It's quite clear that gaming has trends and fads, with different styles of game coming in and going out of fashion like proverbial gaming hairstyles. We've seen enough wannabe gangster simulators and stealthy sneaking games to last an entire lifetime. So it was quite a pleasant surprise to hear the announcement of a game from Sega featuring some cuddly little guys that used to be so very popular in the gaming world. Who could we possibly be referring to? Why, Aliens of course.
It's quite interesting how this game came to be developed. Veteran Californian developers Totally Games (The guys who made X-Wing on the PC) were approached by Sega, who pretty much said, "We need PSP games, take a peep at our back catalog, and pick out anything you fancy!" Turns out the guys at Totally Games were fans of a fun arcade game from the mid 80s that went by the name of Alien Syndrome; they got a plan together, waved it in Mr. Sega's face and he gave them an almighty thumbs up.
So... Aliens. We honestly don't see enough of them these days. Probably something to do with films; with aliens in falling out of favor with the movie-viewing public, leading to lower interest in all things alieny. The 80s to mid 90s however were chock-full of aliens. You couldn't play a game without some kind of green guts bursting all over your screen. What the original Alien Syndrome game did was take the viewed from above action of games like Atari's Gauntlet and transfer it aboard an array of spacecraft that happened to have been infested by some kind of alien presence. You picked your character, a guy or a girl, and then set off cleansing the craft of ripe, burstable aliens, while simultaneously rescuing the spacecrafts crew, who had rather foolishly gotten themselves caught up in alien goo.
The premise of the updated game for the PSP hasn't changed that much, the idea is the same. Cleanse us of the dreaded syndrome! The game takes place 100 years after the original arcade game, with your character, Aileen Harding leading an investigative mission to the infested spacecraft to find out exactly what went on there. Needless to say the aliens lay on an excellent welcoming party and poor old Aileen has to fight her way through a whopping 15 levels, each of which has multiple side quests to occupy your alien squelching needs.
Now you might be thinking, "side quests? In an action game? Is this some kind of action-RPG?" A question to which the answer is, "Well... That's the angle they're taking." The game is in essence a viewed from above blaster just like the original. Thing is, modern gamers expect a little more to their game than just running around, grabbing weapons and blasting. So we find added to this game an experience system that increases as you play, unlocking new armor, items and weapons with greater firepower. Your flame thrower for instance, will start firing out napalm bombs. Your laser cannon will gain the ability to bounce of walls, leading to some firing round corners fun. The developers have basically added the trappings of a modern game onto a good old fashioned alien guts-a-thon. No complaints there.
The game itself looks very nice, with infested corridors and hangar bays bustling with a huge variety of over a hundred different alien species. The aliens themselves are suitably outlandish creatures, varying in size from irritating little bugs to gigantic, pulsating death oozing blobs. Mmmmm, tasty! It's all put together in a nice looking package, which will hopefully not just look good, but play good too.
Alien Syndrome for the PSP is due towards the end of the month, be sure to prepare yourself for a riot of alien guts to make up for the years we've spent without them.