On the surface A-Men looks like a delightfully charming little platform game. Underneath the cartoon visuals, however, lurks a game that relies heavily on trial and error and can get incredibly difficult, but not always in a good way.[drop2] The game starts with a cutscene showing off the A-Corp factory, which produces A-Droids (robots, basically). A group of workers, who call themselves the A-Men, often mess about in the factory after hours. One day they screw up and destroy the main control panel, causing the factory to start spewing out large amounts of A-Droids.
To try and cover this up, the A-Men set a load of explosives and escape the factory via helicopter. Unfortunately they forget to bring the remote detonator, and to fill the helicopter with fuel. The lesson here is that arson is so very wrong. Of course, the helicopter goes down and it’s up to you to guide the A-Men back to collect the remote detonator.
Initially the game lets you control one character – the Private. His main goal is to sneak around a multi-tiered level and collect power-ups, which will allow you to set traps for the A-Droids. Once a set number of the droids have been disposed of a chopper will come in to pick you up, if you can get to the landing zone in one piece!
As you progress, additional characters become available, each bringing their own unique skills. The Engineer can build or destroy bridges, and paint land mines to disguise them, whereas the Commando has a grappling hook. Overall there are five characters to unlock.
The game demands you learn what skills each of the A-Men possess, as rather than pick who you wish to enter a level with, the game chooses for you. Whilst things start of simply enough, you’ll son find yourself looking after two of the A-Men, and even more in some cases.
An example of this would be using the Engineer to lower a platform, causing a number of A-Droids that were blocking in the Private to fall to their deaths. You then switch to the Private who can collect a grenade (one of his special abilities), and blow a hole in the floor. Switching back to the Engineer, you can then make your way to the hole, jump in and retrieve a paintbrush, then jump out and paint a land mine so that it matches the grass. The Private can then lure an A-Droid over to the land mine, causing it to be destroyed.
Every level assess this type of teamwork, and grades you in terms of enemies destroyed and how long it took to get everyone to the chopper.
For a game that features a decent chunk of commands, it’s all handled fairly well. The left analog stick moves the A-Men, with the right being used to move the camera around when scoping out the level. Commands, such as unique skills, are shown as icons on the screen and can either be selected using the Vita’s buttons, or by tapping the icon. Tapping the rear touch panel with both fingers will also quickly centre the camera on the character that is being controlled.[drop] Now, this is where the review will split opinion. For me, some levels are frequently spoiled by the sheer amount of trial and error that’s required, coupled with a horrible save systems and one-hit kills. As mentioned before, each level is spread out over multiple screens filled with puzzles and enemies to overcome. A-Men is rather brutal when it comes to progression, and you’ll more than likely come across a situation before being brutally murdered seconds later.
Of course, every death brings with it the knowledge of what went wrong, but it can be a little bit soul-destroying. This situation is exacerbated by a mid-level save system that actively punishes you for saving the game. The rare time you find a save point, it’ll cost you points to use, which are earned by killing A-Droids. If you come back later on in the level and wish to save again, you’ll find the points required are significantly higher.
So, no points equals no save, and that’s assuming you can find and access the save point in the first place. It’s harsh, and made worse by the fact that the A-Men can be killed in one hit, which can mean a single mistake will see you starting the entire level again from scratch. Some will love this type of challenge, whilst others will just switch off and not go back. It’s a shame as there is a massive amount of content on offer.
Visually the game looks great, with a load of nice little touches if you look carefully. Unfortunately it can slow down a bit in places, which is normally when you’re moving the camera around. I also wasn’t a huge fan of the voiceovers.
- Looks good.
- The core idea is a great one.
- Loads of content.
- Trial and error gets frustrating.
- The save system doesn’t really go well with the gameplay.
At its core A-Men is a clever game. The idea behind controlling multiple characters and using so many different skill sets is a good one. In my opinion, a lot of the enjoyment the game provides is often negated by the trial and error nature of the gameplay.
Overall it’s a good game, but one you’ll lose most of your hair over.