As You Sow, So May You Reap | A-Men 2 Review

Contrary to what some individuals may believe, not all video games are full of blood, gore and subliminal messages that tell us to kill our families and bury them in the garden. There are in fact an abundance of video games out there that require us to really use those noggins of ours and think strategically about the virtual task at hand. A-Men 2 is a PSN and Vita title that most defiantly requires this kind of thought, with rash decisions being punished indefinitely. Created by Polish studio Bloober Team, A-Men 2 follows its predecessor, A-Men, into a puzzling world of tactical gameplay, which tests both your forward thinking and patience.

Developed in 2D platformer-style, you control a group of soldiers, each of which come with their own catchphrases and skills. The main objective of each level of the game is simple: get to da choppa. However en route to this flying safety, which only appears when the game is satisfied you’ve eliminated enough (half to be exact) of your enemies, you will encounter a number of obstacles and foes that stand in your way. In order to complete A-Men 2’s levels you will be given a number of characters (or one in some instances) and you must work simultaneously with each of them to provide a strategy that will allow all of you to reach the helicopter and whisk off to the cloudy haven in the sky.

In theory the above may sound like an easy task but in reality it is one difficult son-of-a-bitch. Every move  you make has a consequence and every decision that you run with needs to be carefully planned beforehand because if not it’s back to the very beginning of the level, no matter how close you are to reaching your goal. Infuriating to say the least, it’s these moments that make liking A-Men 2 difficult and when these instances re-occur over and over again, which they will, saying goodbye to this mind-boggle of a game will seem like the best thing to do for both your sanity and control pad. However, stay with it. Perseverance is what this title is all about and even though you may not feel like doing so, sticking with A-Men 2 will inevitably lead to an internal sense of achievement, as you come to terms with the slow-paced and thought-provoking style of gameplay that you’re being faced with.

One thing  that you don’t need an extended period of time to get used to however, is the control system. Aided at first by some in-game question mark helpers that tell you what a particular box does or what the machine in front will do if turned on, commanding your soldiers is not a difficult task. When it comes to the fluency of their moves though, this can sometimes be as frustrating as the initial gameplay. For one they can’t run to save their lives and jumping can often lead to a face full of on screen death, whilst the bulky slowness of unleashing a weapon in front of an adversary will probably amount to you wishing a very real and painful death on the Bloober Team.

Another frustrating aspect to gameplay, though it may take a while and a few choice words, you can see why the makers have designed the characters too move in such ways. If you could out-run your enemies then you wouldn’t need to think of inventive ways in which to get round them and being that this isn’t COD, having the ability able to run amok with a AK47 would defeat the whole object of the game.

Replay value wise, A-Men 2 has this aspect in the bag. Whether you wish to beat your times, get a better grade or do all the extra challenges that each level provides, there are  many reasons to go back and try this title again, if you’re up to the challenge that is. As for the visuals, the game has both a grainy edge to it that suits the WWII theme nicely and a modern feel of an up-to-date platformer. Not overly realistic, the battle settings, which range from beaches to icy lands, don’t exactly make you feel like you’re in scene from Platoon but they are crafted nicely, with the character designs also fitting the war of yesteryear theme well. However, whilst they look the part the soldiers ever-repeating musings will become somewhat tiresome after a while, the optional catchphrase mute choice being of definite use here. Musically, the soundtrack is again repetitive but not awful, which is better than nothing.

In a sea of war-based console titles, whose goals are mainly to shoot, shoot and shoot some more, A-Men 2 is a welcome, although flawed addition to these watery depths that gives another gameplay perspective to the topic. A thinking-person’s title, like its board game counterpart chess, A-Men 2 will not call out to everyone as a must-buy but for those of you who are looking for different kind of mental stimulation, this latest creation from Bloober Team is well-worth investing in. However, beware. To be rewarded here you will need to show a bit of patience and determination, a concept that requires you to yell less about people’s mothers and think more about where that make-shift lift may lead you to. As the title says, as you sow, so may you reap, unless of course you have a mental breakdown first, a scenario that poses real threat with this game.

Original article first appeared on the BagoGames site on 24/12/13