Sunday, December 16, 2012

aliens infestation

RELEASE: 10/2011 | PUB: Sega | DEVELOPERS: WayForward & Gearbox | ESRB: T

It’s been a while since I picked up a Nintendo DS game or even the DS handheld system at all. However, Aliens Infestation was a must buy for me for two reasons: (1) it has a cover and in-game artwork was done by Chris Bachalo and (2) it’s Aliens. This little cartridge houses a 2D side-scrolling adventure game, in the vein of NES classics like Metroid, Castlevania and Bionic Commando. Play as a motley platoon of futuristic colonial marines in this all new chapter in the Aliens saga. Hit the jump to read my thoughts on the game, Aoo Rah.

Chris Bachalo is an illustration hero in the comics world; with work in top selling titles like the X-Men, the Avengers, Spider-Man and Sandman among his resume. In-game, his art is used for the static faces shown during dialog scenes, typical fashion for games of that NES generation. Some JRPG titles still use the text and a mug-shot-style dialog scenes. Chris’s ultra-detailed, gritty-style on the marine characters makes looking at the same faces over and over completely tolerable. There are allegedly 19 Marines total in the game -- I haven’t found them all yet. There are a few of the marines mug shots hosted on Sega of America’s Flickr.

Aside from the promotional illustrations, the game is all retro style pixel art. There are pixel style renders of all your favorite Aliens are here too. From the classic facehuggers and drone soldiers to the Alien Queen. They are all tough little SOBs to take down and will have you scrambling for ammo. In addition to the Aliens themselves, Sega has done a great job capturing the “biomechanical” feel of the movies. Quite a feat given the graphical limitations of the pixel art style. Some nice touches are the cocooned soldiers in the walls and having to weld through select doors. The sound effects are very accurate. No one can say Sega doesn’t have the pulse rifle sound on lock.

Aliens Infestation provides five stages of game play over three areas taken from the films; The USS Sulaco and the xenomorph infested planet LV-426. All three areas have large maps that require careful navigation and some backtracking. Backtracking through areas is made easier with the use of maps and the ability to mark areas on that map using flares. Collect ammo, weapons and various explosives along the way while trying desperately to reach a goal or checkpoint so you can save.

Your platoon starts off with four marines at your disposal. You can cycle through them controlling one at a time. Choose which character to use can only be done at a checkpoint or if a marine falls in battle. Spending time picking out the marine you would like to use isn't necessary, besides the illustrated head shot they all play exactly the same way.
Occasionally you will find other fellow marines during a mission, if you have an open slot (less than 4) in your rooster the you can recruit them.

The dual screens of the DS are utilized in a basic but functional design. The action takes place in the upper screen while you inventory of weapons and tools is touch activated in the lower. Standard fair for games on this system.

This game is surprisingly challenging. Luckily, the DS is probably the one game system that if you throw it won’t instantly break (note: throwing not recommended). You will definitely lose some marines in the course of this game, just get used to that idea and you will be much happier. My one complaint in the fairly flawless retro title is the military lingo. The jargon is a little thick; it’s probably accurate, it just comes off as overzealous bravado. The dialogue is not a deal breaker though, I’ll fondly remember Aliens Infestation as one of my favorite DS games.

A little hold over before Aliens Colonial Marines Drops in Feb. 2013

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