The Aliens license has seen its ups and downs in the video game world. Sega and developer WayForward are hoping to be on the brighter side of that spectrum with their latest effort for the Nintendo DS, Aliens: Infestation. If you are familiar with WayForward, you can probably guess that Infestation is a 2D game in the classic style that can be hard as nails and equally rewarding. The team has taken the concept of Metroid and merged it with the Aliens universe to create a unique experience that fans of both classic action games and the Aliens franchise will enjoy.
If you have ever played a Metroid game, or even more recently a title like Shadow Complex, you probably know what to expect here. The entire game is broken down into one massive map that requires you to gain new abilities to open up new paths to explore. Those hoping that this would feature some of your favorite characters or storylines from the movies, though, will be disappointed. This is a generic group of marines sent to familiar locales, including the planet LV-246, to simply blow up everything in their path.
For those unfamiliar with the concept of a Metroid-style game, let me break it down a little for you. Unlike a traditional sidescroller, these games have you moving both left and right, as well as up and down. The hook comes from obtaining new abilities to access to new pathways. For example, in Infestation, one of the early powers you get is a welder that allows you to open doors to new areas. You will also hunt down keys and secret areas to progress, and saving is done in rooms that are scattered around the map. There’s no autosave here, so make sure you visit them often.
Being a DS game, the bottom screen plays a large role in your journey. Not only does it house the map of this expansive world, but you can also switch between weapons and gear. It works well for the most part, but I did find it a touchy when trying to quickly switch between the map and inventory. Controls are tight and simple, allowing you to fire forward while moving away at the same time without an extra button press, which I appreciated. Questionable hit detection and enemies that respawn immediately after you leave the room, though, are annoying.
The biggest draw to the game is probably the tons of playable characters. You start off with four main soldiers but slowly collect more and more as you progress. If you let one die, then they are gone forever outside of a few instances where you can save them. You might think this would make them shallow and expendable, but each character has their own personality making them likable. It is hard to lose a teammate, even if they are basically just extra lives. All your upgrades, items and abilities transfer between your characters, so none of them are unique in that aspect. It would have been cool to see WayForward actually utilize various abilities for various characters.
For a DS game, Infestation looks great. The 2D animations are sharp, and there is a nice level of detail to each area. You won’t get lost in the labyrinth thanks to clever design, and the range of enemies keeps things interesting. The sound is equally impressive, featuring the iconic sounds of the motion tracker and machine gun. The music felt a little muted at times, but picks up right when it needs to, creating a creepy atmosphere.
Aliens: Infestation is a great entry for the franchise and an even sweeter treat if you are a fan of the Metroidvania style of games. The design keeps you playing just a little more, and the pacing keeps things fresh throughout. If you are a fan of either the style or the franchise, then I recommend checking it out. If you are a fan of both and don’t already own it, then I suggest you stop reading now and go pick it up. WayForward continues to tug on my nostalgia strings, and I think I am beginning to enjoy it.
Review copy provided by publisher.