A-men – PC
Developer: Bloober Team
Publisher: Bloober Team
Release Date: January 25, 2014 (PC)
Nerd Rating: 8 out of 10
Reviewed by Malefico
Pits full of spikes and mines. Merciless, body-pulping pounding devices. Game-ending falls. Numerous robotic enemies that take pleasure in bayoneting you to death. Items and ammo so scarce you’ll think the developers made a mistake. Death-defying leaps that must be made with absolute precision. The timer that subtracts points from your score with each tick… And that’s just in the first few levels. Your team of A-men, formerly average workers in a factory who spend their shifts destroying product, messed up and unleashed an army of robotic soldiers, the A-droids, definitely have their work cut out for them.
A-men is a multi-platform game developed by Bloober Team, an indie developer headquartered in Poland. A-men is described as a hardcore action/puzzle game. Inspired by Lemmings and Lost Vikings, both really entertaining titles BTW, you have to make your way through cunning levels by controlling your team of A-men and making use of their diverse abilities. In fact, I think I detect a bit of lemming snout on the A-droids, your implacable foes whose shiny blades stand between you and completing each and every punishing map.
A-men makes use of the standard four (W,A,S, and D) to move your characters, Space for jumping, Q to switch items, E to activate items and F to interact with map elements. The mouse wheel scrolls through available characters, and the mouse can be used to allow the camera to roam around the map to observe areas outside the normal field of view. You can also zoom out and in, which is useful for solving puzzles or killing A-droids. When in close proximity to certain map objects, notably detonators and power supplies, Tab will take you to the object affected, TNT, elevators and certain hazards. A-men also supports game pad play.
The graphics are done up in cartoonish style and look great, adding to the overall goofy theme of the game. Each character is readily identifiable. Although the game quickly throws smarter enemies at you, the A-droids seem to look the same, at least I haven’t been able to pick out any glaring differences. Regardless, if an enemy catches you, you’re dead in one shot so it’s best to treat them all as if they were lepers or escaped lions- don’t get anywhere near them if you can help it.
Animations are equally appealing. For instance, your characters can almost make a jump and be left hanging on a ledge, and the A-droids drop their rifles and shake their fists if you manage to get away from their death charge.
In-game music is rather repetitive, and nothing special in terms of composition, but the tracks do match the military flavor. Sound effects are better, with the A-droids crying out before they give chase, and expressing their annoyance (Aaaahh!) when they miss a chance to stab you or are confronted by an obstacle that stops them. All the interactive elements have their own sounds as well. And your A-men constantly chatter, from letting out victory yells to expressing their boredom when you leave one standing around to commenting on the quality of the game they’re in.
Levels are cunningly designed, and often require careful planning and split-second timing to beat. In order to successfully complete each map, a certain number of A-droids have to be killed to activate your helicopter pickup. Players have to use each character’s unique abilities to solve situational conundrums, and A-men leaves no time for dawdling. Although you rack up points for each enemy you kill, you lose points for each second that passes on the timer. You have the opportunity to save progress within certain levels, however that also costs you points. After a level is completed, you get a grade based on the number of enemies you killed and how long it took to win. Every level will require at least one restart, since you’ll spend substantial time just looking around to get an idea of what must be done on a particular map. Don’t worry though, since you die so easily you’ll have ample time to see the levels repeatedly.
While it’s impossible to describe all the solutions, suffice it to say there are maps which will require you to station A-men at strategic points and quickly switch back and forth in order to progress. Sometimes you have to keep them together to get the whole team to an important point. And always, the game drives you forward at a blistering pace. If you’re not doing something all the time, you’re doing it wrong.
The Bottom Line
One of the minor gripes I have with the game is the controls. Although movement and camera are fairly standard, it takes a while to get used to activating and using items.. Since you often only get exactly the number of each you’ll need to beat a level, it can be frustrating to misuse one and have to restart the map. Thankfully, it’s a control scheme you can get used to and doesn’t severely limit the enjoyment of the game.
I was also less than enchanted with the music. Thankfully, it’s possible to turn it down or off when it becomes too much to bear.
The game has a distinctly old-school vibe, from the graphics and sound to the game play, A-men took me back to when I enjoyed Lemmings, and even further back to Lode Runner. And, like those games, it requires not only sound strategy but precision timing and quick reflexes.
This game is not for the faint of heart, nor for those easily discouraged by failure. When you play A-men, you’re going to die… a lot. Bloober Team accurately described it as “created for hardcore players who like being challenged by a game.” They sure got that part right. A-men is a game that will require patience and perseverance to beat. With four worlds and 40 levels on tap, this title will deliver hours and hours of play, or possibly much briefer periods of absolute frustration.
Although I rage-quit on more than one occasion, I kept coming back for further punishment.
Bloober Team has crafted a challenging and rewarding title for those willing to invest the time and patience it will take to beat the game. This game offers hours of fun, a high level of challenge, an appealingly odd flavor and has the humility to poke fun at itself.
Despite a slightly awkward control scheme and so-so music, A-men is a truly challenging and rewarding title, something that’s missing in a lot of current games. When one finally makes it through an especially complex level, this title delivers a real sense of satisfaction at a job well-done.
So, is A-men worth a try? Definitely, as long as you’re not the kind of person who likes to throw things when they get angry. You’ll be drawn in by the lovable characters, the complex puzzles and even the varied and interesting ways you can die.
While casual gamers will probably run out of patience before A-men runs out of pain, it’s tremendously entertaining for those who don’t mind investing the time to beat it. This game is a masochistic, annoying, even rage-inducing nightmare, and you’ll love every minute of it.
8 out of 10
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