Ace Armstrong is a side scrolling shoot ‘em up (shmup). No let me re-word that. it’s all wrong…Ace Armstrong is quite possibly the worst side scrolling shoot ‘em up that I have ever played and is an insult to the likes of Gradius, which was doing this right 27 years ago. Yeah that’s a much better description.
Nearly every aspect of this game screams bad game design. The one thing I can give it any praise for is that the tutorial, albeit very brief and presented like an in game instruction manual, does tell you what you need to know to play this game. Sadly putting it all into practice just led to me get angry a lot.
The game is very colourful and although that’s nice it’s also to the game’s detriment. Sometimes it can be hard to tell if you can actually go through something as everything seems to blend together. Also the scenery at the bottom of the screen can often take up half of the screen. This brings me onto my next problem: Your ship is just too damn big and moves far too slowly. Now I have played other shmups which feature similar sized ships or characters but the difference is that they generally have a small flashing hit box. Take Deathsmiles for example, each witch within the game is hardly small when on screen but the only part that you have to worry about navigating through the “bullet hell” is the small flashing orb in the centre of them.
Now in terms of on-screen bullets there is hardly any when compared to the likes of Deathsmiles, but as I mentioned this does not make it any easier. Even when as little as five projectiles are coming at you, you will have a hard time navigating your way through them, and if the bullets don’t kill you, then chances are you’ve crashed into the scenery or even into an enemy that is buried in the scenery in such a way that it’s impossible to shoot it.
Now this game also has a weapon upgrade system like most other shmups. The trouble is that by trying to change it up a bit, it led to me inevitably avoiding collecting them at all. After killing a group of enemies a cluster of glowing orbs will appear on the screen. Now in most games like this you would simply fly over the power up and carry on with your new found ability. This is not the case in Ace Armstrong. In this game you use the horribly titled “Recycl-o-ray”, you have to position your ship to the left of the cluster of orbs and then press and hold one of the triggers as it sucks up the orbs into the ship. This process takes far too long and I would be very lucky to collect one before getting hit by something. Add to this that these power-ups only work for a limited time and you can see why in the end I just ignored them completely.
Yet another gripe is that when you respawn after being killed you get a brief period of invulnerability while your ship flashes. This would be fine if the game actually allowed you to move properly while it is doing this. In other similar (better) games I personally use this period to quickly position my character in an area of the screen I feel comfortable. The amount of times I would respawn and have an enemy hover over my ship and kill me instantly was quite frankly ridiculous.
Should you insist on giving this game a go, I highly recommend playing it on a PSP as when played on a HDTV it looks very rough around the edges. Playing on a smaller screen would do this games visuals much more justice.
Overall this a terrible game that I can’t really recommend to anyone even at its low asking price, there are just so many better games within the genre to choose from. There are just too many bad design choices that make Ace Armstrong just not fun to play at all.
MLG Rating: 2/10 Platform: PS3/ PSP Release Date: 06/10/2010
Disclosure: Midlife Gamer were provided a digital copy of Ace Armstrong vs. The Alien Scumbags by the promoter for review purposes. The title was reviewed over the course of one week on a PS3. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here.