Nearing the end of my time with A-Men 2, my PlayStation Vita was kind enough to inform me of two stats:
1. captubaplayer (My PlayStation Network ID feel free to add me!) spent in total over 20 hours playing!
2. captubaplayer died in total 200 times trying to beat records in A-men 2!
These two facts serve to illustrate my time with the puzzle platformer A-Men 2 which is a follow-up to the PlayStation Vita launch title A-Men. According to the developer, Bloober Team, A-Men 2 is “arguably the most punishing game on PSN and Vita to date”. While I am not sure I can agree with that assessment, I will say that this it is a very challenging (oftentimes frustrating) game to work your way through. Does this level of difficulty still lend to an enjoyable experience? Keep reading to find out and see our complete review.
As I mentioned above A-Men 2 can be a very challenging game in which the player controls a squad of elite soldiers (the titular A-Men) in a battle against the A-Droids (renegade robots). The game is comprised of 44 stages across four worlds. The stages and environments can be varied, but the goal is always the same: defeat enough of the A-Droids to make the helicopter appear and then escape with all of your soldiers.
To defeat the robots and reach the helicopter the player must first use the environment of each stage to their advantage. Each stage consists of crates (which can be dropped on enemies, used to reach higher floors and used to block the path of the enemy) and switches (which control elevators, flames, electricity, spikes etc.). Along with these environmental components, players must understand how the enemy soldiers work. Each enemy follows a prescribed path except in three circumstances: 1) They run into an obstacle (crate, visible trap etc.). This will cause them to turn around and go back the way they came. 2) They come across a hole or elevator (some enemy units will fall into holes, others will use elevators and then continue on). 3) They see one of the player’s soldiers (this causes enemies of all types to run toward the player until they hit an obstacle as described above).Knowing how to take advantage of the movement of enemies is the only way to effectively use the environment to both beat the A-Droids and reach the helicopter.
The second weapon the in the player’s arsenal is the soldiers themselves. There are five different soldiers with unique skills in the game and the level you are on dictates which soldiers you will be able to use. The five soldiers that you are able to use are: the engineer (construction and destruction of bridges/stairs, camouflage traps etc.), the spy (blend in with enemies, stealth kill enemies, etc.), the muscleman (move crates, toss other soldiers, scare enemies, etc.), the private ( shoot single bullets, set bombs, etc.), and the commando (parachute from heights, jetpack etc.). Some of these skills can be used at any time, while others require the player to pick-up single use items scattered throughout the level.
Unfortunately, no matter how much mastery the player achieves over the environment or the soldier’s skills, A-Men 2 is still very difficult and can frankly be very frustrating. As previously mentioned, enemies will immediately run towards your soldiers if you come into their line of sight. If the enemy touches your soldier you immediately die which in this game means GAME OVER and the player must then restart the level losing all of their progress in the process. The only way to prevent losing all of your progress is if you are lucky enough to have found a checkpoint box where you can save your current progress in the level (these saves disappear if you close the game or quit the level). There are few things more frustrating than to lose 10 minutes of progress in a level due to one of these one-hit kills combined with the lack of a checkpoint box. I also had several instances where I would choose a path and strategy to complete the level only to find myself stuck due to the design of the level or my choices and have to restart completely losing all of my progress as there is no way to undo some of your actions.
Once the player has defeated the required amount of enemy robots (each level has a specific number that must be defeated) and reached the helicopter the game will assign you a letter grade based upon how well you completed the level (it also grades you on time, if you used a checkpoint box etc.). This grade will dictate how much cash you are rewarded. This cash can be used to purchase different uniforms for your soldiers. There is also a system to purchase upgrades for your soldiers to make the game easier but that is not as simple as spending money earned from completing levels. To purchase an upgrade you must receive them as a gift with the Vita’s ‘near’ function. This ‘near’ function requires you to be in geographically close to other people who are playing the game. Unfortunately for me, it does not appear that there is anyone else playing the Vita version of A-Men 2 here in central Ohio so I have been unable to take advantage of the upgrades. While using the ‘near’ function seems great on paper, in actuality I believe it only further to increase the frustration and difficulty of the game by keeping the soldier upgrades locked behind a system that not everyone will get to use.
Overall, I think that A-Men 2 has a lot of positive things going for it and I regularly felt satisfied when I beat a level. Unfortunately, that satisfaction can be short-lived as the challenge of the game can quickly turn from fun into frustration. If you are a person that can easily be frustrated I would recommend that you avoid A-Men 2, however, if you like puzzles that present a challenge then make this your next purchase for either PlayStation Vita or PlayStation 3.
Will you be buying A-Men 2?