The Nintendo DS was a generous console. Despite it’s wayward design, or perhaps because of it, the console player host to many classic games. Traditional videogame experiences however, became few-and-far between at the end of it’s lifespan. So when SEGA and Wayforward Technologies brought Aliens: Infestation to the console in 2011 it was surprisingly refreshing.
Aliens: Infestation was obviously every bit the Alien exposition fans had been hoping for. From the available squad to the locations to the weaponry; every piece of the Aliens: Infestation feels perfectly in-keeping with the universe upon which is based. Aliens: Infestation may bring with it its own story, but first and foremost it’s an Alien product.
Aliens: Infestation- Alien to the Core
That’s not to say it doesn’t take liberties however. To truly be as equal an addition to the Alien franchise as the later motion-picture releases and comic books, Aliens: Infestation had to retract and redesign certain parts of the universe and explain them away in thankless sci-fi cliché. Aliens: Infestation doesn’t disappoint in this regard either. Equally irritating as it is awe-inspiring in the reuse of its source material; just as it should be.
The gameplay experience was one of the deepest titles the Nintendo DS had seen in a very long time. A slow-burner, Aliens: Infestation is essentially a lightweight Metroid style game, or a CastleVania without the RPG element. The player journeyed through the Sulaco (the first of a small number of maps) freely, constantly finding blocked routes which later become available. Once having acquired the correct level keycard, wrench or other item, of course. Already we can see the hallmarks of Nintendo’s classic science-fiction series. And while the map may not feature as elegant design as any of Metroid’s 2D adventures, it is just as interesting in terms of pacing.
Squad Up, Buddy
The player begins with a squad of four commandos and should all four die, it’s game over, man. Additional characters can be met and recruited at specific points in the game. These effectively provide the player with an extra life. Upon death the player may choose any of their other characters to enter from the exact point their previous marine died. So you must remain on guard when returning, immediately fighting the same enemy.
The enemy variety is surprising, given the traditional solitary xenomorph combat presented by the Alien franchise. Players will fight against robots early on, and bosses provide a welcome punctuation to the exploration action. Every new locale offers new basic enemies which require different tactics, so it’s a shame that Aliens: Infestation relies on just a handful of weapon types. Much more could have been made of the arsenal seen throughout the motion-picture releases, though as it is the player will rarely deviate from the Pulse Rifle and grenade combo.
Do Spaceships all Look the Same?
The visual quality of Aliens: Infestation isn’t exactly as inspiring as the gameplay design. Samey, bland backdrops providing little in the way of recognisable landmarks. Before acquiring the map at each location, it’s wholly possible to retread the same ground several times without realising. More successful however, are the character animations. The incidental detail in the palette-swapped marines is stunning, breathing real character into otherwise wooden toy soldiers. The boss characters are also very well presented, but still there’s little to differentiate Aliens: Infestation from a Game Boy Advance game. As a direct contrast, the sound quality is arguably the best feature of the game. Every movement punctuated by the heart-racing sound of your motion tracker and the Pulse Rifle complimented by its unique air-tearing sound effect, almost identical to that of the movies.
Aliens: Infestation is a Must Buy for Alien Fans
Aliens: Infestation is a welcome addition to the late Nintendo DS release schedule. Even today, the game is adopted by many gamers looking for that last hurrah for the console. It’s perhaps not as well presented as it’s inspiration, and gamers looking for another Metroid or CastleVania experience on their Nintendo DS would arguably be better purchasing a Metroid or CastleVania title. Of which there is no short supply on Nintendo DS, or the compatible Game Boy Advance cartridges (on early versions of the console).
However, as a videogame adaptation of the Alien franchise, Aliens: Infestation is one of the best experiences ever to come from that universe. This is complimented perfectly in it’s passion by the inclusion of Bishop’s knife trick as a mini-game. Given that it’s looking unlikely we’ll see an Alien: Isolation sequel any time soon, Aliens: Infestation is most certainly a better investment than the decidedly middling Aliens: Fire Team Elite. Aliens: Infestation is an enjoyable experience in it’s own right, but as fan service there’s little better for Alien aficionados.