The Alien franchise is a strange breed in the sense that it’s are a series of great movies that have lead to a smattering of good games. However, Alien fans are still waiting for that killer app truly deserving of the brand’s name. Hopes are high for Colonial Marines, but there’s one tiny problem: it isn’t out yet. Luckily, Gearbox Software are taking care of us in the meantime with the gruesomely charming DS release of Aliens: Infestation.
If you were old enough to see either of the first two Aliens movies in theatres, then you’re probably old enough to remember a little 1986 game called Metroid. The chances are that you’ve played Metroid no matter what age you are, so I’m sorry if I made any of you old fuddie duddies depressed about the fact you’re going to die soon. Cheer up though, as Aliens: Infestation should remind you of a time when the world made sense; sitting in front of the telly, beasting Metroid on the NES.
Players assume control of one Colonial Marine out of an available party of four, as they blast their way through the various levels in true, retro side-scrolling style. I must admit that I initially found it rather crappy and dated as I rode elevators up and down constantly whilst shooting the occasional android. Only after an hour or so did my views begin to change.
After making my way to the first safe house, I discovered I could resupply on health and ammo, change characters and save my current progress. As I fought enemy troops and robots, I kept getting the impression that when I died, that was it. Game over. It turns out I was half right. Although the safe rooms provided a perfect sanctuary that could be visited at any time, when your chosen marine dies, (and trust me, you will die) he’s Alien chow. However, when you die, your kicked right back into the action in the boots of another marine. You must be cautious though, because if you use up all the marines in your roster, it really is game over.
The action only really begins when you meet your first xenomorph. Unfortunately for your puny marines, your first encounter with these nasties make one thing clear: they would love nothing more than to eat you. The pesky buggers are practically invisible until they pop up right in your face, and they’ll even run along the ceilings to get a taste of those tender soldier brains. A shotgun or machine gun blast is enough to teach them some manners. It’s a messy job, but someone has to do it.
As you progress, repetition begins to turn the adventure into a slightly monotonous campaign. There’s a lot of back tracking to do, which ain’t all that fun, especially when most areas look the same and the music, whilst good, isn’t entirely varied. In fact, the only good thing that comes from revisiting rooms is the opportunity to kill the residing aliens all over again. It also has its share of frustration as well, as players will get a massive shock when stepping into a boss fight arena; while the levels standard enemies aren’t overly challenging, you can guarantee your marines will suffer heavy losses at the claws of some fierce bosses.
Despite its primitive and basic nature, Aliens: Infestation has a great overall atmosphere to it. The limited musical score still does a great job of complementing the dark, creepy visuals. Additionally, the 2D aliens’ boast solid and fluid animations, not to mention the blood that gleefully sprays its snot green shade in all directions.
If you’re a fan of modern games that pay homage to golden, side-scrolling classics like Metroid, Contra and Castlevania, then I have no doubt that you’ll find something to love about Aliens: Infestation. Being a fan of the Alien franchise is only a bonus though; don’t expect to warm to this if you’re looking for another AvP. It’s frustrating, unoriginal and undeniably dated, yet it still clings to a certain charm that comes with the inclusion of some of the most iconic extra-terrestrial scumbags this side of the universe.
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