I donâ€™t tend to take gameplay personally, Iâ€™m usually well balanced enough to divorce my emotions from bad choices in game design. But I swear this game is doing it deliberately.
A-Men 2 drops you in to the shoes of a gaggle of stupid, self-satisfied would-be action-men who think theyâ€™re really funny. And theyâ€™re not. Not even a little bit. Their aim, by working together, controlled in turn by you, is to kill enough idiot guards for the helicopter to arrive at the LZ and take them out of this horrible nightmare. The A-Men themselves all have different abilities that are used to complete each level, one is good at traversal and general getting around, one is a builder, one carries things and shoutsâ€¦ Oh and one has a hat. The guardsâ€™ deaths are largely environmental, with explosives, spinning saws, big rocks, and long drops. And your task is to figure out how to exploit their idiocy, pull the right levers and get them to walk in to traps. If they see you they will run after you and stab you with their bayonets, presumably because the guns attached to them donâ€™t work. So itâ€™s a puzzle game, a really hard one. But itâ€™s also a game of skill.
The skill being, to stay sane whilst you fight against the brutally unforgiving hazards, some seriously long-sighted collision detection, and the Worst Jumping in The World. So once you figure out what to do, the battle isnâ€™t nearly won. It requires patience, but this game does virtually nothing to get you on-sideÂ and generate that patience, it tries to be charming, but itâ€™s not. Itâ€™s like Darren Day*. The cause isnâ€™t helped by the most irritating lo-fi soundtrack and the most annoying character chatter ever written in to a videogame. Itâ€™s guilty of the kind of self-referential nonsense that only works in a Tim Schafer game. Anywhere else itâ€™s just derivative. Games like this are supposed to make you feel smart, but thatâ€™s hard when you constantly feel like youâ€™re intelligence is being insulted.
A-Men 2 seems to work on the assumption that the harder something is to achieve, the greater the satisfaction gained in the achievement. And thatâ€™s not (wholly) untrue. But this game appears – by embodying that rule absolutely, at the expense of anything else, like fun – to have become its own exception. Every level completed (every pigginâ€™ level) came with not satisfaction, but grinding resentment and ultimately relief. Every feature of this game seems to come out of an ethos prevalent when people still had Ataris and Spectrums, we expected games to be impossibly difficult, lacking charm and wholly unfair then, thatâ€™s just how it was. But itâ€™s 2013 and weâ€™ve been spoiled. I have no problem with hard games. But a game this dull has no business being this hard. I mean, if it was 1991 and I got this game on my Amiga 500 Iâ€™d like it. But nowâ€¦ It just doesnâ€™t stand up.
Reviewed on PS3
*To those whose question is â€˜whoâ€™s Darren Day?â€™ My reply is â€˜Exactlyâ€™.