Review: NO? MORE? GLOWING? PELLETS!
Sometimes after playing all the latest new fangled games with their Dolby Surround sounds and Unreal 3 engines and 100,570i video resolutions, I just want to play something simple where I blow up a lot of spaceships. Luckily Microsoft decided to chain up three interns in the basement for a few months and they developed Aegis Wing, which is exactly what the doctor ordered!
Aegis Wing is a currently free XBLA title created by this intern team, along with some help from developer Carbonated Games, who previously brought us the massively popular Uno on Live Arcade.
The story is classic shooter. Earth is now uninhabitable and the human race is attempting to re-establish itself on Europa. Unfortunately the evil Araxians have other plans, plans that involve killing humans by shooting thousands of little red pellets and lasers at them.
It's your job to stop these evil-doers and their pellets with your prototype star fighter created in part from stolen Araxian technology.
After going through the initial menus where you choose single or multiplayer, a difficulty setting, and your ship's color, you're delivered directly onto the field of battle. Controls are simple. You use the left stick or the d-pad to move, fire your primary laser with right trigger or A button, and use your secondary weapon with the B button or left trigger. The simplified controls lay a nice groundwork for some solid game play. Swarm after swarm of Araxian ships will assault you, firing massive amounts of bullets which you have to dodge while attempting to annihilate them. The playing field is also littered with mines that are not able to be destroyed by your standard weapon. This makes maneuvering around slightly more complex as you take on the alien menace. Some cool super weapons have been included to spice things up as well. The Hades Beam is the typical forward firing super laser, there's the heat seeking Arcus Missiles, the Lambda Shield which deflects enemy bullets back at them, and my personal favorite, the Gordon Burst, which is an EMP blast that absorbs enemy shots and disables their ships into little black pieces of space poo.
Each of the six stages ends with a boss battle. The bosses have a number of attacks, and much like an angry high school gym teacher, will turn a deeper shade of red as you deliver more damage to them until they finally explode.
While single player mode is fun, multiplayer is where this game absolutely shines. The greatest feature of multiplayer is ship linking. You know how if you put a slice of hickory smoked bacon on any food it makes it better? Well, the ship link feature is Aegis Wing's slice of hickory smoked bacon. Pressing the X button near another player's ship will link you together. One player assumes the role of the pilot and up to three others that are linked on will then become a turret that can fire 360 degrees. Think of it sort of like R-Type, only instead of a computer controlled drone it's your friends shouting at you through a headset about how you keep flying everyone into mines. Each ship has a life meter, and linking increases the damage you can take as well as making super weapons much more powerful. The major sacrifice of linking your ships is that you slow down, and speed is absolutely critical to staying alive in this game. This definitely adds a huge new wrinkle to the game play and requires a totally different strategy to succeed. From my experience you also want the most sober player to be the driver.
Aegis Wing's visuals are also quite well done. The ship models aren't anything groundbreaking, but they are rendered well and there are definitely some great effects when using weapons like the Gordon Burst. One very nice feature is the in-game becoming translucent when you fly behind them so you can still see your ship.
The backgrounds are very busy and colorful, and I found myself losing more than a few lives when I got distracted noticing small details as they scrolled by. Huge pieces of space debris hurtle past you in the foreground and background, and the maps scrolling axis will periodically change to throw you off track and add to the sense of chaos. My only complaint was that I kept thinking that flying into the debris would kill me, and inadvertently flying into enemy ships or space mines. The amount of on screen enemies and shots can get very high without any apparent slow down. This is the last game I've played on Live Arcade since Geometry Wars that I felt should've come with a serious epilepsy warning.
The sound effects are pretty standard for a space shooter, and range from the ?pew pew pew? of small lasers, to the speaker rocking explosions of the final bosses. I found that the music was more of a stand out than the effects themselves.
It's oddly intense and bombastic. If Tim Burton made a samurai movie, this would be the soundtrack. It works very well though and adds some real intensity to the game that a more mundane score wouldn't have brought. It's always nice when designers take chances and they pay off well.
With only six levels to fight through, the game itself is fairly short, but anything aside from the normal difficulty is quite a challenge. There are many more Araxians on ?Insane? mode, and you don't get nearly as many lives. After beating the game on insane you can unlock a feature to select any of the six stages. There are also twelve challenging, but not impossible achievements to unlock which will take you back a few times for those coveted points.
Single player is fun, but I found myself going back to multiplayer over and over simply because it's awesome to play with three other people and see how far you can get as a team. The added nuances of co-op play are what really make this game worth downloading.