Ace of Spades: hands-on with the indie cube-shooter. Just don't mention the M-word.

Cara Ellison

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Imagine smacking a huge Jenga tower over with a shovel. That approximates the feeling of gleeful destruction you get from Ace of Spades - a brick-based first-person destroy-em-up, in which you blast apart the colourful blocky environments, and everything within them, in a fury of physics-enabled pyrotechnics.

In true multiplayer FPS tradition, you choose a class, choose a team, and shoot the pixels off each other until someone wins. Each class has distinct and useful abilities essential to team tactics: the Soldier has the most health and a decent gun, the Scout is weak but has a powerful sniper rifle, the Engineer can build sentries and use mines, and the Miner has the holy grail: the drill gun. This lets you bore through everything in your path at the speed of a rocket. Not only can you core enemies' angular faces, you can also use it to carve a tunnel under them, pop out the other side and clock them in the spine with your triple-strength spade.

The jaunty playpen aesthetics do away with the need for squelchy realism. When your health runs out, you explode in a cascade of cute man-blocks. Grenades send up a hundred little Duplo shards. You can build prefab blocks to bridge your way to the enemy. You feel testosteroney and adorable.

The three main arenas I played were a jungle, a lunar base, and a haunted mansion. The jungle is bright, green and hilly - with a huge space to cover, it's rife with places to hide and snipe or tunnel and assassinate. In the lunar base level, zero gravity gives jumps an extended reach, adding to the challenge of fixing enemies in your crosshairs as they drift across the map like Sugar Plum Fairies prancing about on a bouncy castle.

The haunted mansion is for zombie mode.

Zombie mode is absurd and hilarious. Zombie players have no weapons but their creepy, burrowing green arms and hyper-speed legs. The Survivor team chooses from the usual classes, but if killed by a zombie, you become one of them. To win, the zombies have to claim the lives of every Survivor.

Zombies move so fast that sometimes you are entirely unaware of their presence until you see a purple flash and a blip on the mini-map. Engineers end up building turrets everywhere across the mansion in a feeble attempt to protect the Survivors. It's like being in a child's dream reconstruction of Aliens.

Ace of Spades has a short while left before its December launch (the exact date still to be determined by Steam) by which time it'll have hopefully sorted out the stability issues I encountered. Its fundamentals are already extremely promising, however, and the prospect of a level creation tool at release extremely welcome. This sort of title is the reason the internet was inv -

Look, I tried to go this whole preview without mentioning Minecraft, but I just can't take it any more. MINECRAFT WITH PHYSICS AND EXPLOSIONS! MINECRAFT WITH FPS SHOOTY-MAN STUFF! ZOMBIE MINECRAFT! There, I said it. Shut up.

Developer: Jagex

Publisher: Jagex

Release: December

Link: www.aceofspades.com

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