayhem. It’s far from perfect, but it has the potential to be better should the devs ever want to tackle it.
Suit up and take up the mantle of Ares (named for the god of war), a battle-bot built with a handy-dandy immunity to the gas aliens have been using to control the minds of the humans left on earth. The aliens turn man-made technology against us and declare war for essentially ruining the planet with our heinous, gas-guzzling, garbage-spawning ways. That’s where you come in. As Ares, you infiltrate the recycling plant humans built in space, now overrun with aliens. You’ll rescue hostages, clear out the alien population, and try to set things right again as you journey across the planet. This is actually a remake of the original A.R.E.S.: Extinction Agenda for PC, and it’s come to the Xbox Live Arcade, now after having been out for nearly three years.
This is a side-scroller akin to games like Mega Man, with the normal run, gun, jump, and shoot mechanics. You’ll have the opportunity to upgrade equipment with new weapons and abilities, but it feels all for naught when dealing with some particularly frustrating jumps. Jumping tends to feel stiff, and it’s difficult to gauge where you’ll land or how long the jump will be. This results in deaths that simply shouldn’t happen. The heart of a great platformer is undoubtedly jumping, and if that doesn’t work, that may as well ruin the basis of the entire game.
Luckily, some of the gunplay makes up for that. It’s a ton of fun to crash and blast through your enemies, and upgrades are fun to acquire. Each level has hidden upgrade chips that allow you to spend credits on new weapons and abilities. This is an invitation to replay levels, since finding hidden chips is done by completing a level again for a better score.
The game is extremely short though, clocking in around four hours, which is ridiculously abrupt for any game, let alone a side-scroller. There’s a second playable character you can play through again with but there are so few differences between the two that it doesn’t add much length. It’s unfortunate, since the presentation values are quite high – there are so many pitfalls that make A.R.E.S: Extinction Agenda a decidedly bland product. If you’re wanting a new platformer and have exhausted your supply, it’s decent for a quick play, but I wouldn’t put much stock in it other than that.
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