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Review: Aegis Defenders (Nintendo Switch)By Insanoflex At 08.02.2018 17:07

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Aegis Defenders, on the surface, aims to be an action-platformer most of the time, when it is not in the defend the target phase of its gameplay. The reality is that there is also a substantial element of puzzle solving that is very similar to games like Lost Vikings. Each colour-coded playable character can be swapped to at any time and much like Lost Vikings, while there will be many times that characters will have to be separated in order to solve some elaborate suite of switches in order to progress. The flow and design of each stage is strong here and the developer put thought into specific themes for each level, with some more focusing on tower defence or more standard 2D action or puzzles. Throughout the stages there are also collectibles, which do nothing of importance other than net a few more upgrade points. Not that getting those extra points means much, since replaying stages still grants points and, with a little patience, Clu and Bart's entourage will be over-powered.

The playability is suspect in Aegis Defenders since it seems that GUTS might have developed the control of the game backwards by intentionally making the control much stiffer and stickier than needed. Late in the title, after acquiring plenty of upgrades, characters have much smoother playability and responsiveness. This makes the point of having an upgrade system utterly pointless if the developer cheats by intentionally forcing people to use inferior and sloppier mechanics and pad the action out by having them grind to upgrade abilities. This is such arbitrary and sloppy design it becomes transparent. At this point, the best option is to grind for as many resources as possible just so the basic gameplay is more fluid to use. Even without grinding, Aegis Defenders is not hard, just bland. One thing worth mentioning is that the rumble when getting hit is insanely aggressive and violent. The Switch controls psychotically buzz and vibrate with such ferocity it feels like it is going to explode. Is this a bug?

It may not be as fluid or snappy as most 2D action releases but, thankfully, the co-operative element works and is easily the highlight of the experience. If there was a lot more punch to the graphics and a more bombastic soundtrack, Aegis Defenders could have been a really spirited arcade game from the mid-1990s. This is a very easy game, normally, but with another person playing it's almost sad how the enemies can be overwhelmed. Maybe this is aimed for a much younger generation still learning about videogames; seasoned gamers who seek a challenge might end up feeling bored. Kids will likely get much more out of Aegis Defenders and it may teach them the appreciation of an action game with elements of strategy and minor resource gathering.

Aegis Defenders's initial goal was US$65,000 and was made in a little over two years. The developer ultimately got more than double what it asked for and it begs the question: 'Where did all of that money go?' Aegis Defenders certainly looks like it was made for about $65,000. It is not a long or even a complex release with elaborate physics or logic systems in place. It uses the Unity game engine, which is the most affordable and user-friendly engine in the field of game design at this time. The pixel art style is fairly rudimentary and, while it is not ugly, it is amateurish. It has that typical indie game look to it that has become a cliché today and does not live up to the meticulous craftsmanship that it is inspired from. The pixel art has a nice chunkiness to it, the characters do not have a large range of animation, and there is a bigger emphasis on colour coding rather than detail. Aegis Defenders also makes a glaring artistic flub by using high definition art assets, like the character portraits, in conjunction with the chunky pixel art. It looks jarringly inconsistent, especially when it emphasises how the HD art and the sprites were done by different people.

GUTS Department put a lot of stock into the story for Aegis Defenders. It put too much effort into the narrative to the point where it is disruptive and tedious. GUTS' writing is not that great, sadly. Back-story information is told in non-diegetic animations between stages. It is like watching a movie that gets interrupted with an advertisement, only this is the gameplay. It's like two separate ideas that do not bind at all, since the lore is not pertinent to the characters or the main plot. The best way to get people invested in a story is to show and not tell. Aegis Defenders spends a lot of time telling the audience what is happening with excessive and tedious dialogue, instead of showing it in a visual way. Less is more when it comes to videogames. Nobody got invested in all the beloved classics because of dialogue or characters over-explaining things. Brevity is the soul of wit.

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Final Score
[i]Aegis Defenders[/i] is an average, run-of-the-mill indie game. It had some worthwhile goals, like hybrid tower defence and action gameplay mechanics with [i]Lost Vikings[/i] character puzzles. The most interesting quality is that there is a two-player co-op mode, which changes the dynamic of the game drastically. The real shining moments are during the defending the target portions of the levels, since teamwork actually matters and doing these alone can be a bit much to manage. With a bit of polish and tighter balancing, this could have been a real darling. It is hard to say where the rest of the backer money went to… With more than double the requested goal acquired, the end result is a janky, yet mildly enjoyable, diversion that is fun for children.

6

/10

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