Space Ace II: Borf's Revenge. (computer game) (Software Review) (Evaluation)
by Scott A. May
Step into the world of Saturday-morning superheroes with Space Ace II: Borf's Revenge, a nonstop arcade battle of good versus evil.
In the previous episode, the villainous Borf unleashed the terrible Infanto Ray--a weapon capable of turning anyone into a helpless infant with a single blast. The big, blue fiend had hoped to turn the Earth into one big day care center. But Space Ace turned the tables and saved the day, zapping Borf into a harmless peewee.
As the new game begins, Borf's tenacious Goon squad has restored its pint-sized leader to his larger-than-life evilness. An enraged Borf then kidnaps Ace's girlfriend, Kimberly, and attempts a getaway. You must race to her defense, battling a relentless series of monsters, robots, and other deadly threats.
The game's look and feel is inspired by Don Bluth, a former Disney animator who pioneered the first laser disc coin-op game, Dragon's Lair. The theater-quality cartoon graphics and digitized sound are nearly seamless on a hard drive. This type of game begs for a CD-ROM treatment.
Though beautifully drawn and smoothly animated, the design suffers from serious structural flaws. Simply put, the story doesn't flow, it lunges forward at breakneck speed. Transitions between scenes are usually clipped, and often missing entirely. The results are disjoined and confusing, with no sense of plot progression.
Another problem is a complete lack of strategy. Player input is limited to simple knee-jerk reactions--pressing one of five keys in response to the onscreen action. The game's linear story line allows absolutely no digression from the prescribed course of action. False moves are rewarded not with an alternate direction, but with instant death. Even the fastest, cruelest arcade games offer more than one path to success or failure. This game is a bullet train with no stops and only one destination. Fail to switch tracks at the precise moment and the whole thing derails.
Average games last under a minute for experienced players and mere seconds for arcade rookies. Having only three tries to complete the adventure adds to your frustration; luckily, a save option lets you start the game at the beginning of the last unfinished scene. Unfortunately, once invoked, this save feature is automatic: If you fail once or twice and then succeed, the game overwrites your last position, leaving you stranded with severely limited resources. Contrary to the old maxim, if at first you don't succeed, give up before trying again. As if admitting to this unforgiving difficulty, the manual offers fairly explicit hints for each of the game's 27 scenes.
More satisfying examples of this genre include Interplay's Out of This World, Dynamix's Adventures of Willie Beamish, and even ReadySoft's own Guy Spy series. In addition to a solid mix of arcade action and logic puzzles, each of those games takes time to tell a viable story, using such "camera" techniques as panning, noninteractive segues, and long tracking shots.
Technically brilliant, Space Ace II: Borf's Revenge successfully emulates a studio-quality animated adventure. As an interactive game, however, most of the fun seems to have been left on the cutting room floor.