Alien Hominid

Gamestyle Archive Intro: apart from the visuals I cannot recall much of this game today. What I did find amusing is the ‘kudos’ insert towards the end which is a word I’d never use in a review and must have been a post-edit insert. The game did finally arrive in the UK though but this NTSC release dates from December 2004.

_-Alien-Hominid-PS2-_

It’s all too easy nowadays to dismiss simplistic games in favour of those lavish blockbusters. Yet sometimes the simplest of ideas can translate into something beautiful and evergreen that flourishes long after the thrill of the ‘new’ has subsided. Alien Hominid is such a release, and consists of nothing more than shooting multiple opponents as you criss-cross the screen – Metal Slug style. Yet the energetic remit and vivid colour palette sears itself into your memory and burns ever longer because it’s been delivered at a budget price (well, at least in the US, where it’s also available on Gamecube).

Unfortunately, Alien Hominid has yet to appear on European shelves – and perhaps never will. This is indeed a bitter pill to swallow, as the game has clearly been cultivated by a loving and dedicated team. The storyline is different from the original Flash download (seven million freebies and counting): taking on the role of a yellow alien, you find yourself stranded on earth after the FBI brings down your spacecraft (and who thoughtfully remove any trace of debris and witnesses to the actual event). Without a direct route back home, you must now cross a series of challenging levels whilst being pursued by FBI agents who wouldn’t look out of place in The Matrix. Your goal is to reach the end – no mean feat, given the masses of opponents and huge bosses – and reclaim your ship before blasting off into outer space.

The hand-drawn graphical motif of Alien Hominid has been overshadowed these days; the novelty of the side-scroller perhaps being mistaken for the popularity of Viewtiful Joe, but the developers haven’t forgotten to include plenty of quirkiness (check out the screenshots for confirmation of this). Another blow is landed with the subtle humour on display, giving Alien Hominid a double dose of attitude; unmistakeable character that is rarely seen and certainly harking back to older platforms. Perhaps a reason for this is that Flash games tend to exist in a realm where normal releases do not. What Gamestyle is trying to say is that Flash animation relies on inventiveness, eye candy and lots of over-the-top violence. Translating this experience to a home console makes for something, well, a little explosive. And Gamestyle can’t help but attach itself to ’emotional’ experiences.

Alien Hominid might lack a scripted storyline, but trying to reach the end is a wellspring of emotion – for example: the joy of completing a level, the frustration accompanying failure, the self-deprecation or performance anxiety, the attendant fear of another boss encounter. By our reckoning, all of these emotions are fantastic – because far too many releases slip by without making any impression whatsoever. Without question, the game poses a real challenge for SNK devotees; at times the odds are impossibly stacked against you, and maintaining control in the midst of a bloodbath is nigh on impossible. In spite of this, Alien Hominid constantly stirs new challenges and options into the mix, thereby keeping itself fresh and interesting (where many other games would languish in difficulty).

If frustration boils over, then Behemoth have seen fit to include additional PDA games and a level editor. The PDA options are played out through a mock-screen interface with basic graphics, and offer more levels than Gamestyle might dare to count. But Behemoth didn’t stop there; adding several mini-games that adopt the visual style of the main story – including Pinata Boss and Neutron Ball – with more becoming unlocked as you progress through the game. It is also possible to play through the entire story with a friend, which does help to overcome those frequently-taxing moments.

At a time when the industry is becoming increasingly dominated by EA and other leviathan publishers whose portfolios are indistinguishable from licensed and generic brands, it’s refreshing to realise that games such as Alien Hominid are still being created. Kudos to the underlings.

Gamestyle Score: 8/10

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