Sony may be touting the PS Vita almost solely on its handheld power, but Polish developers Bloober are harking back to gaming’s puzzle roots with their Vita launch title, A-Men.
One part Lemmings, one part The Lost Vikings and one part Cannon Fodder, A-Men puts you in control of a crack team of military heroes, each with their own unique specialisations, tasked with traversing the deadly traps and puzzles of some 40 2D maps.
So for instance, you’ve got a muscleman who can do heavy lifting and toss his teammates over dangerous terrain, a demolitions expert who can trigger explosions and build bridges, a spy who can disguise himself as the enemy, a commando who can parachute into action from long drops and a soldier armed to the teeth with fire power. Often the A-Men team will be dotted right across the large maps, and you’ll have to use their abilities in tandem to bring them together, take down the required number of enemy soldiers patrolling each zone to trigger a helicopter landing and board it to move on to the next level.
There’s humour in spades in A-Men. Using a clean cartoon art style, it’s packed full of humorous animations that see enemy soldiers unwittingly electrocute themselves, fall foul to rolling boulders and charge headfirst into spikes when insults are hurled at them. Sure, it’s not pushing the polygon count like Wipeout or Uncharted may be, but it suits the flavour of the gameplay to a tee.
There are plenty of recognisable 80’s action film quips dotted throughout the game too. The “chew bubblegum and kick-ass” line from cult classic Rowdy Roddy Piper flick They Live made a welcome appearance at one point.
Though it tickle your funny bone with its looks and voice-overs, A-Men looks set to be a brutally challenging game. Patience, trial and error are needed to solve the puzzles of each level, learn enemy patrol patterns and lead your men to safety.
Even the ability to save your progress isn’t a given; you have to earn money from taking out your foes in order to checkpoint your progress. It may look casual to the untrained eye, but A-Men looks set to really test your grey matter.
For the most part, A-Men steers clear of the Vita’s unique control schemes in favour of the more-traditional face buttons, analogue sticks, shoulder buttons and digital pad. Though you can swap between abilities with the touchscreen, zoom in and out of maps and navigate menus with it too, Blooper have consciously kept to the game’s old-school roots by sticking to familiar control methods.
The game still has a few quirks that need ironing out that we noticed during our brief play session. Jumping feels a little floaty, which can make some of the lite-platforming sections a little tricky, and aiming the muscleman’s throwing ability can be a little erratic. There was also the odd localisation issue in some of the cutscene text we saw.
However, Bloober are keen to stress that there will be extensive post-launch support for A-Men following its availability on Wednesday, giving them plenty of time to iron out these issues. Also, as well as plenty of paid-for DLC for the game waiting in the wings, the developers have also got at least two free upgrades ready for deployment in the future which are expected to extend A-Men’s playtime substantially.
Launch day for the PS Vita will undoubtedly be dominated by big guns like Uncharted: Golden Abyss. But if you like your war games with a dose of humour and brain-bending puzzles too, A-Men is leading the charge of the launch title line up.