After playing through all 80 levels of Shin’en’s game, I feel that almost anyone could enjoy Pet Alien, whereas Chip’s took determination, brainpower and serious patience to conquer. Pet Alien has tricky puzzles, but the average person could figure them out after a couple tries. The levels are overall smaller, simpler and don’t have as much puzzle variation, but in the end are more enjoyable and less frustrating for the average player. Five boss fights, which end each individual set of regular levels, served to add a more traditional video game feel to Pet Alien, and broke up the pure puzzle-based gameplay nicely.
The colorful graphics and lighthearted world design make the game appropriate for any age, and Shin’en has added several nice touches. Their flare for visual perfection is quite apparent, as each level contains small details that only serve to make the game prettier. The levels themselves have a mainly uniform graphical scheme, but the pleasant art design keeps them crisp and easy on the eyes. All five of the aliens are well modeled, textured and animated; they even have short “idle” motions they perform when the player leaves them standing. Most of the sound work is simplistic, and the music tends to repeat a bit much, but otherwise the audio is satisfactory.
Beating all five of the main game’s bosses unlocks a series of minigames. These range from a Simon type game played with bodily noises, to a game where players use the stylus to make Scruffy eat crystals with his stretchy tongue. These games are arcade style and thus have no real ending, just a high score, and while they aren’t terribly imaginative they are good for taking short breaks from the main game. One of them required me to blow into the microphone to slow a character down, and I always appreciate clever use of the DS’s myriad features.
Once the main game is completed a time attack mode becomes available. This adds a specific time limit to each of the 80 main puzzle levels, and the limit is rather harsh. I was only able to beat the first few levels, and completing the whole game in this mode will take extra skill and dedicated memorization of the level patterns. For players who really get into the game, this extra mode is a hefty challenge and a welcome addition.
While some of Game Factory’s licensed games have been hit or miss, the care and time put into Pet Alien make it a surprising and memorable experience. It may borrow from Chip’s Challenge, but this design choice actually made me enjoy the game more. After all, there’s no shame in imitating the classics. I’d readily suggest Pet Alien as a mind-challenging game to keep the kids busy, but adults might find themselves hooked as well. For a period of several days, I had an almost compulsive yearning to tackle that next level. The combination of inspired design, talented developers and smart use of license make Pet Alien DS a pick-up-and-play affair that most anyone can enjoy.
Pet Alien is a nice change of pace from the tedious platformers that most TV licenses are transformed into. The puzzles are neither too easy nor too hard, which gives the game broad appeal. Visual style is slick and polished and with 80 levels the game has a lot of replay value. Kids and adults will probably enjoy this one.
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