Aegis Wing (Xbox 360) review
"As multiple ships soar through space, youíll find that you can approach an ally and latch onto his ship. Though doing so consigns you to whatever evasive maneuvers your ally feels are appropriate, thereís a tradeoff: you receive boosts to your firepower. Suddenly, those intimidating warships arenít such a big deal."
If you live in North America, Aegis Wing is a free download. Microsoft calls it a gift, though it isnít willing to share the wealth overseas. According to a press release, the game is only going to be free for a limited time. Thatís an odd decision for a few reasons, but mostly because it limits the number of people likely to be online to play it together. Since the game doesnít live up to its full potential until a few people are playing at once, both the regional availability and the eventual price hike are perplexing.
As you can probably tell from the screenshots, Aegis Wing is a horizontal shooter. If you want, you can play it the same way you would a game like Gradius or R-Type. Without companions, you can weave through bullets while firing shots of your own that take down an entire enemy fleet. The screen never fills with a Psikyo-style wave of bullets; you almost always have plenty of room to maneuver if you take a proactive approach to ridding space of enemies and donít let yourself get crowded into a corner. Even so, the solo version of the game is difficult, even brutal. At first, finishing even the first of six stages without company feels impossible.
Bring along a few friends, though, and Aegis Wing is a different game. New play mechanics emerge when more than one ship is present. Thatís also the only time thereís any teamwork.
As multiple ships soar through space, youíll find that you can approach an ally and latch onto his ship. Though doing so consigns you to whatever evasive maneuvers your ally feels are appropriate, thereís a trade-off: you receive boosts to your firepower. Suddenly, those intimidating warships arenít such a big deal. During the rounds I played, I found that the other gamers who joined in were quite content to ride my coattails through most of the stages. They simply fired powered-up beams at opportune moments and otherwise let me worry about staying out of harmís way. It worked out pretty nicely.
When a few ships are gliding along together, gameplay is silky smooth. Since any power-ups that appear are communal, you donít have to worry about one guy racing ahead to grab all the goodies while the other folk do all the work. Everyone also has a few lives. Once those are exhausted, there are periodic opportunities to find extra ships that can keep the poorer player in the game. Itís a pretty decent setup, one that rewards cooperative play at every turn.
Boss encounters are also simpler with the additional firepower. Though your largest adversaries employ simple patterns that are easily memorized and used to your advantage, there are times when you wonít even have to bother. On the default difficulty level, several powered shots from each ship in the fleet can make quick work of even the toughest opponents. That fact was made clear to me on my second multi-player trip through the game.
The first time through, Iíd reached the end of a stage with all of my pals riding along with me. We zipped right up to the boss and fired a few powerful bursts that sent him to his doom. On the second round, I reached the stageís conclusion all by my lonesome. Suddenly, the boss that formerly proved so simple began gliding all over the screen, unleashing dangerous bursts I simply didnít recall from our previous encounter. He almost reduced me to a pile of debris before I could adapt to his breed of offense. It took everything I had to avoid his assault and launch a successful one of my own.
Once youíve played through the game a time or two, however, there arenít many reasons youíd want to try again. One problem is that the backgrounds arenít very interesting. To me, good shooters are made memorable by their thrilling environments. In Aegis Wing, youíre treated to a view of debris floating in space, bland cities and vacant skylines. Itís all quite forgettable. If you look forward to any stage, itís because you like the boss battle at the end. Thatís about as unique as any part of the game gets.
Repeated plays come down to your desire for a high score. The game keeps track of how many shots you fire in each stage and ranks your accuracy. There are the usual achievements, too, which range from clearing a stage without firing a shot (wonít your new online acquaintances love you when you do that?) to conquering the game on higher difficulty levels. You shouldnít have much trouble completing about half of these your first few games. By then, youíll either be addicted or youíll have moved on to something else.
Ultimately, itís difficult to rate Aegis Wing because of the vast difference between the single-player experience (which isnít all that much fun) and the multi-player mode (which is quite enjoyable for two or three hours, then redundant from that point onward). As long as the game is free, though, that hardly matters. Itís certainly worth the 50MB of space itíll occupy on your hard drive, if only for the achievements and the few hours of twitch-based gameplay it provides. Microsoft needs to seriously consider expanding Aegis Wingís availability so that people can enjoy it throughout the world. More free gifts wouldnít hurt, either, but letís take things one step at a timeÖ
Staff review by Jason Venter (May 16, 2007)
Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.
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