Sega – Wayforward – Gearbox Software – Nintendo DS – Out Now
Reviewed by juanvasquez, Videogames editor
At first glance, you’d be forgiven for thinking Aliens Infestation was Alien 3 from the SNES/Megadrive. Very old school in almost every way, this is a throwback to the 16-bit side-scrolling 2D action platformers ala Super Metroid and Castlevania or in the style of the more recent, Shadow Complex. In what feels like a DS version of the forthcoming Colonial Marines, Infestation sees you taking control of a squad of said marines, sent to investigate a distress signal received from the seemingly deserted USS Sulaco. Upon arrival, it appears ‘the company’ have intercepted that transmission, and have deployed a unit of their own mercenaries and droids.
Now it seems a few liberties have been taken with the story line from Aliens. There is no mention of the survivors, or their cryogenic chambers being jettisoned (as seen in the vastly underrated Alien 3), apart from some information being retrieved from the ships droid, although it isn’t specified as to whether it’s Bishop or not.
After some running back and forth throughout the ship, you eventually encounter the Xenomorph. It turns out that there’s quite the hive of them living onboard in various areas of the massive military vessel. It’s not long before you actually encounter the alien queen. After a tough as nails battle, you take a dropship to what remains of Hadley’s Hope AKA LV-426. Here, as well as many other areas, you’ll find references to the films and characters, including more than one jump scare involving a cat!
One thing soon becomes apparent when getting into this game – it has a very steep learning curve. Although it’s not insanely difficult, at first, with weak weapons and tough opponents, it isn’t unusual to find yourself at the mercy of the Xenomorph or corporation robots. The boss fights are particularly challenging, and once your character dies, that’s it. However, if you loose a member of your team, they can be replaced with various other marines whom you will stumble across on your travels (there are 20 in total scattered around the game). Each marine has their own personality traits, which separates them from being just another faceless sprite.
Once you are over the initial difficulty spike, things begin to really click into place, picking up on the various enemies attack patterns and traits. You also get to upgrade your weapons, so as the enemies become greater in number and size, you don’t feel out gunned.
The game has many qualities found in the films such as the atmospheric music, the pulsing sound of the motion tracker, to the bleeping when movement is detected. As mentioned before, the weapon sounds are spot on and also the aliens’ screams are just as terrifying as they were in the films. There are also many ventilation shafts, a mainstay of any Alien film, to explore, usually littered with pick ups and alien eggs. These can also act as access routes to other rooms and areas should they be otherwise obstructed.
Once you’ve got to grips with the game, it isn’t long before you find yourself whizzing through the latter sections. I completed the game in about 5 hours and there only seems to be about 6-7 stages in the game. Once you reach a certain point in the game, you unlock a mini game. Knife Game, as you’d expect with this being Aliens, is a touch screen mini game based on the scene where Bishop is stabbing the knife on the table between his andHudson’s fingers. It’s presented in the style of an old 8-bit arcade machine, but has very little going for it other than being a nod to the great film. Other extras include character profiles of any one you encounter in the game.
To sum up, Aliens Infestation is a great throwback to the 16-bit side scrolling action adventures. Wayforward make great use of the licence, with plenty in there to please any fan of the films, but overall the game is a bit too lean – it would have scored higher were there more meat to it. Maybe this game would have been better as an XBLA/PSN title, with multiplayer thrown in for good measure. One thing is for sure however – it certainly whets the appetite for Aliens: Colonial Marines.