Reviewed: March 7, 2007
Released: March 1, 2007
From what Iíve come understand, Behemothís Alien Hominid HD started out as a downloadable Flash game back in 2002. Since learning this Iíve sought it out on the Internet to see how it all started and how it compares to the newly released XBLA version. Truth be told, the Flash version is pretty cool, certainly not up to 360 levels, but itís not difficult to see why the game has made the leap from a simple Internet download to the mainstream console market. Here, Alien Hominid reached out to even more players on our last generation of gaming systems. I.E. The Xbox, PS2 and the GameCube.
Even though it was once a full blown console game, Alien Hominid for XBLA somehow manages to fits nicely within the 50mb size limit for a downloadable game (Just barely, it comes in at 47.96mb). It also goes to show you whatís possible when that limited amount of space is put into the hands of some talented people. Just imagine what can be done when Microsoftís increased size limit of 150 megabytes comes into effect. With 3 times the allowable limit, weíre sure to see some very impressive games indeed.
Anyway, lets not get ahead of ourselves. Iím not here to discuss my love and excitement of XBLA or the recent file size increase. Iím here to talk about Alien Hominid. Another shinning example of what XBLA has to offer. While the Flash version of the game was vaguely familiar when I saw it the other day, it wasnít until this release that I really got down and dirty with this insane and wacky side-scrolling shooter for the first time. Here are my impressions.
For an XBLA game, the plot behind Alien Hominid is obviously going to be simple. While flying your spaceship off to who knows where, youíre shot out of the skies above earth and crash-land in the streets of an urban jungle. Separated from, and seeking to locate the wreckage of your spacecraft, itís here that the game begins, in what is likely to be one of the most unique gaming experiences many of us have ever had.
The game is made up of 16 levels that take place within 3 distinctly different environments. As the alien, youíll battle against the F.B.I. on city streets and busy highways. Wage war upon the K.G.B. out in a snowy covered wilderness. Lastly fight your way through desert stages and the top-secret instillations of Area 51. In typical 2D side-scrolling fashion, you can jump, duck, shoot and throw grenades. In addition you can perform a few other moves like digging holes into the ground to hide and engaging in more face-to-face melee combat.
The game controls great, but it can be frustrating in the beginning mainly due to its extreme difficulty. In Alien Hominid, dying basically becomes a way of life, as your enemiesíll be dropping you like thereís no tomorrow. The first time I played the game I probably got killed 10 times in the first 2 or 3 minutes of play. While I was captivated by the game in many areas, which Iíll explain later on, I was a little frustrated with how difficult it is. One shot, one kill, you have no life bar of any kind, if you get hit, youíre dead.
Needless to say, you need to learn patience with this game and learn to be observant of the often, difficult to spot, enemy fire. Once you get used to it, the game is pretty enjoyable, but not as easy as the cutesy graphics might initially lead you to believe. Thankfully the game also has a 2-player mode, which can lighten the load, but unfortunately, this isnít an online feature and can only be done with a buddy in the same room.
Alien Hominid also comes with some unlockable mini games and the usual 200 points worth of Gamerscore. Keep in mind, that unlike other XBLA games, these 200 points are going to be hard fought and hard won; itís a seriously tough game. Some of them I pretty much gave up on before even trying for them. Just reading that I had to kill 50 enemies by biting their heads off without ever touching the ground seemed pretty much impossible to me, so I decided not to even try. These achievements are tough for sure, and it amazes me to think that a few diligent players out there have actually managed to get most of them.
Man, all I can say is Alien Hominid looks fantastic. The hand-drawn artwork is simply gorgeous. Sure, at first glance the art may look as though it was drawn by a 3rd grader, but one only needs to play for a while before they begin to appreciate this titleís incredible visual presentation, art direction and design. Donít let the simple appearance fool you; this is a great piece of work. Itís rich, extremely colourful and loaded with things to look at.
In fact, the only thing that could have make this game better would have been more frames of animation. Something to make it run a little more smoothly, more like a Viewtiful Joe game. Itís seems like an entire animation sequence, from an enemy being killed until they drop dead on the floor is made up of little more than 3-4 frames of artwork. The transition from one frame of animation to the next is rather severe, and sometimes makes the movements of the characters a little jerky. Still, itís hard to find fault in such a beautiful game, and that being that case, itís easy for me to overlook such a petty grievance.
Given the rather, childlike appearance of the game, itís instantly surprising when you discover how gory Alien Hominid actually is. The different weapons in the game, ranging from lasers, to flamethrowers and freeze guns all have different and decidedly amusing result upon your enemies. Heads explode with blood, frozen bodies shatter, and burning bodies well burn and turn to ashes. Itís pretty funny stuff and the shear number of grim deaths youíll witness are pretty hilarious.
On the melee end of things, if enemies are close enough you can whip out a big-ass sword and slice your enemies in half, either that or jump up on their shoulders and bit their heads off; all with grisly and largely comical results. One thing I really enjoyed was the tractor beam on the space ship. At one point in the game you can beam up multiple enemies and drop them into a giant wood chipper. Iím sure you can imagine how that pans out.
The look and visual presentation of this game is simply wonderful from beginning to end. The highly stylized look of each world, itís inhabitants, building, vehicles and creative boss encounters are a treat all across the boards. This is a great looking game in every respect. Had the frames of animation from one movement to the next been a tad higher, I would have bumped the graphics score up to a 9 without hesitation. Regardless, this is good work and one of the best looking games to hit Live Arcade.
The sound effects and music complemented Alien Hominid quite well. Dying enemies will choke and gargle on their blood as they die. Wet, chunky gibs land with a splat when you blow enemies apart with grenades. And the wonderful ďChingĒ of your sword slicing through flesh is ever satisfying. Overall the sound effects are all generally basic, but work well within the artistic vision of the game. Itís hard to find much room for complaint, but to be honest; I hardly noticed the sound since I was so captivated by the visuals.
800 Marketplace points is a pretty hefty sum for an XBLA game and can often be a deal breaker for more frugal gamers, especially when you get used to playing 400 points for most other games. Alien Hominid however, is one title that deserves your attention and is worth the download, especially for side-scroll fans. The endless pursuit of the 200 gamerscore will likely keep you busy for a long time and will certainly make the price of admission worth your while in the end.
I know, most of you who have read my other XBLA reviews probably expect me to bitch and complain about Alien Hominid HD, especially since I often express my hatred over being force-fed old, rehashed games time and time again. It irritates me to pay for games that are 20 years old and offer nothing new or innovative to any existing genre. I especially hate it when most of these games have received hundreds of our quarters over the years and offer us nothing new, but still want to suck another few bucks from us.
While Alien Hominid HD might not be as fresh and new to us as say - Assault Heroes or Cloning Clyde, especially since it started its life so many years ago on the Internet and last-gen consoles. It still offers gamers what I believe every XBLA title should offer. A reasonably new and unique experience with itís own sense of style. Sure, itís not a brand-spankiní new game, but then it was never a mainstream game either. It wasnít something that had become synonymous in pop-culture like sayÖ Pac-man, and presented to us for the um-teenth time with another price tag attached to it.
No, it might not be a new game, but itís certainly new to most of us. Itís a great little game that may finally get the recognition is deserves from another generation of gamers. Thanks Xbox Live Arcade for another great example of free enterprise and another great release.