Alien Breed Review for PSP

Alien Breed Review for PSP

Unlicensed Aliens

The reviews are in, and it’s official: Aliens: Colonial Marines sucks. Cheat Code Central’s Josh Engen titled his own take ” Mediocre for So Many Reasons ,” and that seems to be the consensus. As I write this, the game’s Metacritic score is at or below 50 on all three platforms. Considering the effort that went into making Colonial Marines an authentic Aliens experience, this news is sure to bum out fans of the franchise.

But there’s a consolation prize. Alien Breed, a well-received Commodore Amiga and MS-DOS action game from the early ’90s, was rather shamelessly based on James Cameron’s Alien sequel—and it’s been re-released as a “Cross Buy” for PS3 and Vita.

Alien Breed Screenshot

This title comes fully loaded. It has the original game, its various expansions, and some brand-new levels. You can play the game as it was originally released, or you can engage the “enhanced” mode for some modest improvements in graphics and sound and a new control scheme. Best of all, Alien Breed will set you back only $10—not a bad price for an Aliens-inspired game that doesn’t suck.

For the uninitiated—which included me until this re-release—Alien Breed plays a little like Hotline Miami, only with a survival-horror ethic, labyrinthine levels, and much less red on the screen. Using a top-down view, you need to find keys, health, and ammo as you secure various objectives and shoot everything that gets in your way. Once you’ve done what needs doing, you’ll find an elevator to the next level.

Alien Breed Screenshot

You’re free to roam around each level at will, but enemies spawn continuously, so it’s usually not a good idea to go exploring any more than you have to. If you don’t have keys, you can open doors by pumping lots of bullets into them, and you find credits that will buy you supplies and new weapons. Overall, resources are scarce enough to be worth holding on to, but not so rare that every bullet seems precious.

The typical enemy is a blob of dumb alien rage, roaming around the map at random until you come close, at which point he walks into you, damages you, and magically disintegrates if you don’t shoot him in time. You encounter stronger monsters, including some simple bosses, as you progress through the game. All of this makes for an incredibly tense experience, albeit a low-tech one with old school difficulty.

Alien Breed Screenshot

Unfortunately, nowadays, the original game is pretty much unplayable. You can only shoot in the direction you happen to be facing, which makes the controls incredibly clunky—it’s not as bad as, say, an old Resident Evil game with “tank” controls, but it makes quick reactions incredibly difficult. It’s only a matter of time before enough aliens run into you to deplete your health, and eventually your limited supply of lives, even though the levels are pretty short.

Playing the “enhanced” mode is a great relief. The game looks and sounds better—the visuals have been updated from 1991 to 1994 or so, with the “enhancements” maintaining a distinctly 16-bit aesthetic despite being in HD. The replacement of the title screen’s grating music with something more atmospheric is a particularly noticeable improvement. But more importantly, the game plays better. The twin-stick controls are excellent; reacting to an alien attack is just a matter of pushing the right stick in the alien’s direction.

Some other changes are sure to be a little more controversial. For example, in the original game you were limited to buying weapons and supplies at dedicated vending terminals; in the new version, even if you’re playing in “classic” mode, the shop is available to you at all times. You can even buy extra lives after you die, as well as a map for each level. This makes the game a lot less frustrating, but it also takes away a lot of the challenge and a good deal of the tension. Purists will almost certainly hate it.

Alien Breed Screenshot

Each level you beat unlocks the next one on the selection screen, and your weapon purchases are preserved, so you don’t lose your progress, and you’re ranked on your performance each time. Those who prefer to run through games without stopping won’t have any problem, and those who prefer to get everything perfect will be rewarded with higher scores.

For those who have been following the Alien Breed franchise for years, it’s worth noting that the developers did not hold back—everything Alien Breed is available in this convenient package, and then some. There’s the original game, the new content from the expanded Special Edition, the Convergence and Valiance expansions (which were added in previous remakes), and an all-new four-level set called Synergy.

Synergy stays faithful to the classic gameplay model—perhaps a little too faithful, with a scrolling text intro, the same old aliens featured in the core game, the same exact look, and the familiar goal of locating the lift that takes you one level deeper into enemy territory. But it’s always good to have some fresh content to spruce up an aging game.

Two-player co-op is also preserved in this remake, both local/ad hoc and online. If you’d like to plumb the depths of an alien-infested space station with a friend in tow, this is a great opportunity.

To be sure, Alien Breed can’t fill the gaping hole left by the fact that Colonial Marines isn’t what we all hoped it would be. After all, this is a 2D ripoff of Aliens from twenty-some years ago with a fresh coat of paint, not a brand-new 3D blockbuster with canonical status. But it’s $10, and it doesn’t suck. Surely that’s some comfort?

The enhanced graphics look nice, but they’re still distinctly 16-bit. 4.3 Control
The option to play with a dual-stick setup is a dramatic improvement. 3.9 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The new music is a nice touch. 4.0 Play Value
There is simply a ton of content, with the original game, the expanded edition, and three extra level packs. 4.0 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.

Review Rating Legend
0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid 2.5 – 2.9 = Average 3.5 – 3.9 = Good 4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
2.0 – 2.4 = Poor 3.0 – 3.4 = Fair 4.0 – 4.4 = Great 5.0 = The Best

Game Features:

  • Story mode: Choose from thirty levels including three new level packs, Convergence, Valiance, and Synergy.
  • Enjoy enhanced visuals or play using the original 16-bit graphics.
  • Ad hoc and online multiplayer.
  • Team up on either PS3 or PlayStation Vita system via cross-platform play.
  • Leaderboards.
  • Twenty-one trophies.
  • Purchasing this content entitles you to both the PS3 and PS Vita versions!

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