Reviews

Alien Breed review

I can’t find the checkpoint, and some lady is hassling me about the ammo running out. Bitch!

Game over, what the hell is that? When I was young games ended, and I had to start from the beginning. Super Mario Bros never featured unlimited lives, continues or checkpoints. It wasn’t the hardest game out there, and you could memorize jumps and hazards. Now Alien Breed is a completely different story. I played it like crazy without ever completing it. Death came in all shapes: eaten by aliens, death by electrocution or the worst not finding the exit on timed levels.

Alien Breed originally reared it’s ugly head for the Amiga in 1991. That very same version is included in this release. Actually it is the backbone of the 2012 update. The same gameplay has been carried over to the enhanced version. Team17 has made a genius update by simply updating the graphics, sound and controls. At times updates destroy, or humiliate the original but this is not the case here. The enhanced edition pays humble tribute to the original, and enhances the best parts. It also includes some mechanics to make the game easier for the current gamer.

Alien Breed is a top down arcade survival game set on different space stations overrun by aliens. You have to fight your way to an exit, or objective to destroy. Recourses are limited, and hence you have to be sure that every bullet counts. It is not only ammo that is scarce, but also keys and health. There are always more doors than keys, and hence you have to plan your route. Doors can be broken down by gunfire, but then you might run out of ammo instead. This makes the game so much harder, and gives it that sense of realism. There is always that hard choice to make: should I break open the door to get whatever goodies are inside, or try to find the exit with keys and ammo intact? To make matters worse the aliens keep spawning, and you can’t stand around thinking about your actions.

Both games share the same gameplay mechanics, and both have an annoying voice stating that I need keys, ammo or health. This is perhaps the thing that I miss the least from my experience with the game back in the early 90s. Sure it adds some tension, but in the end it tends to be grating on my nerves.

The controls differ between the versions too. The original was, and still is a single stick shooter. You control movement using a virtual stick, and a single button for fire is found to the right. Not being able to retreat, and fire at the aliens behind you makes it hard. The enhanced 2012 edition features twin sticks that are much more up to par with what we are used to in other games, and how a marine would behave when chased by baddies in space.

I tried the enhanced version first, and was surprised to complete the entire new chapter in my first attempt. An optional objective arrow pointing to where you should end up in Grand Theft Auto style makes the game so much easier. Sure it helps being able to shoot in all directions when running around the corridors of death. There is however a negative to the objective arrow, and that is the limits it kind of imposes on exploration. I did not veer of my objective once.
After trying the enhanced I simply switched to the original on the main menu to get all the good nostalgia flowing over me. I managed to trudge down a couple of levels in the 1991 classic before I got lost, and blew up. Now this is the Alien Breed I remember from my youth. And there is not objective arrow in sight.

Whenever you want you can enter the shop in the menu to buy more ammo, keys, life or even new weaponry. To get anything really good you need to spend some IAP. I would rather not, as this is a hardcore game where money should be earned with blood, sweat and retries.

I can’t hide my love for Alien Breed even if the story isn’t more advanced than that found in Doom, or other shooters. It was one of those intense games that I grew up with, and got me really angry at aliens. Alongside other classics like Space Hulk it laid down the foundation for the survival shooter, and without it we would not have Dead Space for example. I am also really pleased to see the original unaltered for a new crowd to experience. Most of us will probably take the safer route, and play the enhanced edition. No matter what you do, don’t miss out on Alien Breed.

 Final Rating

un-missable

eds-choice

Alien Breed $4.99 Universal for iPad/iPhone/iPod
Version: 1.0
Seller: Team17 Software, Limited

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