Even the Nintendo DS had a taste of some Alien action in the form of 2011’s Aliens: Infestation.
For this year’s Alien Day, I have decided to look back at an Aliens game that managed to slip past me.
I’ve played a fair few of the Alien related games that have been released over the years including Alien vs. Predator on the Atari Jaguar, PC and Xbox 360 and not forgetting Alien: Isolation on the Playstation 4.
In my youth, I played both Aliens games for the ZX Spectrum and shoved a few 10p coins into the Aliens arcade game from 1990 from Konami, which takes massive liberties with the license and is a bit odd.
This review is for Alien: Infestation, a title that I didn’t even know existed until recently. Created just for the Nintendo DS it was released in late 2011.
Aliens: Infestation takes place 18 weeks after the events of Aliens and narratively decides to ignore the plot point that the entire colony on the planet of LV-426 was destroyed by a nuclear blast.
The game starts with you investigating the abandoned hulk of the Sulaco which has been found drifting in orbit above LV-426.
From there you’ll travel down to the planet’s surface to further investigate the alien threat where you’ll discover that the company Weyland Yutani, is trying to capture aliens for use in their bio-weapons division.
This means there will also be enemy soldiers trying to prevent you from progressing as well as aliens!
The game is presented as a 2D side-scrolling platform game. You won’t have full access to the map as there are certain doors and obstructions that can only be opened with the correct inventory items picked up as the game progresses.
This is one of the games drawbacks, as you’ll be backtracking over previously explored areas, for example, to open that one door because you never had the correct key card.
As the game load sections of the map in chunks, everything is reset when you re-enter an area, including the enemies. So not only are you backtracking, but defeating the same enemies repeatedly.
Don’t just stand there, shoot it!
As a USMC colonial marine, you initially have access to a pistol with infinite ammo but that’s really a last resort. Your main weapon will be the M14A Pulse Rifle which can also fire grenades.
As the game progresses, you find more weapons such as the shotgun and the flame-thrower. Hidden around the maps are weapon upgrade packs. Each weapon can be upgraded a total of three times. You can’t choose which weapon to upgrade, it will always be the one your currently using.
You can only carry one main weapon at a time and the choice is made at any of the special rooms that allow game saving, regenerate your health and restocks your ammo supply. In these rooms, you can also choose which marine to play as.
Your squad initially starts with four marines and apart from visual changes, there is no difference to gameplay depending on who you choose.
Essentially each marine is one life, die and choose the next one to be your current player. As you progress through the levels you’ll find other marines guarding bonuses. If you’re at least one man down, you’ll ask him/her to join your squad, gaining you an extra life.
This isn’t going to end well, is it?
You carry an infinite pack of flares which you can drop at any time marking special places, so there’s an element of tactical play, saving bonuses and marines for later.
So far, I’ve made this game sound a little disappointing but I keep going back to the Nintendo DS for more, why?
I blame it on the game’s aesthetic using beautiful pixel art. The main sprites are a little on the small side but their so well detailed. The game’s environments, all taken from the films Alien and Aliens, are also wonderfully executed in the same style and are instantly recognisable.
Each sprite is brilliantly animated as well. A marine reloads a shotgun, an alien attack with its smaller inner jaws, a face hugger jumps from a freshly disturbed egg, small details that keep me playing the game to see what I’ll notice next.
When characters converse in the game, large hand drawn headshots by comic artist Chris Bachalo pop up on the screen which really give each character a unique look and helps diversify them.
As you progress through the game you’ll hear that each area has its own atmospheric musical soundtrack. Unfortunately, these tunes are quite short and repetitive.
However, the games sound effects are all digitised from the original films which help add to the experience.
The controls are standard stuff with directions, jump, fire and run but as this is a Nintendo DS game that means we have access to a second screen.
The second screen is used primarily to display a map of your current location and once you acquire the motion tracker, you’ll know if any one room contains any moving characters, be it friends or foe.
Power loader? Check! Flamethrower? Check! Bring on the Queen!
With a quick stylus tap, this map screen can be switched to an equipment screen to allow you to reload your weapon or choose between types of grenade. Other tools available later in the game via this screen include turning on a body mounted light to see in dark rooms and the option to cut open or weld doors closed.
Aliens: Infestation, as an alien fan, is a great game that I must admit I’m enjoying a lot more than I thought I would. It’s only marred by the constant backtracking that these types of games always suffer from.
A great game that suffers only from the repeated backtracking.