Close Encounters of the
Okay, kids, it’s that time again. Another summer blockbuster hopeful has hit theaters, and it’s dragging along with it a slew of games to pad its parade of licensed merchandise. Fear not, however, as the handheld imagining of Aliens in the Attic is a competent romp that’s actually worth a look.
The game closely follows the story of the movie, and you’ll take collective control of Tom, Jake, and Hannah throughout the adventure. Aliens have invaded your attic, of course, and it’s up to the trio to save the world. Aliens in the Attic on DS is something of a platforming shooter, so liberties are taken in terms of the size of rooms and the overall expanse of your abode.
If you’re hoping for a focus on story, you’re sure to be disappointed. The exchanges of dialogue in the game are mostly funny, but they’re also fairly generic. You’ll get the gist of where the game’s headed, what’s happening with the characters, as well as a basic plot that ties everything together, but the action takes center stage here. Considering the premise of the story, however, the presentation works just fine.
As you might expect, each of the three main characters has a little something unique to offer the gameplay, and you’ll often be required to switch between characters on the fly (using the shoulder buttons). Tom’s the brains of the bunch, so he’s the only one who can make use of the alien gadgets you’ll acquire throughout the game. Jake’s the oldest and strongest of the group, and it’s up to him to move heavy objects, either for use in navigating higher platforms, or simply to clear a pathway for your team. Lastly, Hannah is the smallest and most agile; she can double jump, as well as make her way through narrow passages.
Each of the two boys are equipped with homemade guns (compliments of Tom’s handiwork), which can be upgraded via items that will be passed on to you when you rescue neighbors and family members throughout levels. Upgrades include a homing device, ammo that can knock back enemies, as well as a nozzle that creates a spray of bullets. Though there’s infinite ammo, you will need to keep an eye out for grenade and health pick-ups.
Shooting is pretty satisfying, and you can simply hold down the button to rapid fire. There’s a decent variety of enemies in the game, considering the overall length of the adventure, and the A.I. is surprisingly defensive at times. If you try to kneel down in one spot to exploit their position, baddies will often retreat back to safer ground. That said, there are really only three or four types of attack patterns you’ll see from the pool of enemies, and they only pose a significant challenge when grouped together.
All of the action takes place on the top screen, with your hub located down below on the touch screen. You’ve got a shared health bar, as well as icons that allow you to switch out gadgets and guns on the fly. You can also use the touch screen to free aim, and though it’s often a necessity, it’s a very clumsy mechanic. In most cases, it’s preferable to simply aim using the D-pad while firing with the Y button.
The levels are designed in a basic yet enjoyable fashion. There aren’t really any puzzles, other than perhaps having Hannah navigate a series of platforms so that Jake can then move a heavy block out of the way, but the way in which the game makes use of all three characters is still fairly entertaining. Some environmental obstacles are completely pointless, lacking any sort of creativity whatsoever. However, the bosses are a true highlight that will mostly present players with a healthy challenge.
The mechanics of the game all work well, and collision detection is pretty spot on. The game’s difficulty makes a fairly steep jump toward the end, however, and when most of the adventure is laughably easy, it’s somewhat jolting to have to face the game’s final-boss challenge. Still, the developers put forth some real effort when it comes to making interesting use of all three characters, and if you had fun with the movie, chances are you’ll enjoy taking this game with you for a car ride or such.
Unfortunately, the game won’t last you much longer than that, and clocking in at a mere three hours (four tops) for a single playthrough, it’s a very meager package for $30. There are bolts that you collect throughout levels, and they tie into upgrading your weapons, but outside of finding all of the hidden trinkets, there isn’t much else to do with the game. There’s no multiplayer, and the options menu consists merely of sound and music settings and a view of the development credits – a very barebones production.
On the plus side, the game looks and sounds really good. The graphics engine is reminiscent of what we saw in Spider-man: Web of Shadows (DS), and there are some really impressive smoke and lighting effects throughout the game. The texture work is really smooth, and the animation is rock solid. The only real sore spot in the visuals were the boss battles. There are some unsightly artifacts that rear up from time to time, and the bosses themselves (though it might be more accurate to simply use the singular form, since you’ll be seeing the same model over and over) aren’t all that attractive to look at.
Though the melodies don’t stand out, the music and sound effects are really fitting for the gameplay. Themes add a nice element of excitement to boss encounters, and there’s something indescribably satisfying about the sound you hear when collecting bolts. Unfortunately, since it often takes quite a while to wear away at certain obstacles with your gun, you’ll get tired of hearing the sound of your own weapons.
We had fun with Aliens in the Attic for DS. On the one hand, it’s completely formulaic, has quite a few extraneous level elements, and it’s a terribly brief adventure. However, the game also has a lot of charm, a fair amount of polish, and the mechanics and production values are of a very high caliber. With nine adults to rescue and tons of bolts to collect, you can easily get a couple of playthroughs out of the game. Still, the adventure doesn’t add up to much in the end, and its length is ultimately its greatest shortcoming. We certainly don’t recommend a purchase – even for folks who might have fallen in love with the movie – but Aliens in the Attic DS is well worth a rent for a quick burst of action entertainment over a weekend.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.2 Graphics
This is a very attractive game for the DS, and like Web of Shadows, it plays to the system’s strengths. There are some great smoke and lighting effects and a surprising amount of variety for such a brief adventure. 4.0 Control
The basic controls are all mapped to the face buttons, and it’s a set-up that works great. Free-aiming is awkward, but the touch screen works well as a hub to select various options. 4.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The music isn’t memorable per se, but it’s a really nice fit for the gameplay. Sound effects are mostly fun and satisfying. 2.9
The shooting, platforming, and boss encounters are all enjoyable, but the game is incredibly short. It’s also a very conventional formula that plays out a bit too simplistically.
3.4 Overall Rating – Fair
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.