Aliens: Infestation (Available exclusively on Nintendo DS)
ESRB Rating: T
Number of Players: 1
Developer: WayForward Technologies
Release Date: October 11th, 2011
Parent Talk: Aliens: Infestation is rated T for teen because of blood, mild language, partial nudity, and violence. Keep in mind this is a 2D action game, harkening back to the days of the SEGA Genesis and Super NES, so even though there is blood and gore, it’s entirely 2D sprite-based. That said, I still wouldn’t let my children play this because seeing an alien rip through someone’s chest cavity isn’t exactly pleasant, 2D sprite-based graphics or not.
Plays Like: One of the best aspects of Aliens is that it plays like a cross between a run and gun shooter like Contra, and an action platformer like Super Metroid, but also has traces of Clock Tower on the Super Famicom thrown in for good measure. That means there’s a lot of action, it’s extremely creepy at times, and you’re completely free to explore. Add all of these things together and you have yourself one of the best, and most under-looked and under-appreciated games in the DS’ massive library.
Review Basis: Finished the game in exactly four hours and 23 minutes. I’ve got skills baby!
I never would have played Aliens: Infestation if Steven didn’t buy it for me for my birthday. It’s the honest truth. While I enjoyed his video review of the game, it just seemed like it would end up being one of those “yeah I’ll play that…eventually” games, and it would never actually happen. So last week when the game arrived I gave it a whirl and didn’t really tell him anything about my experience. I wanted to save my thoughts for this very review. So here it is, my honest opinion on a game virtually no one has even heard of, much less actually played.
The feeling of isolation the game instils in the player is phenomenal. I actually jumped in this game, more than once I might add. The only other time that’s ever happened with a sprite-based game is with Clock Tower on the Super Famicom. So right there, that tells you something. You take on the role of one of four soldiers, trying to make their way through various mission objectives. I don’t want to give it away, but you do switch locations as the game progresses from the starting area spacecraft to…well…it’s a surprise. Regardless of where you happen to be though, you’re always alone. Sure you have three buddies with you, but they’re not on-screen. They’re there in case you die, and yes, you will indeed die. This sort of acts like three continues if you will. Save spots are few and far between, again making you feel as though you’re completely isolated on this mysterious ship (or wherever else you may be).
Once you find it, the motion detector will be your eyes and ears. Before entering a room, you’ll find yourself glancing at the motion detector to see if there’s something there. It’s the only way to survive. Even with the scanner, aliens don’t just hide in the open, no they come at you from the ceiling, from behind the background, from all over the place. It’s extremely pulse-pounding, which isn’t something you associate with 2D games. It’s just incredible how many times I found myself getting nervous before entering a new area where the map was no longer available.
+ The safe spots not only allow you to change characters, refill ammo, and save, but also allow you to strategize your next move. At any point you can move the bottom screen’s map in order to look around and try and figure out where to go next. Think Super Metroid, because this game has tons of hidden power-ups and other goodies lying just out of sight.
+ Weapons may not be too diverse, but they handle perfectly and some guns are much better suited to certain enemies than others. That said, you can only swap out weapons at the safe spot (storage locker). This adds a certain level of realism to the game, and is one of the key factor leading you to always be alert, just in case you’re equipped with the wrong weapon.
+ Always a challenge. Even though you can back-track and use newly acquired items in order to find weapon upgrades, the aliens also get stronger the further you progress, ensuring the game’s always there to kick your ass.
+ Even though you will surely die during your play-through, you can seek out new marines that will join your party to replace fallen members. That’s right folks, if your teammates die, they stay dead.
+ Boss battles are another highlight, and often appear impossible to surpass. Take the first boss as an example. You’re up against a Queen and several hatchlings. If you focus on the hatchlings alone the mama is going to take you down within a few hits. The trick is to lob a grenade, stunning her, and taking out a few of her eggs. Then switch to the grenade launcher and blast her in the head a few times. Repeat as needed. These battles force you to use your brain and not just your itchy trigger finger.
+ Audio visuals are top notch, yes even for it being 2D. First let’s talk about the sound samples, they’ve been taken right out of the Aliens movie, which is a really nice touch. Dialogue, while not spoken, also pays tribute to the movie. The music is kept to a minimum to highlight the creature and sound design, which elicits fear and dread in the player at almost every turn. The graphics are exactly as you’d imagine them, dark, gritty, and brutal.
– The only negative thing to say about the game is that it is extremely short, even for players new to the genre. Veterans will easily finish it in under five hours, and there’s very little incentive to go back afterwards since there aren’t that many hidden secrets. There’s a short knife mini-game that’s nothing special, and hardly adds replay.
Aliens: Infestation is an incredible game, that should be published on the 3DS’ eShop ASAP. It’s a game no one even gave a glance at upon release, and deserves to be played! Sure it’s a short game, even by 16-bit era standards, but it’s one of those games that you’ll revisit at least once a year just to experience the thrill again. You can buy a brand new copy on eBay right now for $7, so there’s really no excuse for not picking this up and giving it a chance. Steven said this was one of the DS’ hidden gems, I say this is one of the best games ever released on the system. Nuff said!
Final Score: 9.3/10