Review: A-Men 2

You will struggle to find any record of Bloober Team’s initial A-men game being a launch title for the PS Vita here in the EU, perhaps a damning indictment of it’s lack of popularity. This seems rather a shame, as those who downloaded the demo (as surely many must have) would have found a reasonably charming little puzzler.

The idea was not ground breaking – use your teams respective skills to solve the various puzzles and escape the area – and the execution was not astonishingly precise, but it was rather endearing. Playing the game, you felt inclined to forgive the lack of panache in the witty dialogue, written in somebody’s second language, and the lack of precision afforded in the controls, for a jolly romp around some cartoon scenery, lightheartedly dropping boulders on soldiers, and casually dropping chaps into traps.

A-men 2 dropped onto the PlayStation Store earlier this month without any noticeable fanfare. Other than a slight tweak to the controls, with a corresponding tweak to the screen furniture, the game feels more like an add-on pack than a sequel. (The link to the website on the LiveArea screen is even directed at the first game’s website.) It has the same adorably awkward humour, the same happy-go-lucky controls, the same lovable toy-box look. The difficulty, however, is the difficulty. The blurb on the PS Store, acknowledges complaints that the first game was too easy, and claims to offer more of a challenge. This is undoubtedly the case, but it is a step that has failed to acknowledge that those who completed the first game probably completed it quite some time ago, and have lost familiarity with the games controls and mechanics.

So it is, then, that the opening levels of A-men 2 are intimidatingly large for anyone new to the game, and littered with hint markers which are at one and the same time too numerous and too few, too patronising and too veiled. Almost from the off, the levels are an unforgiving test of both the player’s grasp of the controls, and their clairvoyance in
problem-solving. A lack of crispness in the controls is met with a lack of precision in puzzle design, meaning that at times success feels partially down to luck, and at other times the player feels they fudged the result rather than perfectly executing the intended solution. The cheeky quips of the characters begin to test the audience’s good will, as another clumsy death triggers rising defenestrative urges. In trying to cater to both familiar and fresh audiences, A-men 2 feels like it will struggle to satisfy either. This is rather a pity, as it has the potential to be a nice little distraction, but it seems unlikely that many players will give it the time of day, let alone the time it needs.

The Vita catalogue is an unusual one, it is not large but the bar is set pretty high, with a high proportion of quality titles, and the ‘Indie Games’ section of the Vita store is bursting with similarly priced, well loved titles that expertly demonstrate how to balance fun and difficulty without causing frustration. One for the masochists.

Jim Smale

Gaming since the Atari 2600, I enjoy the weirdness in games counting Densha De Go and RC De Go as my favourite titles of all time. I prefer gaming of old where buying games from a shop was a thing, Being social in person was a thing. Join me as I attempt to adapt to this new digital age!