Alien Hominid may not be as long as Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. It doesn’t feature the cutting edge online game play found in Halo 2. And its graphics certainly won’t be confused with Half-Life 2. But no matter how many multi-million dollar productions you play this year, Alien Hominid will stand out as one of the funniest and most entertaining games of the year. It’s the kind of game you pick up when you’re sick of stealing cars, fighting the covenant, and using your gravity gun; it’s the kind of game that makes you feel like a kid again.
The brilliance of Alien Hominid is apparent from the very first moment you turn on the game. This is a simple game, but there’s something infectious about it. You play the small yellow Alien Hominid, who is simply minding his own business joy riding in space when disaster strives, and his UFO is shot down by the U.S. government. The FBI has taken your craft and left you for dead, and it’s your job to get it back … no matter what gets in your way.
This quest to get his ship back takes the Alien all over the world, from the busy streets of the United Streets, to the snowy mountains of Russia, all the way back to the secret location of Area 51. In these levels the Alien runs from one side of the screen to the other killing whatever gets in his way. He’s already equipped with alien technology, and has a bad habit of jumping on people’s heads and taking a major bite out of them. This Alien is a killing machine, even if he looks sweet and innocent.
The game play is not all that different from the old 2D Contra games or even SNK’s Metal Slug titles. Avoiding bullets is the name of the game, and most of the strategy comes from simply memorizing where the enemies are in any given level. You can shoot in four directions, but if you’re jumping you can propel yourself up (or simply hover a little longer) by shooting towards the ground. The game play won’t win any awards for originality, but that’s hardly the point when you’re in the middle of a heavy fire fight against the KGB.
Along the way you will have the opportunity to drive vehicles and even fly your old space ship. The driving is handled much like you’d expect, with the Alien sticking his head out the window shooting whoever is in front of him. You can also pick up tanks and other larger vehicles, but the game play does not change drastically. You will also have a chance to fly your own spaceship, which reminded me of the classic Midway arcade game Sinistar. This variety, along with a number of other shocking moments I won’t spoil, make Alien Hominid one of the most refreshing action games of the year.
The Alien’s quest is not especially long, but it’s memorable with all kinds of cool boss battles and jokes scattered for you to find. In fact, the real charm of Alien Hominid is the way the game looks. Instead of going for the realistic approach, or even the highly detailed look we got from Metal Slug 3 (Xbox) earlier this year, Alien Hominid looks like no other game on the market. It looks like it was hand drawn … like they literally JUST drew it. The backgrounds are simple; the writing is often sloppy and slightly askew, and it never looks like they spent more than a few moments on each set piece.
Of course, none of that is a bad thing. In a funny way the game’s lack of detail plays to its advantage. The game is overflowing with style, and the look often gives the jokes a spontaneous feel. The game certainly doesn’t look bad, but it’s more of a difference between the animation style of TV shows the Simpsons and South Park. They both get the job done, but there’s no denying that one looks noticeably cruder.
The controls are nearly as simple as the graphics. You can shoot in four directions (up, down, left, and right), you can charge your weapon for a larger, more powerful blast, and you can throw a set number of grenades. If an enemy gets too close you will be able to stab them with your knife, and you can also jump on top of your foes head and bite it clean off. If you’re in a pinch and need an extra boost, you can shoot towards the ground and propel yourself up every so slightly. This works for extending your jumps and making haste of the enemies below. Unfortunately, like the Metal Slug series, Alien Hominid does not allow you to fire in any diagonal directions.
Along the way you will find more powerful guns, some that freeze the enemies and others that cut them clean in half. The outcome is the same, but the game provides all kinds of entertaining deaths for you to watch (if you can break away from the action for long enough). Along with the ability to pilot your space ship and drive cars, Alien Hominid is more than just a great playing action game; it’s one of the most enjoyable. And if I haven’t said so yet, it’s also among the funniest games you will ever play.
The game is not without a few faults, though. For one thing, there are far too many cheap shots. This is the type of game that requires a lot of fast fingers and quick dodging … the problem is that a lot of the time you never see what actually hits you. You’re either too busy looking elsewhere or the bullet is just masked by other explosions, dying bodies, or even the background itself. Early sessions will result in a lot of senseless (and often frustrating) dying until you start to get the hang of the chaos or memorize the enemy locations.
If the game proves to be too difficult by yourself, don’t worry, because all of the main game can be played with one- or two-players, allowing each Alien to fight over hat colors, weapons, and kills. In the main menu you can choose from any level you’ve earned, making this a surprisingly easy game to jump right into with a friend over. You can also fight over score and extras found … but considering that most of the time you’re too busy staying alive, chances are you won’t be too worried who came out ahead after each round.
Not only does Alien Hominid feature an entertaining story mode, but it also has a number of wacky mini-games you can play by yourself and with friends. Initially the PDA games are the only thing that you can access, but that’s okay because it’s here that most of the excitement is found. These levels are generally pretty simple, always requires you to take out the guards (by jumping on their heads) before the door to the next level will open. The stages will throw you back to a time when Nintendo’s Game & Watch could be found at Sears and Donkey Kong was still an arcade cabinet. They start easy enough, but it won’t take long before the stages become conspicuously harder.
If you grow tired of playing these games by yourself, you can always get up to three friends to help you pass the time. You can also create your own levels, which can actually be a pretty entertaining activity if you plan on having friends over. There is nothing complex about the PDA games, and after a couple hours I felt a little bad for playing these instead of other, newer games. But there’s something addictive about the product, not only the full game, but the mini games as well.
Even though most gamers are still playing catch-up to the major game releases of the season, Alien Hominid is one game you should definitely not overlook. This is a game by people that really know a thing or two about making a memorable experience, and some of the extra features will have you coming back well into the new year (especially if you have friends). It’s not one of the most complex games of the year, but it certainly is one of the best.
Alien Hominid may look like every Contra-clone you have every played, but beneath the surface is one of the most entertaining, exciting, and funniest games to come around in a long time. A true gem that should be in everybodyâ€™s game library.