Culture Attack Studio, a one man independent game development company headed by Tyler Doak, has recently brought us Aces Wild: Manic Brawling Action! Make no mistake, the subtitle describes the game very well. Tyler Doak has been influenced by games like Street Fighter, Godhand, and Bayonetta and it really shows.
Aces Wild has 7 levels of manic brawling action that you can play through solo, or with a friend through local co-op. All of the levels are completely accessible from the start, which is a very nice feature as if a player gets stuck on a level they can skip it and come back later. You can also choose which checkpoint in the stage you wish to start at and can even go straight to the boss if you want.
The combat in the game, while very hectic and fast paced, is very simple to learn. You have fast attacks that build up your wild bar per hit. Now this wild bar can be used to charge up your crash attacks. These crash attacks are the meat of the game and make the combat feel extremely punchy and chaotic. The power behind these attacks is just absolutely absurd. When you hit an enemy with a nicely charged crash attack, the game pauses for a split second, you hear a powerful crack, huge damage numbers pop up, and the enemy is sent flying across the screen, blasting through objects and other enemies while bouncing off the environment. It sort of has this Smash Brothers feel behind each hit. The satisfaction of landing these hits is what makes the game so good. You really feel incredibly powerful wiping out entire screens of enemies with one powerful attack. The wild bar can also be used to panic, which will blow back nearby enemies, heal you, and reset your rank. This is your sole healing source and with each consecutive panic, more wild is required for the next one. This creates a balance that the player always has to keep in mind. Do you want power or healing? Combine those mechanics with a dash and an incredibly effective dodge and you have a fun combat system that is easy to get the hang of.
Remember when I mentioned rank while discussing the panic mechanics? Rank plays a part of Aces Wild’s unique adaptive difficulty system. As you land hits on enemies you increase your rank. On the flip side as you take hits your rank decreases. The higher your rank the more aggressive your enemies become, attacking more rapidly and in groups at a time. This is an interesting concept as it keeps the difficulty balanced no matter what your skill level is. There are difficulty settings under the option menu but I never felt like I had to increase it to get a challenge out of the game. The bosses at the end of each stage are particularly difficult and will take every ounce of skill and reaction timing you have in you to come out victorious.
Enemy variety in the game is kind of lacking. There are about 7 or 8 different types of enemies, then re-skins of them with different fighting tactics. This is the lazy, artificial way to add enemy variety in a game that leaves you wanting more. The enemies that the game does have though, create a nice assortment of attack styles that you have to adapt to. The bosses themselves are incredibly exhilarating to fight, but it seems that little thought went into distinguishing one from another. All but two have the ability to summon minion type enemies as backup. In my opinion, this kind of boss design in video games makes a boss stand out less as half the time you are fighting off the minions supporting the boss rather than the boss itself.
Graphically speaking the game is not that impressive. Environments and character design are uninspired to say the least. The character sprites have this hand drawn look about them, but they lack any sort of detail. It also doesn’t help that one of the playable characters is a re-skin of the most common enemy type in the game. The games sound is a mixed bag with great, punchy sound effects that are brought down by the forgettable music. The songs are not bad by any means but just don’t stick with you and don’t stand out. The impact sounds you get from landing combos and especially the crash attacks, provide fantastic feedback for your attacks. This not only sounds great, but improves the gameplay overall. Landing a charged crash attack into an enemy mob just sounds downright magical.
While Aces Wild might not get everything right, it gets the gameplay right. For a brawler that is what really matters. The game’s mechanics are spot on and create a fun, simple combat system that is overall satisfying to play with. For only $10 on steam, I would recommend this to anyone who is a fan of brawlers! I look forward to more games from Culture Attack Studio.
Pros: Manic Brawling Action!, easy to learn, fun combat system
Cons: Lazy enemy variety, uninspired art design, low graphical fidelity
Bottom Line: Aces Wild is one of the most enjoyable brawlers I have played in a long time. It is full of over the top action. Many other games have more complicated combat systems that are not nearly as satisfying to play. I expect great things from Culture Attack Studio in the future.