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Time Ace

Score: 68%
ESRB: Everyone 10+
Publisher: Konami
Developer: Trainwreck Studios
Media: Cartridge/1
Players: 1; 1 - 4 (WiFi)
Genre: Shooter/ Flight

Graphics & Sound:

On the surface, Time Ace looks like a fun shooter in the vein of Star Fox. Though the two share a number of similarities, fun isn't one of them.

Player-controlled jets are the absolute best looking thing on screen while everything else is composed of a scant few polygons and looks incredibly flat. The train you have to chase down in the first level is little more than a few blocks on a rail, while most of the enemies you run into look like those foldable paper cut-out planes you can buy at book fairs. Not to say that the DS is a 3D beast, but it is certainly capable of better things than this.

Time Ace doesn't look good, but the developers should get credit for putting together a smooth-running 3D engine. There are a few noticeable graphical tricks going on to achieve this, like a limited draw distance, but I'll take cheap tricks over a choppy framerate.

Music is impressive and helps to make things feel more exciting than they really are. It feels like it should be in an Ace Combat game rather than an arcade shooter.


Gameplay:

In Time Ace, you play as the eccentric Dr. Clock, an expert pilot and scientist who, along with his partner, Dr. Scythe, invents a working time machine. After seeing the start of WWI, Dr. Clock decides to try and stop it. Dr. Scythe decides otherwise and makes off with the machine. Ever the courteous one, Scythe leaves Clock a note telling him that he has the time machine and detailing his plans for world conquest. Clock then builds another time machine and sets out to save time. This premise carries most of the game's plot as you jump between time periods only to have Scythe escape.

Although it gives the impression of free flight (and in some respects even believes it is), Time Ace is an on-rails shooter. Gameplay consists of completing a series of objectives that will pop-up throughout the level. Objectives never grow beyond, "Destroy this," which wouldn't be so bad if the gameplay were actually engaging, which it isn't. You have a little freedom in your flight path, but you are mostly stuck to a strict linear progression. If you happen to overshoot an enemy, you can try and loop back but even then an unknown force will keep pushing your forward so, to quote my future brother-in-law, "You might as well push a rope."

Okay... that isn't completely true. You are allowed to loop back and around in some levels, though the game does such a bad job of letting you know the levels' limits, that it feels unfair.

Time Ace is a short game and clocks in at about 5 - 6 hours depending on the types of snags you may run into along the way. A multiplayer option is available, though it is limited to Deathmatch and all players must have a copy of the game to participate.


Difficulty:

Three difficulty levels are available, but even on the highest one, Time Ace is an incredibly easy game. Enemies, including bosses, rarely put up much of a fight. Most low-grade enemies go down with a few hits and are very easy to outwit. Enemies all follow a set railed path and come in predicable clusters, making it easy to know how to dodge and where to shoot. Enemies attack like most people play Space Invaders; they always seem to shoot where you were, not where you are (or will be).

Bosses are a little harder, but you can usually just fling a few missiles in their direction and be done with it. If you don't have any missiles you could be in for a fight, but there is never a reason to use them in the level, so this shouldn't be an issue. The only times I ever ran into a problem were when I would have to try and backtrack for any reason. The need rarely comes up, though it is enough of a pain when it happens to be annoying.


Game Mechanics:

As you blaze through each time period, you unlock new planes, ranging from an old-style bi-plane to a space-worthy fighter. Each ship handles the same, though with slightly different capabilities. You can go back and use any of the unlocked ships in any mission, though the newest is always the most powerful, so there is no reason to not use it.

In addition to the occasional power-up drop, which is an assortment of generic power-ups like a bomb that blows up everything on the screen, enemies drop gun upgrades which are part of the reason Time Ace is so easy. Weapons work in much the same way as some top-down shooters. After collecting two boxes of the same type, your weapons upgrade. If you want to switch weapons, you simply need to collect another box type. Your standard guns are already powerful, but once you nab the second weapon upgrade, things become outright ridiculous. At least weapon upgrades are rare.

Time Ace makes limited use of the touch screen. During the game, it serves as a radar and between missions, you can play one of two mini-games and nab a health boost for the next level. The mini-game does its job to break up the monotony of the main game, though it is over way too quick and not all that interesting after the third or fourth time.

Many of Time Ace's elements seem like they are headed in the right direction, unfortunately they never come together to make a good game. I would by lying if I said there are no fun moments in the game, but there aren't enough to really justify a purchase, even at $20.


-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

Nintendo Wii Ratatouille Sony PlayStation Portable Shrek the Third

 
Game Vortex :: PSIllustrated