t wasn't altogether unfair to the fans and composers of techno to hear their music depreciated, at its Nineties apex, as a "genre based on one song." Lay a syncopated high-hat against the quarter-note kick drum once reserved for disco, and — there you are. Techno's familiar sound accounts for the style's longevity, musical fashion simply adorning the basic rhythm with variations as years passed. If the balance of modern video games, then, were traced along the patrimony of games encouraging players to guide one blip and shoot a second blip at several hostile blips, the top-down shooter could be valued as a good, old standby, which gives its celebrants exactly what they paid for. Ergo Wanako Studio and Sierra Online's Assault Heroes 2.
The commonplace is interrupted
by the unexpected.Classification is still limiting: in a top-down, the screen scrolls in the cardinal directions, and maybe diagonally. Perspective? Inherent and unchangeable. Gameplay? Linear and canonical. But that's a top-down shooter. Wanako developed its 800-point, Xbox Live Arcade sequel to the 2006 Assault Heroes with a commodity in mind.
Plot is rightly sparing. One of the enemy's zealots downs the player's dropship. After a soft crash-landing, the franchise's nimble, little blue battle-buggy rolls out of its hangar; and the game begins, hardly slowing down before thirty levels of shooting and dodging are cleared. Assault Heroes 2 offers nothing here which wasn't in at least some way apparent twenty years ago in Ikari Warriors. Endless waves of enemy soldiers — infantry, armor, air and more — attack the player from every direction and in every thematically conceivable way. Of course, were the enemy's troops as competent as its designers are fecund, there couldn't have been a hero smashing through every legion and ward as your character does so merrily.
Wanako's accomplishment is to have made a briskly paced game satisfying every criterion of a shooter. Each swarm of enemies includes something new, or a little twist on what was charging thirty seconds before. On rush infantry, on foot, motorized and shelling from prepared positions; cavalry riding strange mounts; tanks and combat vehicles of varying purposes, planetside and in orbit; little monsters and wild beasts; and, the staple of shooters, whimsically diabolical bosses. In Assault Heroes 2, you challenge a gigantic, iron-wrought beetle only after facing a mutant ape, robotic scorpion, and soldier-belching mechano-whale.
Methods of destruction are manifold, too. Retaining its minigun, flak gun and flamethrower, the blue battlewagon is additionally equipped with an ice gun that fits well with the arsenal. The ice gun is deadly against some types of enemies, marginally effective with others — and a thrill to use regardless, turning anything within range into a brittle, frosty block. As in the first game, weapons may be upgraded to a second and third level of power and visual flair — modifications aren't as incredible as 1942's or as clever as Silpheed's, but certainly worth the risk of disembarkation to grab a power-up. For players who are jaded or simply curious, three enemy vehicles — a tank, a chopper and a 'mech — may be boarded and piloted.
The plot isn't thin.
It's necessarily lightweight.Assault Hero 2's atmosphere, meanwhile, has been applied selectively. Sound effects are nearly all stock items. The soundtrack, an urgent, minor-key arrangement pronouncing stellar dominion by warriors yelling "Ouhulalalalala," raises camp to high art for the five minutes before you turn it down or off. Still, environments reflect the detail of careful development, especially through all the sorts of enemies pouring out of them. And cutscenes, while low-budget, show mastery — Wanako knows how to direct a boss' grand entrance. In basic mechanics too, Wanako has obliged. Three difficulty levels respectively allow easy touring, provide a strong challenge, or call for heroics in prestidigitation. Once reached, each of the game's thirty levels may be played, either for the experience or for Achievement points; and for shooter enthusiasts with an online friend on hand, several Achievements are exclusive to cooperative mode.
May those players revel in their niche. This is not a game for initiates to the concept of shoot-'em-up. It's meant to be consumed, and for most top-down tastes, is more than adequate. Instead of novelty, Assault Heroes 2 serves the faithfully addicted with action and a little style.