Ace Lightning is a series of video games, based upon the BBC-created television programme of the same name. Two almost identical copies for the PC and PlayStation 2 are 3D action-adventure, third-person shooter and platform game, whilst the Game Boy Advance version is a 2D side-scrolling platform game.
The games all have similar and different features, and follow the synopsis of the television show's plot, being a tie-in to the show's in-universe video game, involving superhero Ace Lightning venturing into the nightmarish amusement park called the Carnival of Doom to defeat his nemesis Lord Fear and obtain the shattered pieces of the Amulet of Zoar.
The video games follow the same storyline, although the Game Boy Advance adaption follows the television show's story more closely, involving the characters who are from a video game appearing on Earth, and Ace ventures into the Carnival of Doom to find the pieces of the Amulet and defeat Lord Fear, eventually sending the villains back to the Sixth Dimension, the homeworld of the characters.
In the PC and PlayStation 2, the game's plot follows a more detailed plot different from the television show's, but more similar to that of the show's in-universe game. All of the games' cutscenes are shown in the style of a comic strip with speech bubbles. A prologue at the start of the game describes Lord Fear escaping from prison in the Sixth Dimension and stealing the Amulet, but is stopped by Ace and the following fight results in the shattering of the Amulet. Both individuals find a single piece of the Amulet and take there fight to the Carnival of Doom. Ace collects the Amulet pieces scattered around the carnival's nightmarish attractions, fighting such villains as Googler, Lady Illusion, Dirty Rat and his own friend Random Virus who suffers from multiple personality disorder and has two personalities, one good and one evil. Ace eventually confronts Lord Fear in the Haunted House, defeating him and his minions before sending them back to prison using the restored Amulet.
Ace's ally Sparx, has a relatively minor role in the games. She appears briefly in the Gameboy adaptation as part of a tag-team boss battle against Lady Illusion, and only appears in the cutscenes in the 3D games. It has been shown that she is playable in the television show, which uses footage from the videos games.
The gameplay of the Gameboy version is a simple side scroller platform game where a player controls Ace and moves him around the carnival's attractions. At the end of the each level is a piece of the Amulet and a boss battle against an antagonist suited to the environment. The levels are based on attractions that are usually seen in an amusement park of small funfair (e.g. a ghost train, carousel, rollercoaster, etc.), the final level being the Haunted House where Lord Fear is battled. The player can be ambushed by the enemies whilst navigating their way around the carnival, leading to miniature boss battles. Two minigames are unlocked throughout the course of the game, one being a shooting gallery and the other a strength-testing game, where the player has to time Ace when he hits the machine. If he fails, Ace will toss the mallet used into the air, but it will fall down and knock him out.
The PC and PlayStation 2 games are almost identical, the PlayStation 2 version having better graphics and two bonus levels. The gameplay for each level is to reach the end and collect an Amulet piece to continue the game. There are four distinct worlds, a circus, a funhouse owned by Lady Illusion, a wild west ghost town, and a medieval castle. The final world leads straight into a boss battle against Lord Fear and others. Each world has two or three levels that are unlocked one after the other, the last level ending with a boss battle against a specific antagonist (e.g. Lady Illusion, Googler, Dirty Rat, Random Virus), an Amulet piece appearing after they are defeated using a repeating technique. The Amulet piece at the end of the each level may only be gained after a task is completed, like defeating enemies or a boss, or collecting enough tokens called Doom Dimes.
Most of the game involves platform jumping or locating keys to new areas that appear as actual keys or as large activation buttons. Combat has two stages. First Ace Lightning will fight with a weapon called the Lightning Lance which can fire out lightning bolts or he can use it strike opponents. The lance has an energy bar which will eventually run out and Ace is forced to use his fists and wrist cannons for combat, his cannons capable of stunning an opponent for a period of time. Ace can power up the Lightning Lance by collecting lightning bolt symbols. When enemies are defeated, they leave behind energy balls that can also replenish the lance. Ace can also gain accessories for a period of time, including an energy drink to heal his life bar, the Shield of Justice which protects him with a force field, and an ability to double jump, as he is unable to fly in the games as he is shown to in the television series.
Connections with the television programme
As the games were released after the first season of the show had begun to air, connections to the actual computer game and how it was portrayed within the first season of the show are sometimes strained or erroneous. As they had the actual game to work with when making the second season, its portrayal was much more faithful then.
Ace lacks the ability to fly in the game, forcing him to use trampolines or floating platforms to reach heights, and he can die by falling off ledges. The characters' personalities are slightly altered in some cases; Ace is somewhat overconfident and sometimes makes puns, and he also seems to have no interest in Lady Illusion, Lady Illusion is more forward in her advances toward Ace, and the struggle between Random Virus's sides is much more pronounced in the game. Sparx is only given a passing mention and doesn't appear at all in the actual game, although in the portable version, she is playable in a tag-team boss fight against Lady Illusion.
The differences reflect in the show at times. For instance, in one episode Chuck Mugel runs a simulation to see what happens if Random Virus teams up with Lord Fear, even though he does so anyway in the game. Another time, Chuck determines that because Anvil becomes more powerful after a certain point in the game, Ace needs to team up with another Lightning Knight to defeat him, both of which are impossible as the only other Lightning Knight who appears is Random Virus and who, as noted, is a villain. The opposite is true in one instance where Ace demonstrates a hatred of garden gnomes, which makes sense with context from the game where killer garden gnomes are enemies in one level.