Space Ace HD – Reviewed

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By Lisa Haasbroek

In the mood for 1980s nostalgia? And I don’t mean the type that involves a mullet and leg warmers. Yikes, I’m having bad fashion flashbacks. But back to the topic. The Commodore 64 ruled the market, PacMan was Atari’s hot new release, and video arcades were the place to be. Yes people, I’m talking about retro arcade games! If you had enough quarters, you could expect to play Space Invaders, Donkey Kong, Battlzone, and Galaxian. And, if it was 1983, you were probably playing Space Ace.

Every adventure needs a hero and a villain. The hero in Space Ace is the muscle-bound Ace, and the villain is a blue beastie named Borf. In the intro, Borf successfully uses his “Infanto Ray” to turn heroic Ace into a gangly teenager named Dexter. Imagine that, reverse puberty – what a drag! But, its not as bad as it sounds, as Dexter can sometimes “energize” to convert himself back to Ace. With the help of his girlfriend Kimberley, Dexter heads out to spy on Borf. Unfortunately, Kimberely gets sucked into Borf’s ship, leaving Dexter to rescue her from his clutches while saving the planet from enslavement by the arguably demented Borf.

Anything look…familiar? That’s no surprise. Animator Don Bluth was one of the chief artists at Walt Disney Studios before leaving to form Don Bluth Productions (and taking several Disney artists with him to boot). He’s worked on films like Anastasia, the Land Before Time, An American Tail, and All Dogs Go to Heaven.

To keep costs down, the voices are done by the production staff. Don Bluth himself cameos as the voice of Borf. For non-professional actors, they do a pretty convincing job.

Throughout the game, you control Dexter and Ace by clicking the directional keys or moving the joystick in the proper direction. You can move diagonally by pressing two keys in succession (ex. up + left). Whenever “Energize” comes across the screen, you can power up Dexter into Ace. This affects certain abilities, and changes your strategy, but in most cases the story can progress either way.

Having trouble? You can adjust the difficulty level at the top of the screen, choosing from Cadet (easiest) to Captain (moderate) to Space Ace (hard). If you don’t choose, you play as a Space Ace by default. Having played the different levels, I can’t say I felt a noticeable difference between them, but at least the option is there. If you lose, you are given the opportunity to replay that section. After three “continues” you’re out of luck and the game is over, so keep on your toes.

If you need some pointers, or just feel a bit lazy, you can watch the entire game in “watch mode.” That includes with or without deaths, and scene selection. It’s like a short animated action film.

Cinematically, its cool to watch. The pacing is excellent, and the music is exciting. While Space Ace is undoubtedly a classic and was one of the most complex and impressive games of its time, the control system does feel a bit simplistic and outdated at this stage. Those of us who’ve been spoiled by 3D graphics and 360-degree environments might feel uninspired by the limited degree of control. You are more or less given the choice between four directions and  one power up. If you lose, you just choose the wrong direction or your timing was off. There’s no complex strategy involved, and sometimes it feels like trial and error to figure out what to do next.

If you consider yourself a serious gamer and you appreciate the history of computer and console gaming, you might find this a curious remake of a popular oldy. Real old school gamers will appreciate the nostalgia and find humour in the story, while newer gamers might not see the appeal.

Kindly Reviewed by Lisa Haasbroek of Plastic Ostrich Games, local developers of freeware games.

Space Ace HD is re-mastered and distributed worldwide by Digital Leisure

Last Updated: December 31, 2007

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