I saw Alien Breed Evolution on the XBLA release list and it looked like my kind of game. I never played the original version, so I got the demo and quickly found it is my type of game – shooting, aliens, spaceships…and not to mention a nice $10 price tag.
Try the demo first
For better or worse, $10 seems to be my price point for XBLA games. Considering the value in games, if a game is more than $10 I better be able to get my money’s worth out of it. Despite there being only five levels in this first “episode” of Alien Breed Evolution, it’s not as quick run-n-gun as you might think. If anything, the demo is a little deceiving. The demo throws tons of aliens and tons of weapons (and ammo) at you…which you eventually get in the full game, but it’s not Rambo right out of the gate.
Looking at screen shots and videos, I was expecting Alien Breed to be your standard dual-joystick shooter – left stick moves, right stick shoots – but Alien Breed deviates just a bit. Here the right stick aims but the trigger button shoots. It is a little awkward holding the trigger while navigating both joysticks but you quick realize that you don’t want to shoot everywhere you look. Some other controls are also kind of wishy-washy which makes me wish control re-mapping was an option. Using the D-pad to switch between primary and secondary weapons can be a real pain, especially in the heat of battle.
Your ammo per gun is limited so you do have to choose which one you want to use in which cases, but at least in the first couple levels, the alien numbers are rather minimal. I’m only playing on the “normal” difficulty to start, but this is certainly a game I wouldn’t mind replaying on the hardest level. This isn’t to say standard play is a cake walk, it’s just not as arcade as I expected it to be. But this is a good thing.
All the story I need
The story here isn’t anything special. You’re a dude on spaceship and something runs into the spaceship. All hell breaks loose and, of course, you’re the only one that can do anything about it. So you start out by turning off systems, turn on computers, rescuing people and so on. The levels are pretty well designed and they look good too, but since a lot of the environment looks the same you can get lost pretty easily…especially if you utilize the rotate map feature – which is handy – but can mess with your brain. If you’re wanting vivid colors and imagination, Alien Breed is not that game. It’s stereotypically (and wonderfully) sci-fi in design, and lets just say you play the whole game using a flashlight.
As you run around you’ll be able to search lockers, pick up items, and tap into computer terminals. An interesting part to this is each one is time triggered. So when you walk up to a terminal you have to hold down the A button as long as it takes, which may get interrupted by alien invaders. And you’ll be doing a lot of running around from Point A to Point B and back again.
Go here, go there, now back…then do it again
The “missions” in Alien Breed are basic “go here and flip this switch to open door” type quests. You then go find the switch and then walk back to the door only for it to say, “now find key to open this other door,” then wash, rinse, repeat. It’s a lot of retracing your steps, so be prepared.
There’s not much “exploring” to find your targets, it’s lit up on your radar, but getting there is the tricky part – which is exactly what I like. So far I’ve actually spent time exploring the levels for extra ammo, guns, etc, and that’s rare for me. Usually I’m a gamer that likes to get to the end and be done…but Alien Breed is paced well enough and not overly insane that wandering around can be kind of fun…especially once you find the flamethrower.
There’s also a Free Play option which lets you play any level you’ve passed for funsies. And there’s co-op play too which could be extremely fun in that Contra sort of way. You can play on XBL or locally, which is nice to see when so many games offer just on-line multiplayer. Of course, I haven’t played co-op with anyone yet so I’m hoping some random person will be looking for an XBL game when I am.
A good value game
After a several hours of Alien Breed I’m happy to say I’m only done through level two and not all five. While this game isn’t Ikaruga-hard or anything, there’s just enough arsenal management to keep things challenging while the aliens breathe down your neck. It’s a slower paced game that tries to play on the dark, scary environment of alien-infested space…but in many ways the effects of the environment are lost. Alien Breed isn’t a deep game but it’s far from the typical shallow arcade game I usually play. It’s a good balance at a good price.