The slew of licensed movie games continues with Fox and Playlogic’s latest tie-in game Aliens in the Attic. I have groaned more often than not that summer is always chock full of these types of games, and in recent years they have been getting increasingly better. Aliens in the Attic is a Contra clone built for the kiddies that involves some useless touch screen mechanics. If you can get past the generic dialogue, stagnant level design and effortless difficulty you have one of the more enjoyable licensed DS titles to come along in a while. Surprisingly I found myself enjoying the shooting and boss encounters a little too much at times.
As I mentioned you assume control of all three protagonists from the movie, and can swap between them at will using the shoulder buttons. Each one specializes in specific attributes for example Hannah can double jump but not attack, Jake is basically the soldier and can take more damage, while Tom is the brainpower of the operation. The quintessential character combination lends itself well enough to the game that you never feel forced to stick with one character too long. Most of the time you will be fine with Tom or Jake, but the game throws enough platforming at you to utilize Hannah enough to not make her feel worthless.
The concept is simple, move from one side of the level to the other, collect parts to upgrade weapons, rinse and repeat. The level design keeps things exciting by offering back and forth action as opposed to simply moving left to right. The amount of puzzles in the game is frustrating, but only because none of them are highly inventive. They usually require you to switch to Hannah, maneuver some jumps, or simply push some blocks to create paths. Enemies are also a bit mindless and will just fire in your direction, rarely moving to force you to think too much.
The boss battles on the other hand are highly enjoyable, and are what kindle the most reference to the aforementioned NES classic. Not only are they huge in design, but they get more challenging as the game goes on. I found myself bouncing from level to level in anticipation of fighting the boss. I truly haven’t had this much fun fighting generic, pattern-based bosses in quite some time. Outside of this the game presents a pretty standard formula. Ammo is unlimited so no need to worry about holding down the trigger, but collecting the bolts to upgrade weapons and finding health packs are a must.
The controls work for the most part as long as you stick to the button configuration. You aim with the d-pad, fire with the face buttons as well as tossing grenades. The ability to aim and shoot with the touch screen is here, but it is maladroit and not very well implemented. It is hard to watch both screens at the same time, and still manage to get a good aim. What sucks even more is that some of the boss encounters almost require this method, making them much more challenging than they should be. If you can avoid it I recommend not using the touch screen for anything outside of accessing the upgrades and navigating the main menu.
Visually the game is not an eyesore which is a bonus. There are some nice effects and the levels are designed with the different gameplay styles in mind. Enemies begin repeating quickly and the animations, while smooth, are a bit limited, but overall the game definitely stands out as one of the better looking DS titles. The music is fitting and amps up during boss battles which I truly appreciate. The rest of the sound is rather ho-hum as all the dialogue will have to be read through dialogue screens, so make sure if your kids are playing this they have some basic reading skills.
Overall Aliens in the Attic is a solid DS title that uses a familiar game style that its target demographic is likely not to appreciate. The play time is a bit short clocking in at just under three hours, and with a lack of any type of multi-player or online capabilities there isn’t much reason to revisit the game after completion. As it stands there is just enough here to warrant checking out if you or your kids are big fans of the movie. The Contra style gameplay really helps keep things interesting, even if you are not old enough to remember the classic side-scrolling shooter.