Regardless of what we think of the quality level found in more recent movies in the Aliens movie saga, there is one thing which can be said about the franchise as a whole; generally the games have been good. This is something of a rarity in the world of games based on movies, in fact over the last few decades there have been few ideas which have successfully moved from one medium to the other.
Thinking back through the Aliens games, the obvious example of Alien vs. Predator on the Atari Jaguar is a case of a quality game under the Alien banner. In fact taking Alien 3 as our next example we have a situation where many would consider the game to be superior to the movie… though whether that would have been the case had David Fincher’s original cut, or many of the previous scripts, made it to the screen is another matter.
Since those early games there has been a steady release of Alien games with the most notable recent version being Aliens Vs Predator which was released by SEGA last year, topping the charts and becoming the fastest selling game of the year.
With good sales figures from last year’s AvP it was only a matter of time before we saw another game based on the Aliens universe and that comes in the form of Aliens: Infestation for the Nintendo DS. A side scrolling shooter the latest game in the franchise takes us back to an older style of gameplay, today we find out whether it is a worthy addition to the franchise.
As noted above Aliens: Infestation is a side scrolling title and as it is a DS game the visual aspects mix with this to create a retro feel which is immediately welcoming. The game takes place after the events in Aliens and we take control of a group of marines who have been sent to investigate events on Sulaco LV-426. This obviously sounds rather familiar but it seems intentional and the developers (Gearbox and Wayforward) make nice little references to prior events by calling one of the characters Cameron… a similar nod to that used in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles.
The story is progressed, mainly, though radio communications with our commanding officer and we are able to switch between our team of marines as the levels progress, controlling one at a time. The controls are reasonably standard with the D-Pad giving us movement and aim, A for interaction, Y to fire, X to throw, etc.
The game also makes good use of the DS’s split screen with the main action playing out on the top display and the lower being used to select characters, change weapons, view the map or perform actions as required. This of course gives us quick access to a high level of functionality which ensures the gameplay doesn’t get bogged down in frantic button mashing.
At its core Infestation is a shooter as we make our way through the game, blasting robots, aliens and the like while attempting to complete tasks set by our commander. To keep things a little more interesting there are a number of mini-challenges, problem solving essentially, which keep us alert.
Key items from the Aliens franchise make an appearance in this game, the weapons being an obvious example. We start off with our pulse rifle and flares and later on move to flamethrowers as well as the Mech Suit seen at the end of Aliens.
In addition to the single player campaign we also get access to various unlocks as the game progresses, with marine biographies and view credits being the basics… knife trick mini-game being the unlock to aim for.
Graphics and Audio
Being a DS game Aliens: Infestation isn’t about fancy graphics it is about character and on that front the developers succeed. The environments and objects are clearly from the Aliens universe and the various comic-esq cut scenes are well enough drawn. One of the key points about Infestation however is the amount of thought that has gone into the characters themselves. There are some nice animations added that make the marines feel more real and distinct rather than faceless pixels.
On the audio front the game performs well however we did feel the soundtrack was a little more Star Trek than Aliens in places. The highlight however is the environmental effects. Gunfire and explosions are decent but the sound of feet walking on the metal surfaces of the early levels as well as the classic beeps of the motion detector are all recreated well.
Like many DS games Aliens: Infestation isn’t going to win any awards for complex puzzles or gameplay but that can often be to a games benefit; something which is the case here. It is a shooter with minor puzzle solving elements and a decent action plot holding everything together.
There are some minor issues for those who don’t like enemies that respawn when we leave and re-enter the room but the issues are few and far between and are far outweighed by the overall Alien experience. For example aspects such as key items from the Aliens "universe" make an appearance which give sci-fi fans a healthy dose of nostalgia and decent, responsive and intuitive controls ensure that the game is fun to play.
A retro style shooter with minimal puzzle solving sections. Some mech suit and vehicle action break up the standard gameplay nicely.
Simple, functional, uncluttered and in-keeping with the Aliens style.
An ok score, the sound effects are a highlight though. Especially the motion scanner we all know and love.
A decent length campaign which should satisfy most casual gamers. No multiplayer and limited unlocks though.
Overall (Not an Average)
A fun journey through the Aliens franchise, ideal for fans of the films and previous games. Also perfect for passing the time while travelling.