Brief quotes from recognizable media outlets often serve as testimonials and really help drive interest in videogames, so here come the one-liners fit to be printed on any box...
"Alien Hominid is what Neo Contra should have been."
"It's a new Metal Slug with more style."
"I like hominids and Cap 'n Crunch!"
"This game is so much fun, Ed's brain hemorrhaged while we were playing together and now he's stuck in one those poses that are usually reserved for victims of The Joker."
"I used to dream about being a member of the Stargate program. Now I dream of owning a UFO, a tractor beam, and a wood chipper. Thanks, Alien Hominid!"
Well, maybe the last few wouldn't be such good descriptors. The point is, Alien Hominid is a great game worthy of a purchase. Unfortunately for us, it's one of twenty great games worthy of purchase this holiday shopping season. Still, it has its place and it has it for a reason.
This 2004 shopping season we've got our fair share of platformers, action titles, adventures, flight combat games, sports games, and RPGs, but we lack those precious conventional shooters of our memory's choice. We lack those games that hearken back to an age when reflex ruled and responsiveness was not to be taken for granted, especially where quarters were concerned. Alien Hominid is that game. It's a side and top down shooter with exquisite style, brilliant art, lots of action, slick animations, interesting boss fights, and innovative gameplay mechanics.
For the unfamiliar, Alien Hominid was originally free and for the computer. Back in August of 2002 the prototype game was released on Newgrounds.com. It has since been downloaded approximately six million times. Now you're going to pay for it and be happy! Don't fret, it's not the same game. Alien Hominid for consoles features new everything.
Let's talk gameplay. You can walk left and right and you can shoot. Enjoy! There's also a jump, a crouch, crouch-walking, a charge shot, multiple weapon types, and multiple grenade types that are dependent on weapon power-ups. Alien Hominid also adds a left or right quick roll, the ability to jump on the heads of enemies and direct them around or throw them, and a burrow, which allows the little yellow protagonist to hide from attacks and pull foes into the ground. These new mechanics play all the time. Patterned boss fights with outrageous creatures like a destructive metallic bee, a series of over anxious Soviet bears, and an Area 51 robot that's really, really hungry make this expanded shooting experience quite interesting.
The bee fight actually takes place on the tops of cars speeding down the freeway. You have to jump from one exploding car to the next, hit the bee with everything you've got, and then duck into the cars when he lowers his stinger to scrape their roofs. It's a great use of the varying mechanics presented, and it's not the only great use. Later on you'll race snowmobiles alongside a speeding train. This involves ducking under and jumping over trackside obstructions while simultaneously contending with the baddies onboard. It's very hectic, but even it is just another level for Alien Hominid. All told, Alien Homid features about 15 of these insane levels, which means there are roughly 15 boss encounters (all very distinct) and tons of mini-bosses dotted along the way. Even when you're not fighting them, just moving from the beginning of a level to the end is enjoyable.
It's an ultra cute, hilarious kind of action that features some of Itchy and Scratchy's explicit cartoon violence. Your little alien (and a friend if you want to play together), are stranded on Earth and you have to kill things...lots of things. It starts with FBI agents but moves to Soviets and then eventually other aliens. Throughout the killing you're rolling, burrowing, shooting, lobbing grenades, mounting heads, and slicing people in half. And while you're doing it all, your little guy gives off the funniest expressions (I'm especially fond of his face pressed against the glass of the Area 51 walking tank). This makes just driving a tank, a car, or a Russian Yeti amusing. When you consider that it's all backed by some truly challenging, frantic gameplay, you can understand the appeal.
There are actually only two real faults with the gameplay. 1) It's short, but then it'll last for no less than six Neo Contras. 2) It's sometimes impossible to avoid death. Gamers have always given demanding shooters a certain amount of leeway when it comes to forced deaths, but Alien Hominid is plain unfair at times. Part of this can be attributed to some truly malicious level design (staring up at a massive pudding monster with aerial attacks while soldiers shoot from the sides), but most of it is the result of the game's distinctly cluttered art style.
True, Alien Hominid isn't technically the most impressive game around, but it sure looks good. It's all hand animated, but the moving parts, and incredibly slick explosions, of which there are many varieties, make Alien Hominid feel like one of the slickest hand animated titles around. Sometimes all of the animations and effects supersede the gameplay, however, which makes avoiding bullets you can't even see a little tough (even if bullets now shimmer and rapidly change colors).
That's hardly a serious complaint given the quality of this shooter, though. Dying on occasion as a result of something you have no control over can be a little aggravating when you're going for a high score, but it's not the most terrible thing when you're riding a yeti or moving up a series of beams while circumventing falling barrels, flame spews, and some kind of orbital laser cannon.
Again, the game doesn't last all that long, but then it is just $20. And, if you do finish, you can still enjoy the PDA, which offers around 200 levels of single screen platforming reminiscent of a rudimentary Out of this World or some kind of ultra old school Montezuma's Revenge / Prince of Persia thing. It's presented wonderfully (like the rest of the game), and it's very addicting. I've personally only reached level 25, but I plan on making my way to at least 100. The game even includes an editor that allows its players to create their own mini-game scenarios. Very good stuff.
©2004, IGN Entertainment, Inc. All Rights Reserved