Jahanzeb Khan
03 Oct, 2011

Aliens: Infestation Review

DS Review | Contravania.
After going through what seemed like a development hell and a near cancellation, Aliens: Infestation finally makes it to the stores, and interestingly, PAL territories have received it roughly two weeks before everyone else. The game, a part of the main series' timeline and canon, is best described as a fusion of Contra and Metroid,with a touch of survival horror. In fact, ‘Contravania’ is perhaps a better way to describe Aliens: Infestation, as it borrows heavily from the ‘Metroidvania’ design of recent Castlevania games.

The plot of Aliens: Infestation, as you can easily guess from the title, revolves around an alien…um… infestation. It’s no different from the plot seen in the movies and other video games of the franchise, you’re basically stuck on a huge spaceship and fighting against an army of alien monstrosities that have somehow managed to creep in and have made themselves at home. Aliens aside there are conspiracies, evil politicians and organizations, all working behind the scenes to make things worse. A
team of four marines step in to set things right, and they’re joined by several other brave soldiers.

Aliens: Infestation is a 2D action shooter that feels like a Contra title, and interestingly enough the game has been developed by the same studio that gave us Contra 4 (which is currently without a PAL release) and utilizes the same graphics engine and much of the mechanics. Which is a good thing, as Aliens: Infestation controls wonderfully for a 2D action shooter and feels right at home on the DS. Your marine can run-and-gun, aim in various directions and even hold position to shoot from one particular point. All the necessary mechanics from Contra seem to be present, however the game does not have the rolling jump (and shooting) mechanic, but adds a couple of other new ones such as crawling and ground rolling. The DS touchpad hosts the inventory and map screen, and they work nicely enough, but take a bit of getting used to as they feel a bit awkward to use initially.

PALGN too is infected.

PALGN too is infected.
Aliens: Infestation features a Metroidvania design, and so you’re free to move around the 2D map, going between rooms, locating hidden areas and progressively opening up new areas. Areas are filled with enemies and several obstructions, obstructions that can be removed once you locate the right item (explosives, welding torch etc.). Areas are populated with alien and human adversaries, along with a few big boss battles. The structure of the game is actually quite straightforward, as you follow clear cut objectives and go from point A to B, witness events, battle enemies etc. It doesn’t really make compelling use of the Metroidvania design but is serviceable enough to keep you engaged, however, there are some one-off special gameplay moments such as a vehicle segment and the part of the game where you float around outside the space ship wearing a spacesuit. The bosses are fun, but hardly intuitive or challenging, and even the final boss feels like a walk in the park.

However there are a couple of cool things that makes Aliens: Infestation special, for one thing it feels like a survival horror title. Ammunition in the game is plentiful, but you’re forced to stick to one particular type of firearm at any given time, and can only switch between them at save points. So, you’re forced to choose between a close range weapon like a shotgun, or a widespread flamethrower, and basically stick with that choice till the next save point. Main firearms aside, you can use a handgun and several kinds of explosives that serve as sub-weapons (such as grenades). So, if ammunition isn’t a problem, is it survival horror because opportunities to replenish health are scarce? Not quite, as you’ll get plenty of health pickups and free healing at save points, but what happens when a marine dies? Do they re-spawn later? Well… they don’t… and that’s where the battle for survival comes in.

You start the game off with as a team of four marines, and at any given time you can control one of them and can only switch marines at save points. However, if one marine dies then that’s it, they’re gone for good and officially ‘dead’ throughout the rest of the game. Losing all four marines at any given time leads to a decisive game over. With that said, the four marines you start off with aren’t exactly the main heroes, and the game world is populated by recruit-able marines that are ready to fill empty slots of your four man team. There are a total of 19 playable marines, and they all handle exactly the same way with no unique stats or abilities. The differences are only cosmetic, as they each have their own character portrait, lines of dialogue and react to the non-playable characters and situations differently. Overall, it’s a pretty cool idea that adds a lot of tension to the experience.

Time to bring the ship down.

Time to bring the ship down.
The game won’t take long to complete as it can be completed in less than 10 hours, even if you explore every nook and cranny and complete the marine roster compendium. The experience is still satisfying and nicely paced, but there aren’t many compelling or unforgettable moments. You can unlock this rather pointless ‘Knife Trick’ mini-game that makes use of the touchpad. It may seem like a big game, but you’ll see and do everything this game has to offer in a couple of sittings.

The game runs on the Contra 4 graphics engine which is serviceable enough, but what really sticks out is the sound design, featuring very brooding and well timed atmospheric musical themes that add to the horror and intensity, not to mention the credits theme song ‘Requiem’ by Holy Light of Demon serves as a really cool extra.

Aliens: Infestation is an interesting 2D action title that borrows elements from Contra and Metroid, while adding a couple of nicely implemented twists of its own. The problem is that the design and experience as a whole is nothing memorable, and the game itself lacks substance (it can be completed in a couple of sittings) and there is little incentive to play it again as it lacks special moments, a compelling environment to explore or unforgettable boss battles. Overall, Aliens: Infestation is a fun game that works well on the DS, but could have been something remarkable if it weren’t for its lacking design and substance.
The Score
Aliens: Infestation is an interesting 2D action title that borrows elements from Contra and Metroid, while adding a couple of nicely implemented twists of its own, but it could have been something remarkable if it weren’t for its lacking design and substance. 7
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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2 years ago
Apple has spoiled me. Can't see myslef pay $40+ for any 2d platforming game anymore. I'll grab it at $20ish though.
2 years ago
nice and fair review. looks like a fun little game but under 10 hours gameplay seems too short for me to spend 30 smackers on it (checked playasia 29.90 USD)
I think there's better games for my DS out there at the moment. I agree with emech perhaps bargain bin material if I can pick it up for under 8 or 10 bucks icon_y1.gif
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    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  29/09/2011 (Confirmed)
  Sega of Australia
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