Aces Wild: Manic Brawling Action!
For 500 years, the ninja clans of Quiet Island used a battle tournament to determine who was the strongest. Unfortunately, one of the Wilder clan heirs decides to rig the contest to sell the land awarded as a trophy, but his brother has a bit more honor. You take control of Ace Wilder as he battles every ninja on Quiet Island to prevent his brother from taking the prize.
Aces Wild is one of those games that took me completely by surprise as it is definitely not something that is seen often on PC. The store page description of “insane aerial martial arts combat” doesn’t even begin to describe the over-the-top action that awaits you in this game. Characters can fly during battles, Dragon Ball Z style, and connecting with powerful attacks will send your enemies bouncing over the screen like pinballs. Fortunately, the game features an optional tutorial that will show you the ropes, and I highly recommend that you don’t skip it.
As the name subtly suggests, Aces Wild: Manic Brawling Action is a side-scrolling action game where you get to pit your skills against hordes of enemies. Unfortunately, opposing his brother has made Ace public enemy number one, and every ninja, robot, and dog on the island is out for his blood. Unlike traditional brawlers, enemies can come at you from all directions, and you spend so much time in the air that some levels don’t even have solid footing.
The game is all about reflexes, so instead of having to memorize long strings of combos, you only need to focus on the timing of your attacks. Hammering the rapid attack button can do some major damage to enemies and softens them up for a crash attack. As you are fighting, your “Wild” meter fills up, and this is where things become really interesting. The Wild meter increases the power of your attacks, but it also makes enemies more aggressive, which is not a good thing when facing hordes of ninjas swarming around you like angry bees. You can charge your crash attack to expend the wild meter and do significant damage or perform a panic attack that depletes the entire meter in return for restoring your health.
Mastering the Wild meter is only the tip of the iceberg, as your character can also dash in any direction and perform a dodge to avoid enemy attacks. Successfully dodging an attack saves you from a world of pain and opens your enemies up to counters, so the combat system certainly has a lot of depth. Of course, you can always set the difficulty to “Calm” and button mash your way through the game if that is your idea of fun but mastering the moves is very rewarding. Be prepared, though, as this is a game where even ordinary enemies can pull off combo attacks against you if you miss a dodge.
The game gives you three characters to choose from and seven levels of action. Ace Wilder uses standard punches and kicks while Gene Drift packs a sword. Finally, there is Eagle Morris, who is the ninja of the group. Each level, ranging from a container yard and warehouse to a foundry and rooftops, has five sub-levels and a boss waiting at the end. The bosses, in particular, are tough as nails and will really test your moves, but as every level and sub-level is unlocked from the start, it is impossible to become stuck. If you can’t get past a particular level, you can simply skip ahead and check out the rest of the game. This might make it sound like the game doesn’t have much replay value as there is nothing to unlock, but your performance on each level is scored and graded. Plus, there is a boss rush mode that begs to be conquered.
The super-smooth 2D visuals give the game a very arcade-like feel and will bring back fond memories of early 90s brawlers. In fact, the level that is set on the back of moving trucks reminded me a lot of the classic Bad Dudes Vs. DragonNinja brawler by Data East. Fortunately, there is nothing retro about the very responsive controls. While the game can be played with a keyboard, you’ll want to invest in a good controller for the best experience. It will also make the local co-op mode more fun if each player has their own controller to work with.
Aces Wild can be a punishing game, but it is also very rewarding when you successfully clear a level that felt impossible. The action can get so frantic that someone walking by might mistake the game for a bullet hell shooter due to the number of onscreen enemies and projectiles. It is sometimes possible to lose sight of your character amidst all the carnage, but the game helpfully displays your player number above your fighter if things get too hectic. The game has a nice selection of enemies and isn’t afraid to throw them at you in alarming numbers, but I never experienced any slowdown while playing. Backgrounds tend to be a little bland, but this is probably intentional so that you can focus on the action. I had to take a break after each level to give my eyes and hands a rest, so kudos to anyone who can complete the game in one sitting.
The audio is superb, with a nice arcade feel that immediately gets the adrenaline flowing. It complements the action without becoming obtrusive and doesn’t drown out the sound effects. Most of the characters in the game are also voiced, but thankfully their shouts are not annoying.
Aces Wild is such a polished and accomplished title that it is almost unbelievable to think it is just one person’s work. The programming and art were done by Tyler Doak, with only the music handled by someone else. There is, unfortunately, no online or versus mode, but the local co-op is a blast. Unfortunately, at the time of writing, the game has no Steam features such as achievements or trading cards, but this might change in the future.
Aces Wild: Manic Brawling Action is a game that lives up to its wacky name and features some of the most challenging yet addictive action I have experienced this year. If you don’t like arcade-style brawlers or struggle with fast-paced games, you might find this one frustrating, but for players willing to hone their skills, I can’t recommend this game enough.
*Review originally published August 2013.
- OS: Windows XP
- Memory: 320 MB RAM
- Graphics: Pixel Shader 1.2
- DirectX: Version 10
- Hard Drive: 166 MB available space
- Additional Notes: Xbox 360 or Direct Input Controller Highly Recommended