Indiewatch: Alien Shooter Complete Pack
Welcome to Indiewatch, a series where I take a look at good -- yet unknown, unappreciated and overlooked -- indie titles. It is time to give some appreciation, attention, and love to those games that deserve it, but never got it. In order for a game to be covered on Indiewatch, it must fit into the following criteria:
- It must be an indie game
- It was not covered or gained minimal coverage from mainstream video game websites and YouTubers (Destructoid, Polygon, IGN, Totalbuscuit etc.)
- It must be good! Nothing below a 7 out of 10 will be covered.
Today we are going to take a look at Alien Shooter Complete Pack. This isometric shooter, developed and published by Sigma Team, originally released September 13, 2003 for Windows.
It has since been remade for mobile devices and became available for Android and iOS in 2013 and later ported to the Playstation Vita. It also got a release on Steam and in 2011 on GOG.com including both its expansions for free (watch the review above for a deeper look at the game).
A 90s video game story
While there is a story to be found, it isn’t something that is focused on -- nor is it intended to be. You take on the role of a hired mercenary sent to an underground laboratory after contact was lost and several military assaults failed.
Upon investigating, you find that the complex has been overrun with aliens. The cause of the invasion is due to teleportation experiments to other dimensions. You must kill all the aliens and destroy all the teleports within the facility.
While there isn’t much of a story to the game, what is there is adequate to give the player something to follow, as opposed to just mindless action. It isn’t particularly creative and it is a plot that has been told a thousand times over. Nevertheless, it does what it is intended to.
Mindless, over-the-top action
There are two different characters to choose from when starting Alien Shooter -- a male character, and a female character. Each has their own stats that give them both a strength and weakness. Both give a slightly different gameplay experience.
You must fight your way through a total of 10 levels with increasing difficulty. Each level has an objective that must be completed in order to progress to the next. As you progress through the levels, you will be met with larger and stronger groups of aliens.
Each alien type comes in four different colors, each depicting how tough they are. The variations start with the green that are the weakest, to yellow, to red and finally blue. The blue variation of each alien type is a boss and is a once-off encounter, but expect a far longer fight against them than their weaker counterparts.
On your journey, you will find money that is used to purchase new weapons, ammunition, armor and implants that increase your stats. Enemies can drop extra lives, mega health, and a short-term invulnerability power. They also drop health pickups and ammunition.
There are also secrets to be found in each level which you find through shooting cracked walled to reveal caches of supplies. On certain levels, you will also come across turrets which will help you kill large amounts of enemies with relative ease.
The turrets are a fun and nice addition to break up the standard gameplay while unleashing a bullet storm on an army of aliens.
The gameplay to Alien Shooter is nothing more than mindless, over-the-top action. Compared to today’s standards it may seem repetitive, and you would be right in saying so. Its upgrades and ability to buy new equipment really bring a welcoming modern mechanic to an old gameplay style. While repetitive, it is a fun experience from start to finish.
A good selection of weapons and enemies to use them on
In total, there are nine different weapons at your disposal throughout the game. Starting with weaker weapons such as the Dual Pistols and Shotgun, you gradually find more powerful ones as the game progresses. These would include a Rocket Launcher, Plasma Rifle, and Freeze Ray.
Towards the end of the game, you will get the Flamethrower and the ultimate weapon, the Magma Minigun. All the weapons are well balanced and fun to use. The exception would be the Magma Minigun, which is overpowered. I feel that this is intentional or being a genuine balance issue, however.
What good is having all these weapons if there isn’t any alien scum to use them on? While the bestiary may be limited with only five different alien species, it is enough for the game's length. They range from the weak little critters to the Xenos, to juggernaut Gatling gun and rocket launcher-wielding Rhinos.
While their designs are not particularly creative and what they are inspired from is obvious, they do exactly what they are designed to -- being cannon fodder for the player’s enjoyment. They are well balanced making them neither pushovers or too difficult for their introductory levels.
How long can you survive?
In addition to the campaign, there is also a survival mode. The idea is to survive as long as you can, while killing as many aliens and scoring as many points as possible. It starts off quite slowly with only small groups of weaker enemies appearing, but as you progress tougher enemies begin to make an appearance...and plenty of them.
At the end of each wave, there is a boss variation of a monster to defeat that will drop a more powerful weapon. Each enemy has a chance of dropping items, upgrades, and power-ups, just like in the campaign.
It is a hell of a lot of fun attempting to beat your best score. Each playthrough of survival lasts approximately 15 minutes, but that can vary. It is a nice addition to the game which can become quite addictive.
Mindless action is not for everyone
Alien Shooter is a lot of fun, but it isn’t a game for everyone. Its graphics are quite dated, the sound effects are not the best, and it is repetitive. But the fast-paced music that brings the whole game together, and it is a classic game that brought back the feeling of the 90s -- something that was lacking in the industry at the time.
Indeed in this day and age, where indie games and games of nostalgia are in abundance, Alien Shooter may not have the impact it did back in 2003. As far as mindless action goes, however, you don’t get much more mindless and action-packed than this. It isn’t perfect, but it is a pure adrenaline filled fun. If that sounds like what you are looking for, then Alien Shooter is a worthy purchase.
This would not be much of a review of the complete pack if I didn’t cover both the expansions too. Let us move to the expansions, Fight for Life and The Experiment.
More aliens and more shooting
Fight for Life continues where the original game left off, and the world is becoming overrun by the aliens. To stop them, researchers have begun developing a virus that is capable of destroying the entire alien population.
Just as the first prototype of the virus is complete, the facility comes under attack by the aliens and overrun. Your job is to infiltrate the facility and retrieve the virus before it is destroyed.
Essentially the story is the same, except you are looking for the virus along with killing everything and ultimately forgettable.
Fight for Life doesn’t add anything that wasn’t already in the base game. You get five new levels, a boring continuation of the story, and a rather obnoxious increase in difficulty. With the increase, enemies take much more punishment than before -- particularly the tougher ones. It diminishes some of the satisfaction of killing the enemies that the original gave.
It is an expansion that you would play if you are looking for a bit more of a challenge than what the original gave and if you simply just want more levels. Other than that, it isn’t really worth playing.
Then there is the second and final expansion, The Experiment. It takes place after the events of the first. Researchers are attempting to create a biologically engineered creature that is capable of defeating the aliens.
This naturally backfires on them and the creatures turn, killing them. You are sent in to clean up the mess (again). Really this is again just the same story as the original, but slightly adjusted. It feels kind of meaningless -- and just like the first expansion, forgettable.
The Experiment offers five new levels, but it also includes two new enemies and an end game boss. The first new enemy is a bat-like creature that can spit acid at you and is very fast-moving. The second is the gigantic biologically engineered beast.
The Experiment sees an increase in difficulty again. This causes the new big enemies to be ridiculously difficult, where only the most powerful weapons can take them down in a satisfactory time. The problem is that you begin to meet them on the third level. At this point, the most you will have is a rocket launcher or freeze ray, both of which are ineffective.
The end game boss is also ridiculous. It is essentially a bigger version of the new enemy, except it also has guns. The boss fight, particularly in hard difficulty, turns into more a case of winning out of luck than it does out of skill. There are also a number of cases of unfair enemy placement, where the player is put against overwhelming odds that they are always going to lose a life in.
On a good note, the expansion does add some new environments along with the enemies. but aside from that it is nothing more than a few more (rather forgettable) levels of Alien Shooter.
An action-packed package
As an entire package containing both the original Alien Shooter and its two expansions, the complete pack isn’t that bad of a deal for its price. It’s not a game that would appeal to all and the expansions are only worth playing for the sake of it.
If mindless action and killing tons of aliens seems like something you will enjoy while an adrenaline-filled soundtrack plays, then Alien Shooter may be just the game for you. If you hate repetitiveness, dated graphics, and expansions that don’t offer much other than more of the same, then you'll want to give this a pass.
Interested in more Indiewatch reviews? Check out my review for Uncanny Valley.