A damaged spacecraft, overrun by alien beasties. Not a worm in sight.
Alien Breed Evolution: Episode One is the first in what promises to be a trilogy of top down alien blasting fun from the guys at Team17. Alien Breed first made its gaming debut back in 1991 on the Amiga. Team17 then went on to make a name for themselves as the providers of all things Wormy. But now, they head back to their roots and have released this remake onto the Xbox Live Arcade for 800 MS points.
As mentioned, ABE is a top down shooter that takes place in a sci-fi setting. The game seems to have taken inspiration from every science fiction cliche available. We have the damaged spaceship, the dark shadowy corridors, insect like aliens that just want to eat you and, of course, the mystery. This is not a bad thing however, as things tend to need to be popular in order to become a cliche in the first place. And so, the player will be charged with working through an interesting, slightly menacing, storyline. Cut scenes are provided, in the form of comic strip style frames with voice over work, in order to move the story along.
Players of the original game will be given the impression that the game has grown up, possibly even evolved. Gameplay is suitably simple, with the left stick controlling movement and the right stick being used to aim weapons. Right trigger shoots and left uses secondary weapons or health packs etc. The player will roam the ship, following waypoints in order to obtain items needed to unlock doors, or turn on power. Although some exploration is a good idea, as there are some much needed items to be picked up, the game is mostly linear and involves simply following the waypoints. Also the player will have to keep there eyes open for the save points that are scattered around the ship.
Ammunition for the various weapons can be difficult to come by, so gather as much as possible when it is available. You don’t want to be stuck without ammo in a swarm of alien bugs. There are not many different types of weapons available, but the few that are available are varied enough to provide different strategies in gameplay style. The variety in different alien types is also somewhat lacking, but in reality this does not take anything away from the game.
The game is not particularly long, taking only a few hours to work through. There is a leaderboard available to give some replayability to those that want to show off their alien killing prowess. The game can also be played through in a co-op mode, either online or locally. Playing the game with a buddy increases the fun factor tenfold, lifting from what can be a slightly repetitive experience.
If the gameplay is becoming repetitive, it is worth having a bash at the elite difficulty level. Elite mode will take the player to a whole new level of frantic alien blasting fun. Swarm after swarm of alien beasties will be coming for you, and more powerful weapons will be available early on, but that won’t help you. Elite mode turns ABE from a tense game of watching the shadows into an all out alien bug mega bundle.
At the end of the day, top down shooters are slightly lacking on XBLA, and the inclusion of a decent co-op mode certainly makes this game stand out. Graphically, it looks good. Dark and moody with some great fire effects certainly sets the tone of the game. The suitably creepy soundtrack also also adds to the overall enjoyment, and the screeching of the aliens can send a chill down the spine.
Overall, Team17 have taken Alien Breed from the early ’90’s, slapped it around the face a few times, sent it to a spa for a week and then locked it in the cupboard under the stairs for a month. The result is a more mature experience, that is more threatening and, in elite mode at least, a lot more unpredictable. This game will be joining Worms as part of a staple diet of co-op evening fun. Looking forward to episode two.