Thursday, 2 May 2019

Agress - Missile Daisenryaku (Arcade)

The circumstances of Agress' release, and that of its unofficial English translations are somewhat interesting. It's a Versus puzzle game released in 1991 and themed around the Gulf War, even having grainy digitised photos of Saddam Hussein and George Bush in the attract mode. Then, an unofficial English version seems to have surfaced in 2003, presumably to exploit the US and UK's invasion of Iraq that was happening at that time (though they didn't update the attract mode to feature George W Bush).

The title might lead you to believe that this game is related to the long-running Daisenryaku series of very serious military turn-based strategy games, but other than the theme and name, I can't find any relation between the two. In it, you're presented with a map covering the top half of the screen that has missile launchers at either side, representing the two sides of the conflict. The actual game takes place in the bottom half of the screen, where there's two grids (one for each player, just like the missile launchers). The grids each have a bunch of grey tiles, a few coloured tiles, and one empty space. There's also a picture that shows the coloured tiles arranged into a certain pattern or shape. Your task is to keep moving the tiles round to mimic the pictured shape, which causes you to launch missiles and very gradually tunr sections of the map your colour.

So, just like how, a few years later, Puchi Carat would figure out a way of making Arkanoid-style games into endless puzzles, Agress has figured out how to make those annoying little plastic slide puzzles endless, and competitive to boot! I think it's also the only videogame version of a slide puzzle I've seen that wasn't pornographic, too. Is it any good though? Well, unfortunately, I've only been able to play it single player, and even on the easiest settings, it's a struggle to get more than a couple of stages in, and it's very stressful figuring out how to move the tiles round to get that one tile where you need it to be. Just like real slide puzzles, really! Once the game starts increasing the number of coloured tiles, and even adding multiple colours, it gets more and more difficult to keep treading water.

I suspect, though, that it's the two-player mode in which this game would shine. Having two human players facing off against each other would make for a tense, though probably brief exchange, with the fun not being hampered by one competitor having a perfect computer brain designed solely to win at this game. (I'm sure I've read before that in making videogame AI, programmers make it as good as it can possibly be, then pare it back to make them into reasonably beatable opponents for human players. It seems like the developers of this game skimped on the second part slightly.) So, I guess if you can get someone to play an old, ugly, tastelessly-themed puzzle game with you, you'll probably have a decent time with Agress. If you're going to be playing alone, though, I wouldn't bother.

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