Aliens: Infestation Review

By Lauren Alessandra on October 9, 2011

In Aliens: Infestation, you're there for one thing and one thing only; killing Aliens. It's a pretty common concept for games in the franchise, but this time it's all played out in a platforming style on Nintendo's handheld console, the Nintendo DS. And unlike a lot of the Alien focused games, this one won't be seeing you play as the franchise's primarily protagonist, Ellen Ripley.

Infestation instead focuses on a team of officers sent in to handle all of the Aliens roaming around the massive spaceship known as Sulaco LV-426. It promotes an interesting concept, because you'd think that you'd be sent on plenty of search and rescue missions, but instead, most of the people that you can find are either dead or are the last of their group and are fully capable of handling the aliens themselves as you roam around.

On the story front, things are pretty simplistic as it offers a bunch of different characters with seemingly different personas without a compelling storyline. The events of this game take place after Aliens, the sequel movie to Alien, and focus mainly on fighting through Sulaco LV-426. If you're expecting a movie-like plotline, don't get your hopes up. Most of the story revolves around your next objective as given from your higher up. There's no real moment of emotional turmoil other than, of course, when you make a boo-boo and all of a sudden you're down two characters - a rather interesting concept no less.

The characters you play as are simply people you pick up along the way. You'll start off with four and when or if the Aliens begin picking those original four off, you'll be able to search for new members to help out. Each character offers a slightly different dialogue option, but overall there's no real difference between them. As the game goes on, you can check the main menu in order to see how many characters you've picked up and how many were killed off. You're only allowed four characters at a time and there's no character storage system around, making character hunting a bit of a nuisance. Really, those who play the game well are punished, leaving you with no option but to start letting your characters die off so that you can pick up some new ones. It means this unique concept takes an odd, and rather negative twist.

Fans of the Alien series, should expect to see some odes to the film especially when it comes to weapons, as you can wield pulse rifles, smart guns, and flame throwers. Many of the weapons are objective-focused as well. For example, although flame throwers offer a ton of damage to the Aliens, they can also be used to open doors that have been sealed shut thanks to Alien goo. This does present a problem though, as you can only switch items once you have reached a save point. So, if you've reached a door that's sealed shut by Alien junk, you can't open it with a grenade or a smart gun. No, you have to use the flame thrower which means you have to travel all the way back to a save point, change guns and then open the door. This is not the same for grenades and dynamite thankfully as you're able to switch through those quite easily, but weapons are a bit of a pain.There are also plenty of items that you'll need in order to move forward, such as a lamp for places where the power has gone out or a wrench to turn off hot steam that may be blocking your path. These are all available in your inventory at all times, although they aren't always equipped so periodical checks to see if your lamp has turned off after a reboot is a must. These elements give the game a bit more variety and it's welcome. It stops it from being just a simple shooter with nothing but mindless action.

Pretty much all of the Alien enemies from the movies are in this game including the regularA, face huggers, and those baby Aliens which pop out of people's stomachs. There are also mutated gorilla type Aliens and robots with pistols roaming around all of which require slightly different strategies. These could be blowing them up with a grenade, running backwards while shooting, or ducking in order to avoid getting shot.

This does highlight another problem though, the controls. If you're shooting, it's been designed so that you can't turn around - instead, you'll walk backwards. But enemies frequently jump around and this can mean that turning around a lot does become a bit troublesome. It's not a deal breaker, but it would have been nice if this mechanic felt a little bit smoother.

There are quite a few bosses throughout the entire game which don't really require to much strategic alteration. That doesn't mean they aren't difficult though and it's often the bosses that will kill most of your party members. Like most platformers, these boss battles happen primarily at the end of a level, although Aliens: Infestation did well in changing things up a bit later in the game. For example, a driving level was included where you need to shoot oncoming Aliens by using the touch screen in an effort to keep your vehicle from exploding. This mission offers a nice change of pace to an otherwise very basic platformer.

With the 3DS having been out for a while, Aliens: Infestation does a good job of reminding us that the DS still packs some punch. It goes back to the 2D platformer style, but it's definitely attractive in all its simplicity. The Aliens have a lot more detail compared some of the other Alien platformers out there and of course it's always nice to revisit Sulaco LV-426. You'll need to find maps for each level in order to use them, but once you do, they will prove to be very useful when going from ship end to ship end. Travelling through the ship is not that hard, although it can get a little tiring when you have to travel half way across the map only to realize you can't access a location because you don't have the right key card yet. This is particularly hard in the first level as you begin to feel as though you need to find and unlock everything in the ship, but the game just won't let you as you haven't gotten the right item or keycard. Later in the game, you'll be able to revisit these location with more items, but unfortunately they don't make it that obvious that you'd be coming back to prior levels.

There are also some notable glitches within the map that can prove to be quite a nuisance. There were a few times where objective markers would disappear or just would not show up in a level making it very hard to navigate.

Aliens: Infestation has a pretty decent length, but because of the character mechanic, playing it again doesn't seem like a daunting prospect. In fact, it can feel like quite an appealing one. Perhaps you could see how long you'll go with one person or to see if you can in fact find all the people you may have missed along the way.

Final Thoughts

Aliens: Infestation, for what it is, works. It's a simple shoot 'em up platformer offering a few challenges along the way and decent graphics. The developers did a good job of making the game feel accessible, while also offering up an interesting mechanic involving the characters. It's not without its faults though as the controls can be a bit cumbersome and roaming around the ship can get a bit old. But, the game works as a whole and will be a decent bit of entertainment for those who need something to pass the time.

Top Notch Graphics for 2-D Platformer
Character/Death mechanic is a great concept.
Plenty of nostaliga.
While a great concept, the character system is also flawed.
The map can be glitchy sometimes.
Cumbersome controls can be frustrating.
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